What's orange and yellow and soon to be smashed, slammed and lobbed all over the U.S.? The new Two-Tone tennis ball, if Penn Athletic Products has its way.
Penn, which first manufactured both the fluorescent yellow and shocking orange balls, the man-made felt-covered ball, and balls for high-altitude play, recently unveiled yet another surprise. And this one is a real eye-opener.
"Face it," says Ed Arrington, Penn's director of marketing, "it's hard to keep your eye on the ball all the time."
The new balls may get us hackers into trouble. Some of the old excuses just won't hold up anymore—whiffed orange balls that simply disappeared into the dusk or yellow balls that were lost in the sun. The two-color balls seem to make more of a difference outdoors, where lighting conditions aren't fixed.
Penn's product development staff tested the new balls on every level of player except professional, and results showed 23% increased accuracy with the orange and yellow ball. Most players said they could better distinguish the spin by watching the speed and rotation of the two colors, a particular advantage for beginners and intermediates.
"The player we're aiming for is the average one," says Arrington, "not Bjorn Borg. Players of his caliber always keep their eyes on the ball."
Arrington said some testers called the ball a "gimmick." Yet several of Penn's competitors admit they too have been experimenting with two-color balls. "Tennis isn't a fad sport," says Arrington. "It's actually very slow to change. Even yellow balls took almost two years to catch on. Then, when they did, it was like opening the floodgates."
Meanwhile, Penn—like its competitors—is anxiously awaiting the fate of the new ball, which will cost about 15% more than the more subdued model.
"Who knows?" says Jim Hogan, national sales manager of Slazenger. "This ball could be the laughingstock of the industry in 1981, but by 1983 it may take over the market."