When I think of athletes and tattoos, tennis players rarely come to mind. However, I can think of many footballers with ink.
David Beckham is covered in tattoos. He has them in honor of his children, his wife, and his passion, football.
Many boxers have tattoos. You’d have to be blind not to notice Mike Tyson’s pattern just to the side of his left eye.
I don’t have tattoos, but I can confidently say that my face would not be the first place I tried.
Coming back to tennis. Are there any players with tattoos, and can tennis players get themselves inked?
Tennis players can have tattoos if they wish. None of the governing bodies restrict what tattoos players can have. Several professional players are tattooed. Nick Kyrgios, Stan Wawrinka, and Elin Svitolina, to name a few.
Even if they are allowed, it doesn’t mean they are approved of. In this article I will cover:
- Whether tattoos are prohibited by any rules
- Why there aren’t many tennis players who have tattoos
- Some of the pros who do have tattoos
If you’re a fan of tennis and tattoos you better read on!
Are Tattoos Forbidden By Rules?
There are no rules set by any governing bodies that forbid or restrict the wearing of tattoos.
Even when you think of Wimbledon and its traditional dress code, it is not tattoos that come to mind.
I can’t think of a tennis player on the tour who has a tattoo that could be regarded as controversial.
If someone decided to get a machine gun tattooed on their forehead, that might attract a rule change.
Unless someone decides to get a controversial tattoo, I can’t envisage any change in the rules.
Even if there are no restrictions, it doesn’t mean tattoos are seen positively.
I’ve been a member of many different tennis clubs over the years. In addition, I’ve been involved in urban clubs whose members reflect a diverse section of the population.
I’ve also been a member of more traditional clubs who seem to think they are Wimbledon lite.
In the more urban clubs, I have never seen anyone be looked down upon for having a tattoo.
These are clubs where you could play topless, and no one would care. People who attend sessions at these clubs are generally less judgmental.
They just want to play tennis and socialize. That’s it.
At more rural, upper-class clubs, I have noticed a more judgmental tone from some members.
Having said that, they usually keep their view to themselves and gossip with their friends.
I remember an occasion when an elderly member scolded someone for playing topless.
If playing topless wasn’t bad enough for him, the player was tattooed.
I remember the old man asking him to “cover up those ghastly tattoos.”
I’m sure this old man is a rare case, but it perhaps gives an insight into what others think.
Why Don’t Many Tennis Players Have Tattoos?
You can definitely notice a difference when you analyze the proportion of players who have tattoos in sports.
At the 2018 FIFA World Cup, 34% of football players had visible tattoos.
I’ve no idea what the proportion of tattooed tennis players is as a whole, but it is way less than 34%.
A study found that less than 10% of the top 100 tennis players are tattooed.
Interestingly, when the study was taken, it found that a higher proportion of female pros are tattooed.
When the research was done, 11 women had tattoos compared to seven men.
It is so rare (compared to other sports) that you come across tennis players with tattoos that you are more likely to notice.
“Oh, I never knew Wawrinka had a tattoo.”
With boxers, it is more common, and you don’t give it a second thought.
There is also a geographical element involved in tennis. For example, I have noticed on the professional and amateur level that more eastern Europeans are tattooed.
The proportion is much higher than that of players from western Europe or the anglosphere.
I am not an expert in eastern European tennis culture, but the impression I get is that tattoos are more accepted there.
In the western world, especially the UK and the US, tennis has been viewed as an upper-class gentleman’s sport.
When you think of upper-class gentlemen, tattoos don’t usually come to mind.
If you were to research every player who competed at Wimbledon in the 1940s, I would be impressed if you could find many tattooed competitors.
The UK’s tennis scene has been dominated by the Wimbledon culture. Wimbledon is considered an upper-class event, second only to the Royal Ascot.
Wimbledon has strict dress codes, and while this isn’t the case in most clubs, the mindset lives on to some extent.
In the US, the tennis scene has been influenced by country clubs.
While tennis is accessible to many lower-income families through public courts, the image of snobby country clubs lives on for many.
It is a misconception to see tennis as an elitist sport today. Through tennis I have met people from all walks of life.
Also read: Do Tennis Players Get Drug Tested?
Pro Players With Tattoos
Of the professional tennis players who do have tattoos, they are not particularly obvious.
Most are concealed or very minor.
Stan Wawrinka has two lines of writing on his arm. It reads, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
The quote comes from Irish poet Samuel Beckett. Wawrinka got the tattoo in 2014, saying it represented his outlook on life.
German-Jamaican Dustin Brown is another fan of tattoos. Brown has a large image of his father’s face tattooed on the left side of his torso.
Looking at the image, I’ve got to question if his father is actually Bob Marley.
Belarussian player Aryna Sabalenka has a colorful tiger tattooed on her left arm. The detail and color are very impressive.
It looks almost as though it has been printed out on photographic paper.
Gael Monfils is another player who has ink.
Unless you are observant and pay close attention when he changes shirts, you probably won’t have noticed Monfils’ tattoo.
On his lower back, he has tattooed a set of wings.
He explains that the wings represent the constant fight between good and evil. He also said he chose wings as “wings protect me.”
Also read: Can Tennis Players Drink Alcohol?
I must admit, tennis is not the most tattoo-appreciative sport in the world. Nonetheless, many players are tattooed, and some look incredible.
If you are a player who wants a tattoo, then your love of tennis should not be holding you back.
I am not tattooed, but being a tennis player has never played any role in that decision.
My reasoning is simple. I don’t want something irreversible.
But if I did want a tattoo, tennis would not be a barrier for me.
What do you think about tennis players being tattooed? Is it an issue?
Should we return to the days when tennis was a more traditional sport?