|Photo by AFP|
Novak Đoković rules the world of Tennis. But his has not been an easy career journey, no thanks to health crises that frequently interrupted his games. The crises then would manifest as breathing difficulty, with suspicions of asthma; violent vomiting, and weakness.
In the match against Gaël Monfils at the US Open in 2005, he famously took four medical timeouts after running out of breath. In the same year, earlier he had taken the first set against Guillermo Coria at the French Open but retired in the third because, he says “my legs had turned to rock and I couldn’t breathe”.
He has however come from recurrent health crises to an unwavering topnotch performance, combining speed, power, aggression and amazing resilience, many times powering through matches that have lasted several hours as he played against earth’s bests. The secret: A change in eating lifestyle, with focus on a stringent diet regime, as revealed in his recently released book ‘Serve To Win’. And it is nothing to do with the blade of grass he plucks off the pitch to eat every time he arrives the court in tournaments.
So, what diet has made the world No 1 indomitable? Summary: vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, fruit, nuts, seeds, chickpeas, lentils and healthy oils. And the absence of both gluten – present in most foods – and dairy products. He also uses as little sugar as possible. Below is his typical Tournament menu; dubbed ‘The champion’s menu’
Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; muesli (including organic gluten-free rolled oats, cranberries, raisins, pumpkin or sunflower seeds and almonds)
Mid-morning snack (if needed)
Gluten-free bread or crackers with avocado and tuna
Mixed-greens salad, gluten-free pasta primavera (including rice pasta, summer squash, courgettes, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes and optional vegan cheese)
Apple with cashew butter; melon
Kale caesar salad (kale, fennel, quinoa and pine nuts) plus dressing (including anchovies or sardines); minestrone soup; salmon fillets (skin on) with roasted tomatoes and marinade.
Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; banana with cashew butter; fruit
(if needed): Gluten-free toast with almond butter and honey
Mixed-greens salad, spicy soba noodle salad (including gluten-free soba noodles, red bell pepper, rocket, cashews and basil leaves, plus spicy vinaigrette)
Fruit and nut bar; fruit
Tuna nicoise salad (green beans, cannellini beans, rocket, tuna, red pepper, tomatoes and canned chickpeas), tomato soup, roasted tomatoes.
Water first thing out of bed; two tablespoons of honey; gluten-free oats with cashew butter and bananas; fruit
(if needed): Home-made hummus (including chickpeas and gluten-free soy sauce) with apples/crudités
Mixed-greens salad, gluten-free pasta with power pesto (including rice pasta, walnuts and basil leaves)
Avocado with gluten-free crackers; fruit
Fresh mixed-greens salad with avocado and home-made dressing; carrot and ginger soup; whole lemon-roasted chicken.
Djokovic’s example is, however, not the only case of diets saving athlete career. Several other tennis players have adopted similar eating patterns with tournaments now offering gluten and dairy-free foods.
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