It’s common practice today for swimmers and cyclists to shave their legs. They do this to make themselves more aerodynamic.
Swimmers and cyclists shave their legs to make themselves faster when competing.
When swimmers and cyclists remove their hair, it reduces frictional drag.
Using swimmers as an example, their leg hair will hold them back slightly as their bodies move against the water.
The difference is minuscule, but in elite sports, athletes look for 1% margins.
What about when it comes to tennis? Is there any advantage for men if they shave their legs, and do male tennis players do that?
Most male tennis players don’t shave their legs. This is because it doesn’t offer much, if any, performance advantage. Male tennis players who shave their legs generally do so for reasons unrelated to their on-court work.
In this article I will be answering:
- Whether shaved legs improves mobility when playing tennis
- Why some male tennis players do shave their legs
- If tennis players prefer to shave or wax their legs
It may seem odd that players decide to shave if it offers no performance enhancing benefit. If you read on, I will be sharing with you why some shave anyway.
Do Shaved Legs Improve Movement In Play?
Tennis is a very active sport with lots of movement, so you might think they would benefit from shaving.
It would make them more aerodynamic. However, it is not as important in tennis because the movement is not one-directional and requires stopping.
Think about swimming and cycling. The goal is to get from one point to another as fast as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the case in tennis.
The movement is multi-directional. You’re not simply running in a straight line.
In other words, you are regularly changing direction. In tennis, stopping is as important as moving.
You need to run fast to get to the ball in time, but you also need to ground your feet to hit the shot.
Even if you shave your legs, it is unlikely you will notice much, if any, a difference when moving.
It could even make playing slightly more uncomfortable. Tennis shorts are not as tight as cycling shorts.
If you shave the hair off, it could increase the friction between the legs.
If you’ve got an uncomfortable feeling of your legs rubbing together, it will not help you.
Have you ever seen Roger Federer play?
He is one of, or arguably the greatest player of all times, but he also has very hairy legs.
If you can become world number one with legs as hairy as Federer’s, you can safely say that shaving is not needed.
On the women’s side of the game, the vast majority will shave their legs. This is not because it helps them when playing but primarily for aesthetics.
Many women who aren’t even athletes shave their legs simply because they think it looks better that way.
Why Do Male Tennis Players Share Their Legs?
Shaving legs are not important for male tennis players. It’s not going to do much, if anything, to improve their performance.
Despite this, many decide to shave anyway.
The main reason male tennis players shave is for their recovery after matches.
Most top-level players will have a physio or sports massage therapist traveling with them.
I don’t know how often you get a sports massage, but it can be a little unpleasant if you have very hairy legs.
As the masseur or masseuse rubs the legs, it often pulls on the hair. While it is a minor detail, it can be pretty unpleasant.
If you’re having several massages per week, it makes sense to shave the hair off and avoid the annoyance altogether.
The massage is designed to help that player recover faster following a match or training.
The massage will have similar benefits to stretching. It will improve flexibility and reduce the buildup of lactic acid.
Shaving the legs doesn’t just reduce irritation for the athlete and makes it easier for the person conducting the massage.
They will regularly catch on the hair as they are rubbing the legs.
If a masseur is working on clean-shaven legs, it will make it easier for him to do smooth, uninterrupted strokes.
Most massage therapists will have no problem dealing with hairy legs or being clean-shaven. However, a therapist I used to know said the most annoying was legs that have stubble.
When they rub over the area with stubble, the hair will prick their hand.
Do Tennis Players Shave Or Wax Their Legs?
As you can imagine, there is not much data available on this topic.
It’s not as though the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) has conducted a survey on hair shaving habits.
In my personal experience, male tennis players who remove leg hair will prefer to shave.
Men choose to do this because when you shave the leg, you are just trimming back the hair.
If you wax, you are removing it completely. When you wax hair, it will grow back thinner.
This might not be an issue, but they feel it doesn’t look as masculine for some men.
It is not unheard of for men to choose to wax instead of shave. I remember a conversation I had with a player who used to wax his legs.
He was never concerned about it looking more feminine. However, his arguments were so convincing that I wondered if waxing was a better choice.
Here are some of his reasons for waxing instead of shaving.
It is better for sensitive skin. An issue he had previously dealt with was that when he would shave his legs, he would end up with rashes all over.
No matter how careful he was, he would always seem to irritate the skin. Finally, when he switched to waxing, this problem stopped.
While this guy did have an issue with sensitive skin, something shaving does do for everyone is increase the risk of ingrown hairs.
As the hair is removed entirely with waxing, it will be thinner when it does grow back.
There is still a risk of ingrown hairs when waxing, but it is not as much as shaving.
When shaving, you are just cutting the hair back. However, it will be just as thick when it grows back and can become ingrown.
If you want to be a great tennis player, shaving your legs is not necessary.
While it may make post-training massages more pleasant, it will make little to no difference to your performance on the court.
Do you think shaving makes a difference to performance? I have personally never shaved or waxed my legs.
Suppose Roger Federer can achieve what he has with his hairy legs. In that case, I can confidently say shaving will not make much difference.