Novak Djokovic goes gluten free.
Some would call it The Diet That Changed Tennis, and perhaps that is not overstating it: Djokovic’s ability to say ‘No’ to a plate of seafood linguine has played no small part in his story. A slimmer, sleeker Djokovic is moving and scrambling and retrieving better than ever before, and he does not seem to have lost any pop on his shots. “My nutritionist has done a great job in changing my diet after we established I am allergic to some food ingredients like gluten – it means I can’t eat stuff like pizza, pasta and bread,” said Djokovic, who previously had to regularly deal with allergies and breathing difficulties. “I have lost some weight, but my movement is sharper and I feel great physically.”
Patty Schnyder ODs on OJ.
A middle-aged man who described himself as a “natural therapist” somehow convinced Schnyder that it would help her game to drink three litres of orange juice a day, and to become a vegan. This same consultant also claimed he had found the cure for AIDS and cancer, and treated Schnyder’s injuries with hot wax and rolling pins covered in needles. Schnyder and the “natural therapist” became lovers, and her parents were so concerned about their daughter’s orange juice consumption, and other issues, that they hired a private detective to investigate. The result was not what mum and dad would have wished for; the Swiss dumped the therapist and married the private detective, though the wedding had to be postponed until after he had completed a prison sentence for fraud.
Suzanne Lenglen’s drinking.
Even more shocking than the Frenchwoman’s refusal to wear a corset on court, or that she sometimes flashed a bit of ankle, and occasionally wept between points when events were turning against her, was the way she sipped from a brandy flask on court. Lenglen, who was handed the flask by her father between sets, sipped casually, as if there was nothing odd about drinking spirits during a match. Fortified by the brandy, Lenglen often played better on the resumption than she had been when sober.
Maria Sharapova’s banana.
“My life is not about a banana,” Sharapova said in the moments after she won her second grand slam, by beating Justine Henin in the final of the 2006 US Open. The controversy centred on her father, Yuri, who twice looked over at his daughter and held up a banana – it was a reminder for her to eat, but a few regarded it as a possible illegal coaching. “I’ve just won a grand slam. The last thing I’m going to want to talk about is a banana, alright? Can you tell me, if someone tells me to eat a banana, do you think that’s the reason why I’m going to win a match? This is great advice, we should tell all the junior players to, you know, have a banana, and they’re all going to win. Great.”
Martina Navratilova Big Mac’s across America.
Before Navratilova introduced women’s tennis to nutrition and gym-hardened calves and biceps, she was a tubby teenager who had just defected from Czechoslovakia. On her arrival in the United States, she was so enamoured by the fast-food chains that she put on a great deal of weight and someone gave her the unflattering nickname of ‘The Great Wide Hope’. “Yes, I Big Mac’d across America,” Navratilova has recalled of those days, though she soon banned cheeseburgers and binged instead on steamed vegetables.
Goran Ivanisevic’s set menu.
During the summer of 2001, Ivanisevic spent his mornings watching Teletubbies, his afternoons playing tennis, and his evenings sitting at the same table of the same restaurant, ordering the same food. After a starter of fish soup, he had lamb and chips, and then ice-cream with hot chocolate sauce.
Venus Williams no longer dodges salad.
The American, who discovered last season that she was suffering from an autoimmune disease, has ended her aversion to vegetables. “I changed my diet completely, so lots of vegetables. I altered my mind frame completely because I used to be a person who always ate their steak first and their salad second.”
Mardy Fish stops eating pizzas and burgers.
It would be surprising if the American’s agent has not considered offers of making a Mardy Fish Diet video. Cutting out the junk food, and losing thirty pounds of blubber, transformed Fish. The slimmer, sleeker Fish played the best tennis of his life last season, qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. “You see a lot of guys go downhill as they get older, but I’m going the other way, and that’s mostly because of diet,” Fish has said. “I don’t get so tired any more because I have 30 pounds less on me. It was about a lifestyle change. It was about when I ate and what I ate. Now I’m able to train harder and train longer. As far as affecting my mobility, it’s meant everything. I feel like a completely different player.”
Milos Raonic’s red meat.
Not for him the tennis orthodoxy of fuelling for a match the night before by having a dry chicken breast or a plate of pasta; this young Canadian has a steak and he has it medium rare, so still a little bloody. “It’s always steak and it’s always medium rare,” said Raonic, and as he moves up the rankings, the meat will doubtless become more expensive.
Andy Murray’s sushi habit.
“I don’t know a tennis player who doesn’t love sushi,” Serena Williams has said, and no one loves it as much as Murray does. In fact, Murray seems proud of how much he eats. “Andy’s record is about 50 pieces of sushi in one sitting,”said a spokesman for Murray, which made the Scot sound like a competitive eater rather than a tennis player. Murray has also copied Djokovic in going gluten free. “The diet has given me more energy. I miss being able to pick up a menu and order what I want, or to eat what I want – like bread when you’re waiting for your food to come in a restaurant. It can be quite frustrating when everyone else is dunking their bread in olive oil or smearing it with butter. It’s also a bit of pain not being able to eat a regular yoghurt, but it’s been worth it.”