Tennis Ball Machine Drills

Written by Mark Sampson
Last updated on

Drills with a tennis ball machine can be extremely beneficial when it comes to taking your game to the next level. From focusing on improving your technique and consistency to using them as a way of conditioning, there are so many different ways to gain a competitive edge. Keep reading for all the tips you need to make sure you’re getting the most out of your machine and boosting your performance on court.

  • Tennis ball machines can be used to work on different drills by simulating a real opponent.
  • Forehand and recovery drill: hit the ball using a forehand motion and recover back to the initial position on the court.
  • Backhand drill: swing the racket with the back of your hand and move in the same direction as the stroke. There are two backhand drills—one-handed backhand and two-handed backhand.
  • Volley Drill: play the ball before it touches the ground by bending your knees and hitting from underneath, keeping the racket face up.

Tennis ball machines allow you to work on different drills by simulating a real opponent. You can customize the settings to target the techniques you want to work on. These may include control, motion, movement, and tactics to perform better in the game overall.

Ball machines provide a great workout session to help you build the stamina needed for an intense match. In this article, we’ll explore a few of the best tennis ball machine drills to try when you want to sharpen your technique. 

Forehand and recovery drill 

A forehand stroke is performed with the inner side of the palm on a player’s dominant side, with the palm facing forward. The forehand and recovery drill involves hitting the ball using a forehand motion and recovering back to the initial position on the court, ready for the next stroke. 

To set up the machine for this drill, place it between the service line and the baseline, angled for a cross-court delivery. Your position should be slightly off from the center mark behind the baseline. 

It is essential to know where you position yourself during the forehand drill. For instance, if the right is your dominant side, you should stand slightly off the right side of the center mark. This will give you an optimal recovery position.

When the machine delivers the ball, complete a unit turn and follow the incoming ball. This will allow you to position yourself for the hit before the ball comes to you. You will need to decide whether to use a shuffle or a crossover step to get to the ball. 

If the incoming ball is far away from you, you should use a crossover. This will allow you to cover large ground quickly. A shuffle can be used if the ball is just a short distance from you. 

Before hitting the ball, prepare to time it with a clean stroke. Place your outside foot wider than where the ball will land, with your inside foot stepped forward, and rotate your body as you strike the ball.

This movement will allow the weight of your body to land on your front foot and ensure better recovery. By shifting your weight into this position, you transfer the momentum to the ball, giving it more power. 

Once you hit the ball, depending on where you are positioned on the court, you should return to the optimal recovery position by using another crossover or side shuffle. To make the drill more realistic, you can make frequent changes to the position and angle of the machine, place targets on the field to land the ball, or change your position.

Backhand drill

The backhand drill is when a player swings the racket with the back of their hand and moves in the same direction as the stroke. There are two backhand drills: one-handed backhand and two-handed backhand.

1. Two-handed backhand

While holding the racket with two hands, strike the ball and follow through with the stroke. The two-handed backhand creates a top spin as the left hand takes the lead. 

There are three positions for a two-handed backhand:

  • Natural stance – the front foot is directly in front of the back foot, placing the body’s weight at the center.
  • One stance backhand – the feet are parallel to the baseline and weight on the outside leg.
  • Semi-open stance – the front foot is diagonally in front of the back foot, and weight will transfer from the back foot to the front foot. 

Moving your body towards the ball, rotate your shoulders and torso while keeping the racket tipped up and away from your body. The contact should be in front of your body, with your face flat behind the ball, coming in from the bottom (completing the C motion). After making contact, extend your left arm and move it upwards to your right side. If you’re right-handed, follow the same process in the opposite direction. 

2. One-handed backhand

A one-handed backhand shot is struck with one hand gripping the racket. The one-handed backhand also has three positions, but they are slightly different from the two-handed backhand. 

Holding the racket with the dominant hand and the other hand on the “V” of the racket, follow the same motions as the two-handed backhand. When the ball makes contact, ensure your arm is straight and moving from the lowest to the highest point. The arm on your most dominant side should fall behind, providing additional stability. 

3. Wide Backhand

Wide backhands occur when you complete a two-handed backhand with a crossover step. As the name suggests, the wide backhand is used when you have to cover more ground to get to the ball. 

4. Slice Backhand

A slice backhand is another variation of the one-handed backhand. In a classic one-handed backhand, the racket travels an upward swing path, and the body must allow this movement to take place by lifting, whereas the racket travels down and across in a slice backhand. 

You can improve your backhand by practicing it repeatedly. Find out which stance and side work for you, then continue to run drills accordingly. Remember to keep it simple and move the different parts of your body as one.

Volley Drill

It is called a volley when you play the ball before it touches the ground and bounces. This is an attacking strategy that puts the opponent under pressure. It takes time away from the other side of the court to recover after the strike.

1. Low Volley

A low volley is played when the ball drops beneath the height of the net. To do this, you must bend your knees and hit the ball from underneath, keeping the face of the racket up. The goal is to hit the ball away from the net but not too high, so your opponent does not have enough time to prepare.

2. Medium Volley

The medium volley is played by bending the elbow and pulling the racket across the body. It allows a player to take a bigger backswing than needed.

3. High Volley

A high volley is hit by firmly gripping the racket, turning sideways to meet the ball, and adding a slight slicing motion while driving the ball forward.

To achieve a good volley, you should have good footwork, focus on the racket position, keep the momentum forward, stand close to the net, and try to move the racket through the path of the ball.


Are tennis ball machine drills helpful?

Tennis ball machine drills are a very good way to improve your tennis skills. They are an excellent substitute for an actual player. By adjusting the various settings of the machine, you can make your practice sessions more realistic.

Where should I place my tennis ball machine?

Tennis ball machines should generally be placed between the baseline and service line of the court.

Which tennis ball machine drill is good?

There are several types of drills you can do using a tennis ball machine. The best ones for you will depend on your goals and target areas. Consider which techniques you want to practice and choose your machine drills accordingly. 

Final notes

Tennis ball machine drills provide a realistic approach to improving and/or learning the techniques of the game of tennis. These machines not only provide a great alternative to having an actual player, but they can also adjust to your needs and preferences during practice. Ball machine drills can help you improve muscle memory the next time you face a real opponent.

Whether you’re a professional tennis player or just starting out, we hope these tennis ball machine drills gave you some good inspiration. Now, get out there and practice!