Normally around this time of the year, Julien Farel and his staff would be gearing up for a busy US Open where they would style the hair of the most famous tennis heads on the planet.
Instead of preparing his pop-up salon in Flushing Meadows for a visit from Rafael Nadal or Bianca Andreescu, Farel has had to adapt to the new COVID-19 era. The US Open will have no fans, no qualifying players, no media and no hair salon in 2020 (as well as no Nadal).
Like everyone else, the hair salon industry and the esteemed French hairstylist has had to adjust to the new normal.
"It's going to be really strange," Farel says of the US Open. "The players are going to be in the bubble so we couldn't make it work. For us, unfortunately, it's not a privilege we could have to be at the facility 24/7 for two weeks."
This summer, Farel has been setting up at-home outdoor haircuts for his clients. He has done all his cutting and styling outdoors, always in a mask and sometimes in a full safety gown depending on his client's wishes.
"I just do it because people really feel like they need to be secure and they don't want you to come inside," Farel says. "You have to arrive ready to go. We've got to wait and see until we have a better solution, but right now my goal is to make everybody safe."
He has a summer home in The Hamptons, where he reconnected with Patrick McEnroe. After recovering from COVID-19 earlier in the summer, McEnroe rented a summer house for his wife and three daughters. Both Farel and McEnroe's daughters play tennis, often together.
"Things are pretty good," McEnroe says. "Luckily I never had it where I was really sick. Obviously, being in the basement for a month was no fun. Other than that we weathered it pretty easily."
McEnroe's wife Melissa Errico is a performer, singer and writer and she was a client of Farel's pre-COVID (check out her recent piece about COVID, their daughters and Little Women). She would send her husband to Farel for a little style freshening up.
Though Farel has been working at the US Open since 2007, he had not become close with McEnroe until this summer. It just goes to show that even during a pandemic, beautiful (and safe) friendships can still form, especially on the tennis court.
"We got together a couple of times out here just as friends and he said, 'Oh Patrick, you need a haircut,'" McEnroe says.
The two got a little creative for the appointment.
"We said let's cut your hair on the tennis court and that was the best hair cut ever," Farel says. "He became a really special person to me. I'm not as good a player as him but I cut hair better than him. We all have our skill."
The Farel and McEnroe families became very close this summer and created their own quarantine bubble.
McEnroe is also a big fan of Farel's line of shampoo and conditioner called RESTORE, which has been used on all the players that have come into Farel's salon at the US Open.
"The thing about this shampoo is a) it doesn't foam and b) it doesn't have any sulfates," Farel says. "For those who are on the court all the time, when you wash your hair with RESTORE you don't dehydrate your hair, you actually treat your hair, your scalp and your hair follicles to make them stronger."
McEnroe has been on court a lot teaching at the SPORTIME Amagansett Tennis and Swim Club.
"It's been a nice escape for people out here," McEnroe says. "Tennis is a great sport to play anytime, but especially now. It's been fun for me because I have never never taught this many lessons in my life."
Farel is busy managing the reopening of his salon in Manhattan that has been accepting clients since June, while McEnroe is also prepping for a return to ESPN for commentary in New York later this month.
"They're doing all the protocols and operating as if it's happening," McEnroe says. "So unless there's a major turn for the worse I think it's going to happen, so I'll be here likely for Cincinnati and the Open."
No matter what comes next, Farel and McEnroe are leaving quarantine looking a little sharper, both on court and off.