The Tennis Tutor line of automated tennis ball machines is well named. Granted, no machine is a complete substitute for a live expert to guide you. But practice is an essential part of any regimen. This ball thrower will provide plenty of challenge on that score.
Compact compared to many models, the Tennis Tutor folds down to a nearly cubicle 12″ H x 19.5″ L x 20″ W for easy transport. It also provides an extendible towing handle, so you can roll it along on its little wheels with ease.
It is a bit on the heavy side for some, at 42 lbs (including the 12 lbs Heavy Duty battery). Lugging it in and out of the trunk or SUV will provide some exercise all by itself.
The control panel looks a bit primitive by contemporary standards. Anyone used to a modern phone or tablet will look at this as a dinosaur. But those switches and dials have a good purpose; they’re extremely reliable in outdoor use.
Capacity – 150 Balls
At 150 balls, the Tennis Tutor certainly provides a good number to keep you going for a while. At 10 seconds per toss, a moderate speed suitable to a mid-level skill set, that works out to 25 minutes between refills. By that time it’s time to take a break anyway.
That interval is the maximum, but even setting it closer to the minimum, say at 2 seconds per toss, you’d still get a five-minute workout.
Those would be a very vigorous five minutes, given that volley rate is what a pro would give you. The maximum launch speed is 85 mph. One important difference, though.
Even a pro wouldn’t keep that return rate up for a solid five minutes of uninterrupted volleys.
The flaps fold out from the top to hold the balls. Though plastic, they’re reasonably sturdy. It would be helpful if the front one was clear so you could see when the hopper is getting low, but that’s a minor drawback.
Ball Settings & Controls
The Tennis Tutor offers a fine array of options to make your practice session worthwhile.
All the features can be set via the Tennis Tutor’s easy-to-use control panel. Ball speed, trajectory, interval, and more take only a tap to set. Ball speed (10 – 85 mph) is set via a simple dial of the sort found on old guitar amplifiers, as is the feed interval (1.5 – 10 sec).
If you want random strokes, you can get random just by a flip of the red oscillation switch. If you need to work on a particular stroke you can turn off oscillation, to repeat the same shot each time. If you want lobs, lobs it is again with just a tap on the red elevation switch.
I find the Tennis Tutor 2-Line Function ($200 optional feature!) one of its most useful features. You can set either of two preset court positions. I always need help alternating practice between forehand and backhand because, being lazy, I tend to favor the one I’m best at. This setting “forces” you to mix it up.
If you’re a tennis instructor, you can use it to feed two separate students during the same teaching session. One will get forehand practice, the other backhand. Reload the hopper and the pair could trade places to get the opposite workout during the second round.
The Tennis Tutor can be operated with an optional 2-button remote control. I wouldn’t use it much. It’s too simple. It’s wireless, of course, but with only two buttons – for start/stop and side-to-side positioning – it’s too limited to merit paying what Sports Tutor is asking for it ($200!).
No Spin Capability
The basic Tennis Tutor model has no spin option. If you need that option you must upgrade to the Tennis Tutor Plus. To the wide array of abilities described above, the Plus adds the capability of varying the spin.
Select topspin or underspin, depending on what you want to work on. Just turn the dial and you vary the amount with a twist.
One small downside to the additional feature is the increase in case size, however.
The Plus model is eight inches taller than the base Tennis Tutor model. For most buyers that won’t represent a big drawback. It’s a small tradeoff of portability to get a very important feature, one that even a novice player will soon find useful in upping his or her game.
Fortunately, the battery level is quite substantial, offering 4-6 hours’ worth of play between charges. Equally fortunate is that it takes only 12 hours to recharge fully from zero.
Many tennis ball machines take a full 24 hours or more, which makes it tough to use your unit every day. If 12 hours is too slow for you, there is a Fast Charger available.
One could wish, however, that the unit came with the optional Smart Charger. The more sophisticated plug-in shuts itself off after the onboard battery is fully recharged. That protects the lead-acid battery from overcharging. The one that comes with it has to be unplugged when you observe the battery is full.
The basic Tennis Tutor can be purchased in any of four variations: the basic Tennis Tutor, the Tennis Tutor with Remote, the Tennis Tutor with 2-Line Oscillation, the Tennis Tutor with Remote + 2-Line Oscillation.
As always, which is best comes down to what features you value most versus how much you want to spend. No matter which model you choose the Tennis Tutor is a fine machine. Sturdy, reliable, and easy to use with useful oscillation in a very portable case yet offering ample capacity.
Still, without the spin feature, a developing player might outgrow it too quickly. I’d lean toward the more advanced Tennis Tutor Plus model.