PARIS (AFP) – France’s enfant terrible of the tennis courts Benoit Paire (AFP, pic below) thrilled the Roland Garros crowd in a battling five-set defeat against Cameron Norrie on Monday.
Just a striking as his 16 aces and 70 winners was his full and thick pitch-black beard, which glistened with sweat in the 25-degree heat.
It also prompted avalanche of mostly appreciative comments on social media.
“Beard Paire is playing well considering the amount of wildlife he must be nesting in that thing,” said one wag on Twitter.
“Is Benoit Paire wearing that beard for a joke?,” was another while one remarked: “Benoit Paire and the beard have a great return of service!”
AFP Sports admires some of the great beards in sports:
There is no mistaking the wildly hirsute figure of explosive and controversial tennis player Paire who lost a French Open rollercoaster 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 against Cameron Norrie on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
The 34-year-old said most questions he faces from the public revolve around his beard and such is his profile that he has acted as a brand ambassador for a beard care product company.
“I think I am one of the best in tennis with the beard but a lot of players don’t like them because of the irritation,” said Paire.
Described by cricinfo as possessing the “most famous beard in sport”, WG Grace was cricket’s first superstar, talented and controversial in equal measure. He scored more than 54,000 runs, 124 centuries and took 2,800 wickets in a career which spanned the 19th and 20th centuries.
Images of his straggly beard, which plunged from his chin to the top of his chest in an unruly grey and white tangle, too, lives on.
Brett Keisel played 12 seasons as a defensive end with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL, winning two Super Bowls.
“I look like a cupcake under this beard, it definitely adds some meat to the table,” he once said of his fulsome beard.
Meanwhile, NBA superstar James Harden grew it, trimmed it and grew it again and by the time he joined the Philadelphia 76ers, it had blossomed to a jet black mass of hair.
“Oh yeah, I would cut it,” Harden told Basketball Network in 2022. “I mean because it’s going to grow right back. Yeah, USD10 million minimum is where I am like ‘alright’.”