If you've ever watched a video of a tennis match from before 1972, you might have noticed something unusual: The balls are white, not yellow. The ubiquitous yellow tennis ball of the modern sport didn't become a reality until the advent of televised tennis coverage. White balls were hard for television viewers to see, especially when they got close to a court line -- meaning it was difficult to tell whether a ball was in or out of play.
To fix things, the sport's governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), conducted a study and learned that yellow was a much better choice. But while the ITF instituted a rule change in 1972 that allowed balls to be yellow (technically a fluorescent shade called "optic yellow"), white balls continued to be legal.
Most tournaments quickly switched to yellow balls, which was a popular move among fans. Wimbledon, however, remained a holdout until 1986, when it finally conceded that yellow was a better choice. Nowadays, yellow tennis balls are a mainstay of play for everyone from the casual weekend enthusiast to tennis legends like Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
Anyone for tennis?
- Tennis balls are covered in fuzz or felt to make them playable; otherwise, they'd fly by so quickly that there would be no chance to swing at them.
- The first tennis balls -- from the 15th century -- were wool-filled balls covered by soft leather.
- The pressurized tube in which tennis balls are now sold was created by the Pennsylvania Rubber Co. in 1926.