Novak Djokovic became a top-10 player in 2007, but it took him four long years to rise to No. 1, and his eating habits were apparently a big reason why.
In a New Yorker story this week by Lauren Collins, Djokovic talks about making some extreme dietary changes in mid-2010 — right before he became the best player in the world.
He went gluten-free, cut out dairy products, and stopped eating as many tomatoes. He also stopped drinking cold water because it inhibits blood flow.
All of this started when a Serbian doctor named Igor Cetojevic was watching the 2010 Australian Open and guessed the Djokovic had a dietary issue, Collins reports. To that point in his career, Novak tended to fade at majors — physically breaking down during long matches against elite players.
Cetojevic met with Djokovic six months later, and determined he should go gluten-free with a strange bread test:
“For instance, he asked Djokovic to put his left hand on his stomach, extending his right hand straight out and pushing up while he pressed on it from above. ‘This is what your body should feel like,’ Cetojevic said. Then he gave Djokovic a slice of bread and told him to hold it against his belly, while again straightening his right arm. In ‘Serve to Win,’ Djokovic writes, ‘With the bread against my stomach, my arm struggled to resist Cetojevic’s downward pressure. I was noticeably weaker.’”
In solidarity, his trainer also got tested by Cetojevic and stopped eating pineapples as a result.
Djokovic changed his diet, lost 11 pounds, and greatly improved his endurance. A year later he became the No. 1 player in the world.
He says he feels hungover whenever he eats a bagel now.
More From Business Insider