Pictures courtesy of Julien Farel Salons.
Today's top two tennis seeds boast different playing styles, independent nationalities, and radically divergent manners of wearing their hair. But Novak Djokovic (currently ranked the world's top player) and Rafael Nadal, (world number 2) share the same hairstylist. When they're in New York for the U.S. Open, they go to Julien Farel, who runs a salon for players near the gym inside Queens' Arthur Ashe Stadium for the duration of the tournament.
In one corner: the Spaniard Rafael Nadal. He has medium-long locks, a penchant for sweating profusely, and a love of all things bandana. In the other is the devilishly handsome Slavic Novak Djokovic, who has very short hair, a long drawn face, lanky legs, and stylish-but-affordable Uniqlo's branding all over. So what does it take to style this big guys?
Farel has been working with Nadal for years, but getting Djokovic into the salon this year was something new for the veteran coiffeur.
"We actually changed Djokovic's look to a side part, with the hair longer on one side where he used to have like a flat tray," said Farel of Novak's new 'do. "I personally like his hair longer, but it’s difficult to go through all those steps to let it grow out. He does have really good hair, so you’d be able to get some great volume out of it when it’s longer.”
As for Nadal, Farel says that he refined the shorter look he famously created for him some years ago. "When he came in with long hair," said Farel. "I got a great media and press coverage out of taking him shorter. This year, we gave Nadal his yearly 'tournament trim,' taking a few inches off his lengthy locks and finishing it with some hair crème. You can really see the cut when he takes off his signature bandana after winning a match."
Farel uses Flexible Gel ($23, 3.4 fl oz) from his own product line, Julien Farel Haircare, to control Nadal's lengthy locks without coming off as too slick or greasy. To relax Nadal's curls, he applies some Vitamin Smooth ($23, 1.7 fl oz), a smoothing crème that works for all hair types and keeps hair moisturized and manageable.
For Djokovic's short cut, Farel uses Vitamin Calm ($43, 4.2 fl oz), with soothing Vitamin E to keep his scalp protected against the sun’s harmful UV rays. This is the way to go if you, like Djokovic, don't have many layers of hair to protect your scalp when you spend a lot of time in the sun.
Now that we got all the haircare tips we were looking for, could we get some old-fashioned hairdresser gossip out of Farel? "I always feel like as a hairdresser, you’re like a lawyer," he says when asked if Nadal ever talked about other players in the salon. "Whatever happens in your salon, stays in the salon. It’s like Vegas, you know. You see everything, you don’t say anything."
Farel did say that he likes the ladies Novak and Rafa are dating. "I love how both Nadal and Djokovic’s ladies are so supportive of them, always front and center cheering them on during their matches," said Farel. "Nadal’s girlfriend, Xisca Perello, has beautiful brunette wavy curls and Djokovic’s girlfriend, Jelena Ristic, has gorgeous long golden locks. Their hair is always perfectly polished just like their men."
On that note, I ask him why there are no out men but plenty of openly gay female players (Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King) in the sport. Farel said: "There's no gay men in tennis? You mean not yet!"