Did famed broadcaster David Attenborough of BBC invent the yellow tennis ball? Why did the sport switch from white colored balls?

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David Attenborough is an English broadcaster and author, famous for his works with the BBC Two network – did he invent the yellow tennis ball?

The tennis ball that is used today in the sport has evolved over the years and has undergone multiple transformations. David Attenborough, the famous British broadcaster and the author is credited with the invention of the modern age Tennis ball.

Earlier, white balls were used in the sport until 1967 when Attenborough suggested switching to a fluorescent yellow colour ball for easier visibility on Television. It was eventually implemented worldwide in 1972 although Wimbledon continued to use the traditional white balls until 1986 before finally joining the bandwagon.

Sir David Attenborough poses with the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George following an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle, on June 8, 2022. (Photo by Andrew Matthews / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW MATTHEWS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The yellow tennis balls that are used today are controlled by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) with particular specifications. The balls are made in optic yellow colour, has a diameter between 2.575 inches and 2.7 inches and weigh between 56 grams and 59.4 grams. Attenborough’s suggestion of switching to a yellow colour has made the viewing experience a spectacle and has certainly revolutionised the sport in terms of branding and marketing.

Fans share their take about the evolution of the Tennis ball

Let us take a look at some of the reactions from fans on social media.

“I’d like to thank whoever decided to pressurize the cans because I love that crisp hiss”, wrote a fan.

“I’m confused, Wimbledon still used white balls until 1986, what tennis were they showing on BBC back the 60s apart from Wimbledon lol”, asked a confused fan. Incidentally, Wimbledon used traditional white Tennis balls until 1986 and changed to yellow from 1987.

“Invented by” probably isn’t the right word choice here. Attenborough had nothing to do with the creation of yellow tennis balls. The articles linked certainly don’t make the claim that he invented yellow tennis balls–just that he was involved with the transition to color TV. And may have noted how white tennis balls stained slightly green weren’t great on color TV – read a comment.

Another fan wrote: “Oh, yea. He is incredible.I adore David. His Documentary narration often shadows his many contributions to television. He was directly involved in giving Monty Python a chance on mainstream television (fully knowing what they do), in providing the best new cameras for nature documentation as well as sporting events (instead of news and talk shows) and of course he was not only narrating the groundbreaking nature shows, he was producing and leading teams.”

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Edited by: Gerard Crispin