Wednesday February 28, 2024

Why are tennis balls optic yellow and what has Sir Attenborough got to do with it?

Colour of tennis balls may seem small deal, but possess specific rich history associated with it

By Web Desk
January 22, 2024
A top-down image of tennis balls and Sir David Attenborough. — X/@joe
A top-down image of tennis balls and Sir David Attenborough. — X/@joe

Have you ever wondered why tennis balls look the way they do? Sir David Attenborough has played a part in giving this sports accessory their iconic bright yellow colour also known as optic yellow.

The 97-year-old British broadcaster and naturalist wrote in a piece for "The Radio Times" that he was instrumental in introducing colour television to the United Kingdom in 1968 while working as a controller for BBC channel BBC2, according to People.

"We had been asking the government over and over again, and they wouldn’t allow us, until suddenly they said, 'Yes, okay, you can have [colour television technology], and what’s more you’re going to have it in nine months’ time,' or whatever it was," Attenborough wrote, explaining that the United States and Japan already had the advancement.

Later, he revealed in "The Radio Times" that he thought Wimbledon would be the ideal event to use colour television for the first time., "I mean, it is a wonderful plot: you’ve got drama, you’ve got everything. And it’s a national event, it’s got everything going for it."

However, according to the book 2,024 QI Facts To Stop You In Your Tracks, Attenborough discovered that the tennis balls weren't visible enough on screen when viewing Wimbledon on TV in colour for the first time in his capacity as a BBC2 controller, as reported by HuffPost.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) states that depending on the background colour of the courts, those that were initially utilised were either black or white. In 1972, the ITF then altered the colour of the balls.

However, Wimbledon persisted in using white tennis balls in the ensuing years before switching to yellow ones in 1986, according to the ITF.