Are tennis ball Machines worth it
I'll come clean right from the outset. I think there are many good reasons to buy a tennis ball machine, and in most cases these will significantly outweigh it's shortcomings. However, it's best to go into any purchase armed with all the facts, and the people selling them certainly aren't going to highlight the downside of their products.
There are a handful of manufacturers in the North American and European markets vying with each other for your business. Some, like Playmate, specialize in the upper end of the scale - ball machines for clubs, schools and tennis coaches. Match Mate, after merging with Sports Action Machines produce models from the economic Rookie and iSAM, to the expensive SAM Robot. Sports Tutor with their Tennis Tutor and Wilson ranges and Lobster and Silent Partner, produce mainly battery powered machines for the individual from beginner models to the advanced player. Lobster have recently introduced the Phenom AC models to grab a slice of the home court/tennis club market.
All makes have plenty to offer the tennis enthusiast at whatever level, and after sales support and service seems to be responsive, possibly due in part to the fact that it's quick and easy to get a poor reputation in the age of the interactive internet.
So lets get the drawbacks to buying any of the above out of the way first so we can get to the positive stuff!
The Downside Of Tennis Ball Machine Ownership
Well probably the most obvious one is cost. The cheapest ball machine is the Tennis Tutor Twist, but it's still $229 and won't appeal to any but beginners, (and maybe dogs). As with everything in life, you get what you pay for and a machine with enough speed and variety of shot to challenge an average player will likely cost at least $700.
If you're looking for pre-programmed shot sequences or a degree of programmability, spin and a high level of court coverage, $1500+ would be a good bet. If you're after the durability of a tennis club ball machine with programmability then you could be paying $3500 - $10, 000, and if you want your ball machine to 'serve' at you, then $12, 000 is reasonable. If you want the best there is, SAM Robot will set you back $28, 500.
Another possibly overlooked cost is tennis balls. You'll look a bit silly loading up the hopper of your 300 capacity SAM P1 ball machine with 4 packs of three tennis balls! Luckily, most ball machines favor pressureless tennis balls which are better value and last longer, but you could still be paying another $100 - $300.
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