It’s hard to imagine it any other way now. Yellow tennis balls just makes sense. But when you think about, wouldn’t purple or bright green be just as good. What gives? Why are tennis balls yellow?
Tennis balls are yellow because in 1972, the ITF (International Tennis Federation) did a study to determine what color tennis ball was the easiest to see on a color television. The answer? “Optic yellow.”
Prior to yellow tennis balls, most balls were white and called clover leaf balls. Imagine a tennis ball unfolded and you’ll understand why they’re called clover leaf balls. These balls were used throughout most of the 20th century. Slowly, all before the ball became the yellow color it is today, ball manufactures moved away from an entirely rubber ball and began adding gas to a hollowed center. For more history on tennis balls, learn more about why tennis balls are fuzzy.
But regardless of their insides, particularly on grass courts, white balls presented a challenge. Similar to a white paid of pants, the balls got grass stained. They were difficult to see not only for a television audience, but also for the players on the court!Check out Non-Yellow Tennis Balls Here
With the advent of color television, everything changed. The ITF was looking to make the game more appealing to their now international audience watching in color. After researchers studied a variety of colors including fluorescent orange and neon pink, “optic yellow” was found to be the most visible. So there you have it. That’s the answer to why tennis balls are yellow.
The ITF implemented the results of the research in 1972 making the optic yellow tennis ball the standard of tennis ball coloring that it is today. As usual, Wimbledon took a bit to leave the white tennis ball tradition behind. In 1986, Wimbledon switched to yellow balls as well.
Next time you’re on the court you’ve got your answer to a changeover question: why are tennis balls yellow? Tennis balls are yellow because that’s the easiest color to see on a television screen! But do remember that if you’re interested there are other colored tennis balls out there. Click the link to view our summary of where to find those colored tennis. Happy hitting and remember that no matter the color, you should keep your eye on the ball!