France's Benoit Paire in action in the French Open against Britain's Cameron Norrie on Monday
Paris (AFP) - France’s enfant terrible of the tennis courts Benoit Paire 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:
- BENOIT PAIRE -
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 says 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.
- WG GRACE -
Described by cricinfo as possessing the “most famous beard in sport”, 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.
There is a Facebook page entitled “WG Grace’s Beard” while dedicated fans can purchase sweatshirts promoting the “WG Grace Beard Liberation Front”.
Grace’s beard has also graced the silver screen. In “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, a scene showing God advising King Arthur and his knights is an animated image of the bearded cricketer.
- BRETT KEISEL -
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, inspired he said by watching the Pittsburgh Penguins win the Stanley Cup in 2009.
“You play a little bit of character and you go out there and you feel good. It was kind of an accessory to my hair.”
After his career, Keisel would cut and regrow the beard as part of a cancer charity fundraising event, “Shear the Beard”.
- JAMES HARDEN -
James Harden is famed for his beard as well as his NBA points hauls
NBA superstar Harden grew it, trimmed it and grew it again and by the time he joined the Philadelphia 76ers, it jad blossomed to a jet black mass of hair which would have won the approval of Grace.
“Oh yeah, I would cut it,” Harden told Basketball Network in 2022. “I mean because it’s going to grow right back. Yeah, $10 million minimum is where I am like ‘alright’.”
- ADAM KLEEBERGER -
'Grizzly Adam' Kleeberger's facial hair attracted attention during the 2011 Rugby World Cup
Canadian rugby player was nicknamed “Grizzly Adam” for his wildman look when he played at the 2011 World Cup. His beard, which took eight months to grow, was measured at about 30 centimetres long when he finally had it shaved off to raise money for charity.
“It feels cold. But I don’t have to worry about eating ice cream or saucy foods anymore, so that’s a plus,” he told the Vancouver Sun.
“The beard definitely became bigger than me. It gave fans something to identify with. Even non-fans were drawn to rugby as a result.”