No matter where tennis is played, one of the most common hard court colors currently is blue. It wasn’t always the case, but ever since the U.S. Open switched in 2005 and the Australian Open switched in 2008, tennis courts all around the globe followed.
There are a lot of people who take the color for granted, but many wonder why tennis courts are blue. That’s what we will go through in this post.
Why are tennis courts blue? The color blue provides the right contrast with a standard tennis ball. That makes it easier to see not only for the players but spectators on television as well. Also, the Australian Open and U.S. Open are major trendsetters for hard courts around the world. Once they switched to blue, many other courts followed.
The Evolution Of Tennis Court Colors
Tennis played on natural surfaces like grass and clay are pretty much stuck with a distinct color. Except for the rare occasion (like when the Madrid Open tinkered with blue clay), grass courts are green, and red clay courts are red.
When hard courts were first introduced, most court designers decided to just stick with a green color very similar to grass. If it worked for grass tournaments, it certainly would be fine for hard courts, right?
Up until the 2000s, green courts were very much the norm. For out of bounds, a lot of courts would either use the same color or experiment with the opposite color on the color wheel (red).
Tennis tournament organizers are very hesitant to take too many risks with colors, but with tennis balls being neon yellow-green, some organizers felt like the ball could pop a little more on television with a different surface color. That’s when blue and purple courts first started to become a possibility
Making Tennis Spectator-Friendly
For every sport, it needs to be spectator friendly to grow. A tennis ball can travel well over 100 miles an hour during a point, making it difficult for fans to follow at times. To make things a little easier, tournament directors started researching different colors and tinkering with court designs.
When looking at the color wheel, purple and blue are the colors directly across from the color of a tennis ball. This allows people in person and on television to see the ball much more clearly. Better television quality has also helped the sport, but the color change was welcomed almost from the very beginning.
Tennis started running into a similar situation as hockey with the game translating to television. The ball is hard to follow at times, and nearly impossible to see any real spin sitting at home.
The color of the ball, which was originally white, evolved into a fluorescent yellow-green that pops on color television. The blues used have made the ball stand out even more.
How US Open Blue Came To Be
The change to blue was not just based on looking at a color wheel and randomly picking a certain shade. Tennis officials put a lot of time and effort into finding the best color for the tournament, benefiting everyone in the process.
A study done by California Sports Services looked for the perfect color that would not only be aesthetically pleasing in person and on television, but fall in the blue-purple spectrum that contrasts with the neon yellow-green tennis ball. After running tests, they settled on Pantone blue 2965 U. It’s now known, officially, as US Open Blue.
The in-bounds play color was set, but the U.S. Open wanted a different color for outside the lines. They felt it would provide a clearer vision for viewers, but the right color was needed.
California Sports Services settled on Pantone 357 U for that color. The darker shade of green is now known as U.S. Open Green. They are currently the only Grand Slam that has two colors, which gives the U.S. Open a distinct look. It’s also very easy to tell the difference between the four majors this way.
Perhaps the best confirmation the U.S. Open has received concerning their choice of color is that it has rarely been talked about since the conversion. Now, people find it odd that it was ever a different color. The shades of blue and green bring life to the court and makes for a better viewer experience.
The biggest hard-court tennis tournament of the year is the U.S. Open, which happens in late August and early September. In the few weeks leading up to the main event, several other tournaments in the United States are officially part of the U.S. Open series. What viewers will realize is that they all now use the same color for the courts. This isn’t by mistake.
This is a calculated effort to help with branding. When casual viewers recognize the colors, they can instantly realize that it is part of the U.S. Open series. It’s a subtle change that most people don’t necessarily process at first, but the brain picks up on the correlation and provides better overall brand recognition.
Since the blue court color choice is so common at the professional level, other tennis courts are following in their footsteps as well.
Green and red courts are falling out of style, and more and more schools and parks are going with blue courts. They might be slightly different shades of blue, or even gravitating more towards a purple, but the change is very noticeable whenever new tennis courts go up.
The Australian Open doesn’t have quite the same build-up to their Grand Slam since it is at the beginning of the year. Their blue color, which is slightly lighter and fills the entire playing surface, is most popular in Australia and Asia. It hasn’t taken off as much in other parts of the world.
It certainly feels like a long time ago when the Australian Open and U.S. Open was played on fully green courts. Watching all clips of those tournaments, it seems like such a long time ago. Part of that is due to the advancement in cameras, but the colors help a lot as well.
This subtle change has helped out the sport in a lot of ways. Not only are spectators happy, but players like the color choice as well. As more and more facilities around the world upgrade their courts, it’s only a matter of time before blue is almost exclusively the color of hard courts.
It’s a perfect change for everyone involved in the sport, and it’s somewhat of a surprise that it took so long.