Unlike basketball or football, tennis has always been a muffled sport, with very few exuberances. Even tattoos, new fad amongst athletes, are still rare on the courts. Except for a few oddballs who decided to show a little more than a sponsor on the sleeves of their single-coloured polo. Review.
1/ Lukas Rosol
One day he pushes Andy Murray during a change of sides. Another, he insults the father of Julien Benneteau, accusing him of encouraging his son a little too much. Yet another, he tries to steal points to the French Marc Gicquel by showing false marks on the clay to the umpire. Understand: Lukas Rosol is one of the least popular players on the tour. A permanent aggressiveness that can also be seen on his body: on the right shoulder, a snake's head, and on the left calf, a Maori design that illustrates the famous haka of the All Blacks rugby team, of which he appreciates, he says, "the warrior imagery." And ensuring that he’s “pretty wild." Alright then.
2/ Bethanie Mattek
During the US Open 2004, the world discovered Bethanie Mattek-Sands and her leopard outfit. Then in 2007, in a Wild West style. Meanwhile, in 2006, she wore big white socks with black marks drawn with black zinc under her eyes, very American football, at Wimbledon. "I had to pass by the Umpire's office for him to approve my outfit. They have kept it, dedicated, in their museum!" She told L'Equipe in 2011. With her husband, Justin, a tall beefy lad, cap backwards but mostly tattooed, like her, they decided to write for life the name of the other on the left ring finger instead of wedding ring. Otherwise, the player has on her right arm, on the tender side of the skin, a drawing mixing lilies, water sources, and bees. "My Zen garden," as she describes it. No, the American doesn't go unnoticed on the tour. "Tennis is a very old school sport. The older generation is very conservative. And that's not me at all! So, people love me or hate me!"
3/ Kim Clijsters
"I'm a dizzy kind of girl: I could definitely forget to wear my wedding ring for a match while it brings me luck; or forget it on the court after a game." Kim Clijsters has found the solution: instead of wearing her gold ring, the Belgian decided in 2012 to get a tattoo, like Bethanie Mattek-Sands, the initials of her husband, Brian Lynch, on the finger. Jada, the name of their daughter, also found its place on the inside of her left wrist. A family affair.
4/ Janko Tipsarevic
It's one of the greatest enigmas of the tour. But what is hiding behind Janko Tipsarevic’s big rimmed glasses and this racquet that can defeat the best? A scholar, some say. Especially when you know that the Chinese characters tattooed on his back mean that "beauty will save the world". A quote from Dostoevsky. "I have read The Idiot a dozen times but that does not make of me a bookworm," he said in L'Equipe a few years ago The Serb also has a drawing made when he was only 17 years old, simultaneously with another madness. "When I got home with a pierced mouth, my mother chased me in the house with a knife." And what about the quote? "When my father knew that it was a quote from Dostoevsky he felt relieved: maybe his kid wasn’t so stupid after all."
5/ Daniel Köllerer
Banned six months by the ATP in 2006 after a succession of insults against ball boys, spectators and opponents, Daniel Köllerer confessed that he used to break "a dozen racquets per year" and will be more remembered for his fits of anger than for his scrawny prize list - no ATP title in singles and doubles. On the 31st of May 2011 he was banned for life by the Tennis Integrity Unit for rigging several matches. In 2010 he had already been arrested three months for publishing on his website information on online bets. Curious trajectory, just like his array of tattoos. Undoubtedly one of the most impressive of the tour: forearms, biceps, shoulder, abdomen; in Spanish, in ideograms, in English: "The right hand of God," "Love, wealth, success," "Jesus walks with me", "number one" and even "? ". The question mark appears like a good conclusion.
6/ Stanislas Wawrinka
April 2013. After getting tattooed - the name of his daughter - Alexia - on the right side, Stanislas Wawrinka did it again with a life lesson on the left arm signed by the writer Samuel Beckett: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." On the website Sport.fr, he gave his very personal translation of the quote: "This quote has always been my philosophy of life. If you are a tennis player and you aren't called Nadal, Djokovic or Federer in every tournament you are going lose, so you have to leave with some positive despite the defeat."
7/ Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko
Winners in doubles of the Australian Open in 2008, Alona and Kateryna Bondarenko aren’t only related by blood. Both tennis players are also tattooed. Indeed, each one has the initials of the other tattooed in the middle of the shoulder blades. Sisterly love...
8/ Mark Philippoussis
Legend of the serve-and-volley in the late nineties, Mark Philippoussis has long cultivated his difference. First, he's a Westy: he was born in Williamstown, an area that was long working class, west of Melbourne. His mother is Italian; his father Greek. Worse, he played football, the barbaric sport of the ethnic Australians (non-English-speaking immigrants, ed.) And has on his right shoulder a tattoo of Alexander the Great. The reason? "I wanted a tattoo of him because of his Greek blood," he told the Guardian. « He was a conqueror, a great fighter. » Before trying humour: "I only found out that he was homosexual after doing it."
9/ Li Na
«The rebel». This is the nickname of Li Na in her native China. Adored for her performances, the former winner of the Australian Open and of the French Open also knows that, where she’s from, critics are harder than anywhere else. Especially when she decided to show her tattoo. "The first time I showed it on a court, there were headlines in the newspapers the next day saying, 'She has a tattoo with a snake." Actually this is not a snake but a rose placed near the heart, that she did when she was 16, while she was in love with a man who is now her husband. "I chose pink because my husband is romantic and putting it on my chest meant that I gave him my heart." Another act of rebellion: the Chinese government banned its athletes to marry while they are still active, especially without their permission.
10/ Gaël Monfils
“Whimsical? What's does it mean? There are a lot of clichés that never leave me, I like it, and it makes me laugh." Gael Monfils hasn’t only a few clichés that never leave him. He also attaches great importance to symbols, as evidenced by his many tattoos. The first was the famous quote of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream". Since he added: "I live my dreams" and "My dream will lead me to my destiny." The following? It’s still the interested party who talks about it best. "I have wings on my back. They protect me," he explained in 2012 to L'Equipe. "On the right wrist, I also have wings, but they illustrate the good and the bad, the eternal struggle of good and evil. Those on the back represent only the good. Below, there’s a playing card. As five, that means 15. 15 is my favourite number. It's a family number, the sign of infinity, for me. Everything is possible. Anything can happen."
By Victor Le Grand