American Grand Slam doubles champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands shows off her tattoos at Wimbledon.
American Grand Slam doubles champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands shows off her tattoos at Wimbledon. Julian Finney - Getty Images

Tatts challenge traditional picture

IT was enough to leave shocked traditionalists spluttering into their Pimm's and choking on their strawberries and cream at Wimbledon.

What had the world come to?

"Ladies" were playing on the hallowed grass of the All England Club with - "Oh, I say!" - tattoos.

It was not just one player either. Tattoos were out in force and the chances of anyone failing to notice them were reduced further because of the players' dress code requirement they must be dressed "almost entirely in white".

Some of the most eye-catching inks were the tribal patterns on the left arm and left thigh of 20-year-old Czech Karolina Pliskova.

American Grand Slam doubles champion Bethanie Mattek-Sands was not to be left out either, with wild flowers growing up to her shoulder.

Other members of the ink brigade included China's Li Na - with a red rose on her chest - and Kim Clijsters, who has a tattoo of the letter "B" for her husband, basketball player Brian Lynch, on the traditional wedding ring finger.

There are no rules preventing players exhibiting body art at Wimbledon, but the growing trend appears at odds with the tournament's whiter-than-white image.

A Wimbledon official said: "There might be (rules) if they had a huge advertising slogan tattooed across a part of their anatomy ... but otherwise not."

Tennis players are far from being alone when it comes to showing off their tatts at the highest level.

Todd Carney (NRL), Mitchell Johnson (cricket), David Beckham (football), Chris Andersen (NBL), Dane Swan (AFL) and Digby Ioane (Super Rugby) are just a few of the high-profile sports stars to be inked.

However, not all those who have tatts display them and you would not even know they had them.

Just ask Wallabies and Queensland Reds hooker Saia Fainga'a. He and twin Anthony both have the same tattoo on their right calves - not a fashion statement, but a Fainga'a family tradition.

"The tattoo represents our Tongan heritage," he said.

"It symbolises the map, peace, luck and some stuff from our village in Vava'a.

"You wouldn't know we've got one as we hide it under our socks, and we are happy to keep it that way.

"It's significant for us and us alone."

But would Fainga'a, whose mother would not let him get his tatt until after he was 21, consider getting another?

"No way," he said with a laugh. "A cousin did it and I can tell you it hurt."

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