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Novak Djokovic: What It Takes to Win

The Wimbledon champ explains how changing his diet took him from second tier to No. 1.
Richard Phibbs

For years, Novak Djokovic was a talented, but inconsistent, tennis wannabe. Though he made it into the top 10 in ATP rankings, he was more famous for his collapses in big tournaments than he was for actually winning any. Plagued by what other players saw as a lack of fitness, and worse, a lack of toughness, Djokovic repeatedly withdrew from matches when the going got tough.

Then, in 2011, everything changed. The Serbian tennis player put together what some sportswriters have called the greatest single season in the history of tennis, winning three grand slams and, at one point, 43 consecutive matches against the best players in the game. In July of that year, he won Wimbledon and became the No. 1-ranked player in the world—a status he’s held ever since.

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Here, in an exclusive adaptation from his forthcoming book, Serve to Win, Djokovic explains how changing his diet took him from second tier to No. 1, and lays out a simple nutrition plan for Men’s Fitness readers to follow.

“This is a test that will help us see if your body is sensitive to certain foods,” Dr. Cetojevic told me.

We were not in a hospital or lab or doctor’s office. He was not drawing blood. There were no scanning devices or big, scary pieces of medical equipment. It was July 2010, at a tournament in Croatia, and Igor Cetojevic, M.D., a holistic practitioner from my native Serbia, was explaining to me that he thought he knew why I’d fallen apart so many times in the past, and how I could change my diet, my body, and my life for the better.

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Then he had me do something very strange. He had me place my left hand on my belly, and put my right arm straight out to the side.

“I want you to resist the pressure,” he said as he pushed down on my right arm. After a moment, he stopped. “This is what your body should feel like,” he said.

Then, he gave me a slice of bread. Should I eat it?

“No,” he said, and laughed. “Hold it against your stomach, and put your right arm out again.” Once more, he pushed down on my arm, explaining to me that this crude test would tell me whether or not I was sensitive to gluten, the protein in wheat, barley, rye, and other common bread grains.

This seemed like madness.



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