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Question of the Day: Rallying With a Machine

Monday, November 26, 2012 /by

TENNIS.com gear editor Justin diFeliciantonio and his technical advisers answer your equipment questions each day. Click here to send in a question of your own.

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Are there any ball machines on the market that you can play points against? I’ve always thought that’d be an interesting product concept, but haven’t really come across anything like it.—Alex B.

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The only interactive ball machine I know of, Alex, is called the Boomer. Invented by Dave Jordan and based on a Sport Tutor machine, the Boomer uses a motion-tracking camera to judge the speed, location, and trajectory of your shots. Thus, it’s able to simulate various levels of match play, from NTRP 2.0 all the way to the pro-caliber level of 7.0.

As James Martin explained in June 2005 issue of Tennis Magazine, Boomer, using a camera set up behind the machine, “determines if your ball is in and replies with a shot of its own based on the strength of yours. Hit deep but without much pace and Boomer replies with a powerful drive. Hit hard and Boomer sends back a weaker reply. Smack the ball close to the line and Boomer awards you the point. The machine can commit unforced errors (the probability is one in 20), which should encourage you to get one more ball back in. And when you lose a point, you’ll hear Jordan’s recorded voice taunt, ‘Don’t quit your day job!’ among other things.”

In addition to match play, Boomer is able to conduct a wide variety of drills, as well as rate the level of your play. But of course, this kind of technology isn’t cheap. According to the United States Racquet Associations’ 2011 Ball Machine Review, the Boomer retails for a steep $14,450. If, understandably, you don’t have that kind of cash to blow, there are number of clubs around the country that will allow you to rent its use.

For more information on Boomer, visit the company’s website at www.tennisrobot.com. And check out the video below; starting at 3:36, Luke Jensen, 1993 French Open doubles champion, has a heckuva time trying to take a game from the competitive bot.

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