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David Attenborough’s colourful impact on Wimbledon and tennis: yellow balls

Storm Sanders was Australia’s hero after she won the first singles rubber before returning for the deciding doubles match alongside 38-year-old Samantha Stosur.

Broadcaster David Attenborough and his daughter Susan Attenborough at the Wimbledon on July 1, 2024
| Photo Credit: Reuters

British naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough’s visit to Wimbledon provided a vivid reminder of his impact on the sport: yellow balls.

With the advent of colour TV and growing interest in tennis in the late 1960s, producers looked for ways to improve the viewing experience. Tennis balls were historically either black or white.

Attenborough, who worked for the BBC in the ’60s when the broadcaster was transitioning to colour, was one of the people who inspired the switch to yellow balls, the All England Club said Tuesday.

The 98-year-old Attenborough was a guest in the Royal Box at Centre Court on Monday when play started at the grass-court Grand Slam. England soccer great David Beckham was alongside him.

The International Tennis Federation introduced yellow balls into the rules of the sport in 1972 “as research had shown these balls to be more visible to television viewers.”

Ironically, Wimbledon didn’t make the switch until 1986. The official Wimbledon Compendium for that year noted: “Yellow balls were used for the first time, largely as the white balls were getting stained green on the grass, sometimes making them almost impossible to see on TV, where tennis was increasingly popular.”

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