The Most Gorgeous Hair in Sports

Unlike the boyish hairdos worn by professional golfers, their counterparts on the tennis court are known for their long, beautiful, healthy hair. They are the Rapunzels of sport, with swishing blond braids and ponytails that add a feminine touch to their athletic bodies. Some players even incorporate primping into their service motions: Witness the way Maria Sharapova tucks imaginary wisps behind each ear, despite the barrettes already pinning things down.

Healthy Hair Tips From Center Court

It’s no surprise that the best tennis players in the world prefer their hair long: They’re still girls at heart, in their late teens and 20s. (Thirty is retirement age in this sport.) Since the pros spend most of the day in workout clothes, they love fashion, dressing up at night and letting their hair down -- literally, by unwinding and releasing the braids into sheets of shiny waves.

We saw a lot of gorgeous hair at this year’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., but one player in the top 10 stood out: 29-year-old Elena Dementieva, the Moscow-born, Olympic gold medalist. Her dark-blond, sun-streaked hair was striking because of its healthy shine and chic styling -- pulled back in a sleek braid tucked into the strap of her visor. Except for the visor part, it was a look straight from the Paris runways this spring.

We asked Dementieva how her hair stays in such good condition despite the rigors of sun, sweat and scrunchies. Since she spends 11 months of the year on the road with the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, she should know.

Dementieva's top tip? She doesn’t settle for ordinary cleansers on the road. “I never use what’s in the hotel bathroom,” she says. “I carry my own shampoo, cream rinse and conditioner, and if I run out, I’ll buy more in that city. I wish I could do at-home deep-conditioning treatments, but when we’re flying from country to country, with practice followed by matches followed by more practice, there is no rest.”

As for Dementieva’s stylish updos on the court, it turns out that necessity is the mother of invention. “If the weather is temperate, I prefer to wear a ponytail,” she says. “But if it’s very hot, I do the braid, which keeps me cooler, and I tuck it up. But the reason for either style is the same: to keep my hair out of my face.”

How to Join the Braid Parade

  • After shampooing, apply a serum and a mousse from roots to end. The serum delivers smooth, sleek shine while the mousse supplies hold. Blow-dry.
  • Sweep hair up into a high ponytail, secured on the crown of the head with a snag-free elastic band.
  • Braid the ponytail tightly and neatly, securing with a second elastic band an inch from the end.
  • Loop the braid up and under, and pin it into place, leaving the tail of the braid free.
  • For extra drama on a special occasion, snip a tiny amount of hair at the ends to give a blunted appearance.