There is a new look on the tennis courts for a series of hard-court events leading up to and including the U.S. Open later this month in New York. It is the color "blue".
The U.S. Tennis Association decided to go to a new court color scheme this year for the six-week summer series, known as the U.S. Open Series. The playing surface is now blue, surrounded by a green outer area. The switch in color from the typical green court surface is designed to heighten visibility of the ball for players, the fans attending tournaments, and television viewers.
The third event in the series is this week's Legg Mason Tennis Classic here in Washington's Rock Creek Park. For the first time this tournament at the Fitzgerald Tennis Center is staging a women's event in conjunction with the men's.
The top seed is American Andy Roddick, the world's fifth-ranked player. He told VOA Sports he does not notice that big of a difference.
"It does not affect the playability of the court. We have played on different colored courts in the past. Now, it is just more consistent," Mr. Roddick says.
But compatriot Paul Goldstein is an advocate of the change to blue.
"When I am out there playing, I like them a lot. And I think anything that we can do, and I think studies have shown, that it might be easier to follow on TV," he says. "Anything we can do to enhance the TV experience for the spectator, I am all in favor of."
Tattiana Poutchek of Belarus won her opening match in the women's draw in Washington and she offered her opinion of the blue courts.
"I cannot say that it is much, much better or much, much worse," she says. "I like the color, personally, so I think it is better than the green, but I do not think that it is a big difference. You see the ball anyway."
Seeing the ball is equally important for the umpires and officials who call the lines. One of the chair umpires at the Legg Mason tournament is Italian Romano Griollotti. He has been umpiring tennis matches for 21 years and says the new court color scheme is a great move because the contrast makes it easier to do his job.
"I think the blue with the white lines, for me, is surely better than the green with the white lines, because green and white are two light colors," Mr. Griollotti says. "Blue and white are one light and one dark color and that helps a lot for me."
And how about the tennis fans? Many of them are like Bob Knisely, who enjoys watching and playing the game.
"I guess it improves the visibility a little bit. Frankly, it is a little surprising," he says. "I have played tennis for 40 years and have never seen blue courts, but it makes good viewing, I think."
Linda Perry is another fan at the Legg Mason tournament who is also a recreational player. She thinks the change is good and would like to have an opportunity to play on a blue court.
"At first I thought they were a bit unusual, but I like them because it will be easier to call the balls when it is coming right at you, as to whether they are in or out," she says. "Now, it is kind of difficult because if they hit the back edge, it is hard to see it with the green and the green. Now with the blue on one side, it will be a lot easier to call it."
If the balls are easier to call, there will of course be fewer arguments between and among professional and amateur tennis players and officials - and that makes for better sportsmanship.