Sir David Attenborough Suggested The Change in 1967

Published on December 15th, 2023 5:56 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The tennis ball was not always yellow.  Here is the story on how it became yellow. You probably know who Sir David Attenborough is.

You might not know what he looks like, but you almost certainly recognize his voice, as he has voiced (and written) the nine series of documentary that form the "Life" collection.

Sir David Attenborough is a treasure, but did you know that he was also responsible for tennis transitioning from white tennis balls to flourescent yellow tennis balls?

Attenborough had a long and storied career at the BBC, which included a stint as the director of programmes.

At the time, tennis was broadcast on BBC, and Attenborough had a suggestion:

Why not make the traditionally white tennis balls flourescent yellow instead, so that viewers would be able to better track the ball?

After all, colour television was a relatively new thing at the time, and Attenborough thought that flourescent yellow tennis balls would show off the effectiveness of colour television.


Change was slow to come, despite Attenborough's influence as the director of programmes at the BBC.

The game of tennis would officially transition to a flourescent yellow ball in 1972, though Wimbledon, steeped in tradition, would be much more unwilling to change.

In 1986, however, Wimbledon finally acquiesced, and the flourescent yellow ball was formally introduced at the tournament.


Prior to the change to flourescent yellow, the traditional tennis ball was white with a black seam.

Tennis eventually changed to flourescent yellow as they wanted to make themselves as viewer-friendly as possible with the advent of colour television.

In addition, spectators said that the yellow ball also made it easier for them to track.

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