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:
Indian Wells delight for Cameron Norrie as he caps brilliant year with BNP Paribas Open title
New British No 1 beat Nikoloz Basilashvili in three sets for his second title of 2021.
Cameron Norrie gives his verdict as he storms into the Indian Wells final
The new British number one triumphed 6-2 6-4 and will take on either Taylor Fritz or Nikoloz Basilashvili on Sunday.
Get to know Britain’s new number one Cameron Norrie as he closes in on a rankings breakthrough
Norrie is guaranteed to overtake Dan Evans in the ATP rankings after reaching the semi-finals in Indian Wells.
Victoria Azarenka’s return to form sweeps her into the Indian Wells final
Paula Badosa will play Victoria Azarenka in…
Defeats for Zverev and Tsitsipas ensure shock final four at Indian Wells
Taylor Fritz saved two match points as he stunned world number four Alexander Zverev
Exclusive – Meet the brothers who grew up alongside Stefanos Tsitsipas and are now teaching the Mouratoglou way
Two of Stefanos Tsitsipas’ former adversaries in the junior ranks have given us the inside story on his rise.
Andy Murray set for huge rankings collapse after Indian Wells exit
Former world No.1 Andy Murray has been…
Moment of history for Ons Jabeur as she seals last four spot in Indian Wells
Ons Jabeur sealed her place in the BNP Paribas Open’s final four with a straight-sets victory over Estonia’s Anett Kontaveit.
Grigor Dimitrov gives his verdict as he secures another big win in Indian Wells
Dimitrov’s revival continues as he battled past Hubert Hurkacz in a deciding set tie-break.
Cameron Norrie reaches first ATP Masters semi-final as Indian Wells win sees him become new British No 1
Cameron Norrie saw off Diego Schwartzman in the last eight.