Why are Tennis Balls Yellow?

Optic Yellow

When lawn tennis[1] was introduced in the late 1800s, either white or black tennis balls were used and they continued to use until the 1970s. With matches being carried on television worldwide, and now in color, the white balls were difficult to see and blended in with the white lines.

Sir David Attenborough was working as a studio controller for the BBC. In the late 1960s, he had led the charge for the BBC to broadcast Wimbledon, perhaps the most iconic of tennis tournaments, in color for the first time ever.

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.

Sir David Attenborough

It forced the International Tennis Federation to look at alternative colors and they approved fluorescent yellow known as “optic yellow” in 1972, but it took Wimbledon another 14 years before they finally saw the light.

Optic yellow is a fluorescent, neon, yellow color. The color is mostly yellow with a very light hint of green. The color is considered high chroma due to the degree of vividness of the color, or how pure it is compared to its representative on the color wheel. Road signs are this color so that drivers can pick them up in their eyesight easily.

  1. Tennis is said to have originated in Ancient Egypt, according to several historians. The term “racket” is said to have originated from the Arabic word “rakhat,” which means “palm.” However, the most widespread belief is that tennis was first played by French monks in the 11th and 12th centuries. In 1872, when the first lawn tennis club was founded, tennis started to develop into a professional sport. On the lawns of the Leamington resort, Hoa Pereira, a Portuguese businessman, and doctors Wellesley Tomkins and Frederick Haynes played a Spanish game called pelota with a ball. Later, the original lawn tennis regulations were developed (tennis on a lawn). [Back]


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Author: Doyle

I was born in Atlanta, moved to Alpharetta at 4, lived there for 53 years and moved to Decatur in 2016. I've worked at such places as Richway, North Fulton Medical Center, Management Science America (Computer Tech/Project Manager) and Stacy's Compounding Pharmacy (Pharmacy Tech).

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