NEW YORK—What would a Grand Slam tennis tournament be without an on-site hair styling & beauty salon? Don’t laugh; Julien Farel’s shop is a must for most players and their posses. According to Farel, who has two locations in Manhattan, players want to look good regardless of rank or tournament success. He and his staff are happy and proud to be part of the action.
“The players get as many treatments as they want, at no cost to them, while their coaches and guests (freeloaders) each receive one free treatment,” explains Farel, a slim, friendly and enthusiastic shop owner. “They are all very nice to us, and to each other as well. I feel very special and lucky to have access to them.”
Farel says the men almost always opt to have haircuts, while women players mostly favor pedicures. “All the players, their feet get so beat up, and the ladies want to keep theirs looking as good as possible,” he explains. “The men don’t care what their feet look like.”
The French owner, who likes to play tennis once in a while, has confidence in his ability to please the players. “But I am in charge when they are here,” he says. “They know how to play tennis; I know how to cut hair. We try to respect what they want.”
Although he receives no payment, Farel says the publicity his business gets more than makes up for it. His U.S. Open salon has been featured in many magazines and newspapers, as well as on the internet. Staff members usually get generous tips from the pros. It helps, of course, that the services are free.
Farel and his U.S. Open staff of six or so follow weather patterns closely during the two-week tournament, but for a much different reason than fans. “If it’s raining we’re the hottest show in town,” he says. “The players and their people all come fast, and it’s non-stop until the sun comes out. And we take appointments, so it can get very hectic.”
Young players likely have no idea what a Julien Farel Salon haircut costs in the real world. Eighteen-year-old Chris Harrison, giddy Tuesday after teaming with brother Ryan in a doubles upset of the fourth-seeded team, wandered innocently into the salon for a trim. A stylist took care of him. Had the lad been paying it would have been $250. And if he’d wanted Julien on the job? A cool $650.
There is an occasional ‘heartbreaking’ scene. During the early rounds, a distraught mother of one of the women players rushed into the salon moments before the 6 p.m. closing. Her daughter had just lost in singles to a much lower ranked player and was out of the tournament. Mother had an afternoon appointment for a manicure the next day. “Can I please get my nails done right now?” she pleaded. “We’re leaving early tomorrow.” Told it was too late, she left, a bad day just made worse.
Farel says that just like a tournament, getting the top players makes a big difference for him publicity-wise. “Novak Djokovic had a haircut last year, and will have one this year as well,” he says. “He’s such a charmer. He loves to have women around, and here there are mostly women working, so it’s great. He loves life, and has a great sense of humor.
“I cut Rafa’s (Rafael Nadal) hair a few years ago. He had it very long at the time, and I cut it short, but keeping the Spanish look. I got rid of the part in the middle, and also made sure to respect the features of his face.”
And Mr. Federer? “No, he has not come in yet,” laments Farel. “We’ve served his mother and his wife, so maybe we’ll see him this year. I hope so.”