How tennis changed from white to yellow balls thanks to David Attenborough
If you read Tennis Today, then you will no doubt have been fascinated by our little insert on David Attenborough’s contribution to tennis.
In case you missed it, here you go. The QI trio of John Lloyd, James Harkin and Anne Miller have compiled a book called “2,024 QI Facts To Stop You In Your Tracks”.
And here is David Attenborough’s contribution to tennis: “Yellow tennis balls, which look better on colour TV, were the idea of David Attenborough when he was Controller of BBC2. (They used to be white.)”
Older tennis fans will no doubt remember the days of white tennis balls, but those born after a certain date might not be aware that the sport didn’t always use yellow balls.
When lawn tennis was introduced in the late 1800s, either white or black tennis balls were used and they continued to use it until the 1970s.
Here is where the great Sir David Attenborough comes into the picture.
In a piece for Radio Times, he revealed: “I was controller of BBC2 in 1967 and had the job of introducing colour. We had been asking the government over and over again and they wouldn’t allow us, until suddenly they said, ‘Yes, OK, you can have it, and what’s more you’re going to have it in nine months’ time,’ or whatever it was.”
It didn’t too long to set the wheels in motion as the BBC broadcast Wimbledon in colour for the first time during the summer of 1967.
Here is a video of a “colourful” Wimbledon in 1967.
And here is Wimbledon 1968 with a bit more playing footage.
However, the sport continued to use white tennis balls, but the introduction of colour television meant it was harder for viewers to pick up the flight of the white ball or when it clipped the white lines.
It forced the International Tennis Federation to look at alternative colours and they approved fluorescent yellow known as “optic yellow” in 1972, but it took Wimbledon another 14 years before they finally saw the light.
“The ITF introduced yellow tennis balls into the rules of tennis, as research had shown these balls to be more visible to television viewers. Meanwhile Wimbledon continued to use the traditional white ball, but eventually adopted yellow balls in 1986.”
And that’s how tennis changed from white balls to yellow, although some believe the colour is green, but let’s not open that can of worms.
More from Tennis365:
Boris Becker accused of failing to hand over Wimbledon trophies to settle debts
The German was declared bankrupt in 2017.
Judy Murray suggests sexism was behind accusations that she was a ‘pushy Mum’
Judy Murray on the snipes that have come her way.
Julia Goerges says auf Wiedersehen to tennis: ‘The moment to say goodbye has arrived’
Farewell Julia Goerges.
Another top five win for Maria Sakkari as she stuns top seed Elina Svitolina in Ostrava
Sakkari downs Svitolina in the Czech Republic.
Alexander Zverev overcomes ‘poor serving’ to win opener while Felix Auger-Aliassime ‘stays calm’
Alexander Zverev overcomes second-set blip in Cologne.
Novak Djokovic confirms he will skip Paris Masters, but commits to Vienna Open and ATP Finals
Novak Djokovic won’t feature at Paris Masters.
Alexander Zverev has no qualms about playing ATP Finals in London despite surge in coronavirus cases
Zverev happy with protocols in place for ATP Finals.
T365 Recall: David Nalbandian’s 2007 heroics against Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
When David Nalbandian got the better of the Big Three…
‘Just to be happy, that’s the goal. I’m not a results-based guy,’ says Nick Kyrgios as he eyes 2021 return
‘I was almost crying out for a pause,’ says Kyrgios.
Coco Gauff overcomes nightmare start as she adapts to ‘awkward’ situation to win Ostrava opener
Coco Gauff adapts to win Ostrava opener.