Compatibility of ball machines with regular balls

AndI

Rookie
This forum had many discussions about selecting a tennis ball machine. I read many of these posts and found that they contain wealth of practical knowledge, but I am still confused if ball machines from different manufacturers are equally good when it comes to using different grades of balls.

It is a common knowledge that pressureless balls are best for ball machines due to their consistent bounce and durability. However, they are pricey and some people (especially kids) do not like them because of their "heavier" and "firmer" feel. (The feel and (perceived?) weight of pressureless balls is the main reason for my question as I have a 7-year old and I assume that he will not like pressureless balls). My local tennis club loads regular pressurized Penn balls into their Playmate plug-in machines, and they work just fine. However, it is not clear if consumer-grade machines are just as tolerant to balls and ball to ball variability as commercial machines. I found that some ball machines manufacturers explicitly recommend pressureless balls and even list preferred brands, while others don't.

Assuming that all ball machines work great with pressureless balls, I can imagine several scenarios with regular balls (listed from the worst to the best scenario):

1. Machine regularly jams with regular balls. Impossible to use with anything but pressureless.
2. Ball spread is too high, some balls land outside of the court, some hit the net. Impossible to train with regular balls.
3. Ball spread is OK, but notably higher than with pressureless balls.
4. The machine strips fur off the regular balls way too fast. Pressureless balls are more durable. The rest is OK.
5. Regular balls work without any issues, no need to go to pressureless (unless long-term consistency of the ball bounce is desired).

I wonder if ball machine owners could share how successful they were with regular pressurized balls and, if they switched to pressureless after experimenting with pressurized, what was the reason and how much of an improvement they saw after changing the balls. Please don't forget to mention what make and model of the ball machine you are using.

Additionally, I wonder if anyone tried and had any luck with the kiddie's low compression balls in their machine.

Thank you!
 
you can use orange and green dots in playmate, lobster and TT machine without any problems (from experience). Also add spinfire pro2 into the mix.

My club put regular balls in playmate (some dead) without any problems (occasional ball jam when switching between orange and regular balls)

I don't like pressureless balls. 7 years old should play with orange ball and most of machine will work without any problem.
 

tennis_ocd

Hall of Fame
SP sport. I have minimal jamming issues with a wide assortment of pressureless, traditional and the tretorn x's as long as they are dry. And the traditionals vary wildly in quality. Slightest bit of court moisture and I'm done; balls will jam at throwing wheels.

The assortment does impact consistency (or at least I think it does) but not to the point where it really affects repeatability. I have often wondered how a hopper of just x's would feed but not enough to sort thru....
 

Chotobaka

Hall of Fame
I have used regular and pressureless balls with SP, TT and Playmate machines. None showed sensitivity to the type of balls fed to them.
 

monomer

Rookie
I have had a Playmate Volley for several years. It works perfectly with regular or pressureless balls.

I started with the Tretorn pressureless but ended up hating them after using them for one summer. Once the felt wore down they were like hitting rocks. That also left them with way more bounce than a normal ball.

The problem with regular balls is that they lose their bounce quickly if you don't have a recharger. I bought a 150 ball charger and couldn't be happier. I buy two cases in the spring and use the balls (with the charger) until the end of the season. I buy two new cases the next spring and give the old ones to an animal shelter.
 

beernutz

Hall of Fame
I have owned a Silent Partner Star for about 4 years and I did the opposite of your scenario. I started with just over 100 Tretorn micro-x balls which cost in the neighborhood of $150 and used them for 2 or 3 years until there wasn't much fuzz left on them.

I then created a way to re-pressurize regular balls using a couple of used Cornelius kegs, which are popular with homebrewers, a tire inflator, and a connector I made to go between the keg and the inflator. I can keep about 130 balls pressurized and only replace them if they stop holding pressure or lose too much of their fuzz. I just pick up balls left on courts or use the ones I have played with in league to replenish my kegs.

Hitting Tretorn micro-x balls didn't affect my arm but there have been many previous forum posts from people who hit with those balls and claimed that doing so did bother them. I do think Tretorn balls don't feel the same at contact as pressurized balls but not enough to stop me from using them. I stopped because they are expensive relative to the system I have now as I spent less than $100 for my repressuring equipment as opposed to having to pay another $150 or more for new Tretorns which from my experience I should expect to last only another 2 to 3 years.
 
Ball machines will quickly squeeze the pressure from normal balls. In addition to the standard loss of pressure, there is the life being squeezed out of them every time they are shot out of the machine. At least with my machine which uses rollers to project the balls.

Never seen a 7 year old using a ball machine - I wonder why.

