Tennis has some of the best high tech ball feeding machines; however, they are somewhat underutilized by the majority of tennis players.
A lot of tennis players will, sooner or later, find themselves in a self-debate over whether the investment in a tennis ball machine is worth it. After all, a tennis ball machine is, indeed, a pricier item, so the subsequent investment should be worth their while.
So do tennis ball machines improve your game? A tennis ball machine can improve your game. Tennis ball machines can feed balls at a consistent rate for long periods of time, which is necessary for a tennis player to improve their game. Tennis ball machines can prepare tennis players for the wide variety of shots they will face in a real game.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to tennis ball machines and whether they will be a good fit for a tennis player. In this article, I will go over how a tennis ball machine can improve your game.
What Aspects of Your Game Can a Tennis Ball Machine Improve?
It Can Improve Your Stroke Mechanics
Tennis ball machines are an excellent tool that can be used by players of different caliber to work and improve their stroke mechanics.
Tennis ball machines can feed you balls repeatedly for long periods of time at an excellent consistency. They are capable of shooting balls with different height, spin, speed, direction, and frequency. What is more, higher-end tennis machines are capable of feeding balls in fully randomized or pre-set consequences.
A player can work on improving their volleys, forehands, backhands, overheads, slices, high and low approaches, and more.
Overall, tennis ball machines are great for developing the full spectrum of different strokes you will face in a real match, honing your skills, and make returning various shots feel like a second nature.
It Can Improve Your Footwork
By setting the ball machine properly, you can efficiently work on your footwork.
What is more is that due to the machine’s consistency and accuracy, you will be able to work on particular patterns for as long as you need.
It Can Improve Your Physical Conditioning
You can almost say this goes hand in hand with improving your footwork. However, a tennis ball machine can be used to put in some good physical training and really prepare your body.
By using a tennis ball machine, a tennis player can set up very demanding and intense workouts and routines with varying tennis ball speeds, spins, feeding rates, and so much more.
It Can Improve Your Ball Recognition Skills
With a ball machine, a player can put in so much practice that their ball recognition skill will tremendously improve over time.
The ball recognition skill is the ability to track and get a feel for the ball, its spin and trajectory, and how it behaves.
It Can Improve Your Confidence
And lastly, the mental aspect of any sport is sometimes as important, if not more, than everything else.
Imagine hitting hundreds of balls, which are all winners—they land where you intend them to land, and you know you have done that hundreds of times.
I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that this will boost the confidence of any player. They will feel innately more confident in their ability to engage and return any shot.
What Aspects of Your Game Can’t a Tennis Ball Machine Improve?
It Can’t Improve The Fundamentals
Tennis ball machines are excellent for grooving and fine-tuning your strokes. However, before moving on to a tennis ball machine, the player should have a good idea of the very fundamentals of tennis.
Bad habits are very easy to ingrain and prove very hard to break. With a tennis ball machine alone, a complete beginner can become very good at using bad form.
With a tennis ball machine, you will have no feedback on your technique.
For a complete beginner, the combination of a tennis ball machine and a teaching pro is optimal. While the player will be able to put in some very good practice, the teaching pro will provide invaluable help in developing their proper technique.
Some of the more experienced players take a high-speed video of them playing, which they can then use to assess their form and make the necessary adjustments on the spot. The advantage of using a machine can be found here as well since the machine will be feeding the same shots, making it easier to spot imperfections in one’s technique.
It Can’t Substitute a Real-Life Game
Earlier I mentioned that tennis ball machines today are capable of delivering fully randomized shots. This will keep any player on their feet, moving, and constantly having to adapt—this is an excellent way to not fall in a rut.
However, despite how close to a real game, this will feel, compared to training on a wall, for example, it is still very different from playing against a real opponent.
Especially with some lower-end machines, you will start getting used to returning the same balls, with the same spin, coming at you at the same speed, height, and depth. This can lead to a false sense of improvement. (This is why machines that can randomize those aspects are usually preferred.)
To get good at tennis, you need to take a holistic approach—meaning you need to be smart in how you use your machine and never forget to combine that with training with a real partner and taking lessons when necessary.
Can Tennis Ball Machines Improve the Game of All Players?
To get good, you need to hit thousands of balls. This is something that, in most cases, will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with a training partner or a coach. Overall it is neither cheap nor easy to find somebody willing to feed you balls in a particular way or sequence for hours.
There is no way around it you need to put in the work. And consistency is key.
Tennis ball machines are oftentimes viewed as a training tool useful only to beginners that are still learning the basics.
In a way, this is true.
If the player knows what they are doing, a tennis ball machine can improve their game—by a lot. It can be used successfully to ingrain the proper technique, once the fundamentals have been mastered.
Beginners need consistency, and this is where a tennis machine will prove invaluable.
Not all players will be able to afford to practice with a coach every day or be able to find a training buddy who will be able to be beside them every time they are on the court.
Usually, more advanced players believe they do not need to practice with a tennis ball machine. Rather they believe they need match play.
However, the reality is often very different. Almost all tennis players have an aspect of their game that they need to work on. (This even applies to 5.0 players.)
Tennis ball machines can offer a lot of valuable practice to even more experienced players who can work on specific shots and areas of their game where they may be lacking.
How to Use a Tennis Ball Machine to Improve Your Game?
Hopefully, by now, you can see that tennis ball machines can have a place in the training routine of many players—beginners and more experienced alike.
But to get the most out of the ball machine, you need to know what you are doing and have a plan and a goal.
Take the Best of Both Worlds
A tennis player who follows lessons from a teaching pro with a practice on a tennis ball machine to really ingrain those techniques will almost always learn and advance more quickly than a player who only focuses on one or the other.
There is no substitute for good instructions, but there is also no substitute for good and consistent practice. This is why a combination of both has been proven to be the most effective.
Every lesson should be followed up by a lot of practice before moving on to the next lesson. A tennis ball machine is an easy, non-threatening way to learn and develop the needed muscle memory. It is an excellent way for players to transition from what they have learned during their lessons to the real match.
This is very similar to a person going to their local gym and buying a training routine. They have the personal trainer there train them and teach them how to execute the exercises properly. All seems good. But after three months they go back to their personal trainer complaining they have never lost a single pound, even though they never put in a single day of training after that initial lesson.
In reality, not following up with plenty of tennis ball machine practice can cause beginners to have a harder time putting into practice what they have learned and will have herder time transitioning. In a way, this can end up being a very frustrating venture.
Focus and Have a Goal
Always focus on one thing at a time. This is the best way to improve your game. You want to practice one shot until you have mastered it. Remember the quote by Bruce Lee, ” I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. ” This is what we are aiming for. At least in the beginning.
Do not forget to define a goal that you are striving towards. What areas of your game you want to improve, what are your weaknesses and strengths.
Set one to four targets on the court that you will be aiming for. You want to be able to hit them consistently. Eventually, you can make them smaller.
Make Good Use of the Tennis Ball Machine
Usually, tennis ball machines are placed in the middle of the court. However, this can often do more harm than good, simply because shots do not come from the center that often. Do not be afraid to move the machine to the left or right side of the court or near the center. Place the machine where the shot will be coming from in a real game.
Set the frequency at which the machine feeds you balls so that when the ball that you are returning passes near the machine, another one is shot. That way, this will keep the pace of the game more natural.
Make use of all the capabilities of the tennis ball machine. Practice using different or even randomized spin, speed, directions, depth, and height.
And lastly, do not forget to change the drills every now and then, you do not want to get bored.
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