• Surrey Tennis

How Sir David Attenborough Changed Tennis

I'm sure many of you will be wondering how the planets most famous natural historian could possible have had a hand in changing the global sport of tennis, well read on because he certainly did!

First of all it's worth winding the clock back on Sir David's career. After completing his study of the natural sciences at the University of Cambridge (and serving two years in the Navy) Attenborough completed his training with the BBC and began working for the television station as a producer, marking the beginning of what would become an extremely fruitful relationship. Despite his growing success, Attenborough left the BBC in the early 1960s to study social anthropology at the London School of Economics. However, when BBC Two was created in 1965, Attenborough was asked to return to the station as its controller. It was in this role that tennis was about to change forever!

In a piece for Radio Times, he revealed: “I was controller of BBC2 in 1967 and had the job of introducing colour. We had been asking the government over and over again and they wouldn’t allow us, until suddenly they said, ‘Yes, OK, you can have it, and what’s more you’re going to have it in nine months’ time,’ or whatever it was.”

As you can imagine, with all the excitement that colour television brought, it wasn't long before under Attenborough's guidance, Wimbledon was broadcasted in colour for the first time in 1967.

Unfortunately the introduction of colour television meant it was harder for viewers to pick up the flight of the white ball during play. Not a good look for one of the worlds largest tennis events! The ITF saw this as a real hindrance to the increased global appeal of tennis so were forced to look at alternative colours and they approved fluorescent yellow known as “optic yellow” in 1972. As with most things Wimbledon don't like to rush so another 14 years passed before they made the change.

So thanks to the influence of Sir David Attenborough in his position at the BBC, the fuzzy balls that we hit over the net are now in their famous yellow colour...or is it green? Perhaps best we don't go into that one!

Surrey Tennis

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