Pressureless balls are cheaper to use because using flat balls is not only worse for your arm it is pointless for preparing a player to play shots with competition and tournament balls which are new, bounce twice as high and fly twice as deep.

Same applies to cheap-skate coaches who use dead balls to feed their charges.
 

AndI

Rookie
Never seen a 7 year old using a ball machine - I wonder why.
Maybe because adults like to use it for themselves :) ?

I got my ball machine last week. My 7-year old loves it and fights with me for using it each time I take it to the court. He is not quite ready to hit faster balls from the baseline, but he has a blast with more gentle balls oscillating around the service line. This is not much different from what he does at his tennis classes, only he gets to hit more balls in a shorter time (which he likes) and there is a challenge of getting to the balls on his left and right.
 

dklank

New User
I have owned a Silent Partner Star for about 4 years and I did the opposite of your scenario. I started with just over 100 Tretorn micro-x balls which cost in the neighborhood of $150 and used them for 2 or 3 years until there wasn't much fuzz left on them.

I then created a way to re-pressurize regular balls using a couple of used Cornelius kegs, which are popular with homebrewers, a tire inflator, and a connector I made to go between the keg and the inflator. I can keep about 130 balls pressurized and only replace them if they stop holding pressure or lose too much of their fuzz. I just pick up balls left on courts or use the ones I have played with in league to replenish my kegs.

Hitting Tretorn micro-x balls didn't affect my arm but there have been many previous forum posts from people who hit with those balls and claimed that doing so did bother them. I do think Tretorn balls don't feel the same at contact as pressurized balls but not enough to stop me from using them. I stopped because they are expensive relative to the system I have now as I spent less than $100 for my repressuring equipment as opposed to having to pay another $150 or more for new Tretorns which from my experience I should expect to last only another 2 to 3 years.
I will be using corny legs also, what psi do you pressurize to?
 

esantoro

Rookie
Maybe because adults like to use it for themselves :) ?

I got my ball machine last week. My 7-year old loves it and fights with me for using it each time I take it to the court. He is not quite ready to hit faster balls from the baseline, but he has a blast with more gentle balls oscillating around the service line. This is not much different from what he does at his tennis classes, only he gets to hit more balls in a shorter time (which he likes) and there is a challenge of getting to the balls on his left and right.

I thought my seven-year old would like hitting with the ball machine, 50% of the reason I bought it (okay, maybe 25% of the reason). He prefers hitting directly with me and having me feed him balls out of a basket.
 
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Chotobaka

Hall of Fame
I thought my seven-year old would like hitting with the ball machine, 50% of the reason I bought (okay, maybe 25% of the reason). He prefers hitting directly with me and having me feed him balls out of a basket.
I use the ball machine in one very specific situation when teaching both one on one and small groups -- that is when I when i want to be close to the student(s) for instruction purposes but want something more than hand feeds. Remote is essential. For my purposes, a ball machine is not an ideal replacement for live feeds when teaching. It is, however, a very viable option when you do not have an assistant to help with feeds and want to be close to the student(s). I am not too surprised that your son prefers you feeding the ball. Take it as a compliment.
 
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AndI

Rookie
I arrived to a similar conclusion over time. Once the novelty was gone, my kid preferred playing with a live person to practicing with a ball machine. It seems, one has to become mature enough to develop desire to work on specific strokes through repetition, and one has to have a clear idea in mind what to work on. This is where ball machine becomes invaluable. I also found that racquet testing hugely benefits from a ball machine, as you can hit repeated and similar balls with different racquets and really compare them.
 

2ndServe

Hall of Fame
Ball machines will quickly squeeze the pressure from normal balls. In addition to the standard loss of pressure, there is the life being squeezed out of them every time they are shot out of the machine. At least with my machine which uses rollers to project the balls.

Never seen a 7 year old using a ball machine - I wonder why.

Pressureless balls are cheaper to use because using flat balls is not only worse for your arm it is pointless for preparing a player to play shots with competition and tournament balls which are new, bounce twice as high and fly twice as deep.

Same applies to cheap-skate coaches who use dead balls to feed their charges.
I've found Pro Penn Marathons to keep their pressure the best. Usually if I don't use balls in 2+ weeks they lose pressure but I had pro penn marathons I haven't used in close to a month and they kept decent bounce in the ball machine.
 

mctennis

Legend
Pressureless balls last longer than regular tennis balls in the ball machines. I only had about two weeks on regular tennis balls before they had to be replaced. The pressureless ones lasts months. I prefer using Gamma pressureless ones. They work best for me. I have tried all the pressureless brands.
 
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