Congratulations to Suzanne Strong, who is celebrating her 30th anniversary as official Championships Hairdresser. Her salon is not just a world of snips and styling; her appointments book is a radar screen of player confidence and form. Arguably there is no one more attuned to the moods of the players than the person who tends their tresses – and the breaking news is that Novak Djokovic has booked in for a second haircut in as many days. That can only mean one thing: he feels he is on a winning streak.
“The men tend to be frightened of having too much off in the first place, and after we’ve cut their hair, they might ask for a second cut. But for Djokovic to come back after two days, that is more to do with his superstition. He only ever wants a tiny bit off to keep his look consistent. He has very strong, coarse hair and, because it sticks up naturally, he would notice growth quickly – but definitely not in two days!”
Darija Jurak, the doubles specialist from Croatia, is another player whose superstition has made her a regular this year. “Plaits are really the most secure way to tie back hair, but they are either in or out of fashion, and this year Jurak is the only lady we have done a plait for,” reports Suzanne. “She came in every day because she had been winning through qualifying, came through the first round, and didn’t want to change anything in her routine.” Sadly the braiding stopped when Jurak and her Hungarian partner Katalin Marosi lost a tightly fought second-round battle with Ekaterina Makarova and Elena Vesnina.
Suzanne’s 30 years at the AELTC began at a point when most of the current players were either not yet born or were toddling around with little awareness of tennis. Remarkably, player hair trends have changed little – the female players have always either had extremely long or extremely short hair. “They never have anything in-between because it's too difficult to keep securely off their face,” she says. “I have seen more changes in the position of my salon than anything else. At first we had one hairdresser in each of the three ladies’ changing rooms, but one of us could be rushed off our feet while another had nothing to do. Then the club converted a cupboard on the side of No.2 Court and three of us squeezed into a place that really only held two. One year it got so hot with all the hair dryers, the temperature set off the smoke alarm and the Fire Brigade rushed in!”
The millennium ushered in a new salon next to the Players' Lawn. “It was brilliant because there was room for men and women. All my team could work together and in a comfortable space.” The standard set meant that, whereas Wimbledon and then the French Open were historically the only tournaments to offer a hairdressing salon, many ATP and WTA events now boast professional stylists. In 2009, the head of the hairdressing team from the Australian Open travelled over to inspect her pioneering set-up and left green with envy at Suzanne's two fully plumbed basins and three mirror-and-chair stations.
Suzanne stopped collecting commemorative Championship souvenir towels after 20 years. “That was enough in the airing cupboard!” she jokes, but Wimbledon would not be the same if Martina Navratilova and Virginia Wade did not pop in for a wash and blow dry at least once, and Suzanne did not annually risk the wrath of the gardening team by snipping off a few blooms come Ladies' Final Day to decorate the bag-carrying ball girls who are still called the Flower Girls.