The sport of modern tennis was born out of the English game of lawn tennis, which by most accounts was invented in the 1870s. Lawn tennis was an outdoor adaptation of the indoor racket game “real tennis,” which itself was an adoption of the French pastime jeu de paume, or “the palm game.” After many iterations, including balls made of cork, wool, and even human hair, the tennis ball found what was then its ideal form: a ball made of a rubber core encased in white or black melton, a tightly woven and felted fabric.
For nearly a century, tennis balls were white or black. It wasn’t until 1972 that tennis balls took on their bright neon hue. At the time, Attenborough was working as a studio controller for the BBC. In the late 1960s he had led the charge for the BBC to broadcast Wimbledon, perhaps the most iconic of tennis tournaments, in color for the first time ever.