Practice swings, long days of training, cardio, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep: These are what we imagine tennis players have on their dockets before hitting the court at the U.S. Open. As it turns out, though, before their big beauty event, the players actually share a common interest with us here at Byrdie HQ: beauty.
From the President’s Suite overlooking the Arthur Ashe Stadium court in Flushing, New York, is a small beauty salon bustling with tennis players. To the left, they’re getting their nails painted with YSL Nail Lacquer ($23), the official nail brand of the beauty suite. Directly in front of me, they’re getting their hair braided in double dutch plaits or a single french one. The men receive fresh trims just minutes before setting foot on the hard court. It’s a ritual of sorts—to be beautified before (and after) the game.
At the heart of all this beauty madness is Julien Farel, the French stylist who quite literally applied to act as official hair wizard to one of the largest tennis tournaments in the world: “My 10,000-square-foot flagship, Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa, is the go-to beauty destination for celebrities and CEOs in NYC, so when I applied 10 years ago to be the hairstylist for the players at the U.S. Open, it was an exciting opportunity to add fitness and wellness to the Julien Farel brand,” he tells us.
No doubt, a hairdo (especially one that keeps loose strands out of your face so you can play with laser focus), a manicure, and even a facial (a service provided in the suite) are all relaxing to receive before a match, but Farel tells Huffington Post that it goes much deeper than that with the players. “When I interview them,” he says, “they all have the same answer: ‘If we look good, we feel good and we play better.’ That’s very important.”
Truly, each beauty service is well crafted and artfully considered to help all the players perform their best. “We see that female players request braids before competing on the courts, and blowouts afterward. When they are in competition mode, a tight braid makes it easy to stay cool and keep agile on the court,” says Farel.
“Ever since we started offering gel manicures,” he continues, “it’s been one of the most popular services because it conveys a sense of style and works with their high-performance and active lifestyle. Serena [Williams] does her own nails, but we get lots of female players getting their nails done. If they have time, they often add a Natura Bisse express facial while they are waiting for their nails to dry.”
I can personally vouch for the staying power of a Julien Farel beauty suite braid. It took a mere three minutes for a stylist to finish a tight (and I mean tears-forming-in-my-eyes tight) braid down the side of my head and transition my ends into a chic, low wrapped ponytail. I felt like I was ready to swing a racket (or at least sip a mojito while I watched other players swing rackets). Nevertheless, I felt pampered and catered to; I could see how these services would make the players feel powerful.
In this way and others, haircare is much more than an occupation for Farel—it’s a lifestyle, one that he’s truly passionate about improving. Whether or not you’re a tennis pro who plays for hours outdoors, Farel suggests taking special care to reverse the damage that the sun is doing to your scalp and strands.
“We have a scalp treatment called Calm Elixir that we use to soothe sunburned scalps and women also use it to soothe their scalp after one too many hair dyes! Hair gets increasingly susceptible to damage as you get older, and the more we expose our hair and skin to the elements, the more you have to take care of it,” Farel tells us. “To prevent breakage and dehydration, use a hair treatment on a regular basis. I created Restore ($39), a three-in-one hair treatment to nourish, hydrate, and protect the hair and scalp with the best skincare technology and ingredients in the market.”
In the end, Farel’s products and services are guaranteed to make you feel like you can take on the world—trophies at stake or none. Game, set, match.
Tennis players aren’t the only athletes with unconventional pre-match rituals. Here’s the surprising thing Olympians do to prepare for a game.