This is how Novak Djokovic is preparing to win Wimbledon
Tennis won Novak Djokovic over when he was just four years old. Since then, the Serbian professional tennis player established himself as a reigning men’s champion.
In July 2006, he won his first Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) event, and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the French Open a year later.
The 36-year-old also advanced to the finals of the US Open in 2007, but lost in straight sets to the former Swiss professional tennis player Roger Federer. He managed to win his first Grand Slam tournament at the Australian Open and was awarded a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Though Djokovic’s performance has plateaued at some points, his hot streak has continued over the last 16 years. He claimed his 21st Grand Slam championship after winning Wimbledon in 2022 and gained his 10th title at the Australian Open, crowning both him and Rafael Nadal with the most Grand Slam men’s singles championships.
With the 2023 Wimbledon Championships in full swing until July 16, how will Djokovic prepare himself both mentally and physically to win?
Djokovic starts his day with raw celery juice — which has anti-inflammatory properties – and sometimes drinks it before, during and after matches. Celery is about 90% water, so it’s great for hydration first thing in the day, especially when you don’t feel like chugging down a glass of water.
On other occasions, he drinks the green goddess smoothie, “which is a load of green things chucked in and blended. In the food industry, you can get green goddess dressings, sauces and juices, which all have kale, spinach, peas, mint, cucumber, apple and spirulina powder all blended into one”, says celebrity private chef Ethan Russell.
And for breakfast, Djokovic would normally eat a power bowl — it’s got a lot of healthy fats, grains, and fruit in it — or have it as a snack before exercising.
The clear number one rule is being gluten and dairy-free. “It’s a choice many athletes make, especially if they want to feel and perform their best. Gluten and dairy can cause irritation,” Russell says.
There are so many different dairy and protein alternatives at the moment, such as coconut, soy and almond.
“The bowl has different types of grains, gluten-free granola — with pumpkin seeds and goji berries — then a low sugar style muesli,” he adds.“If you are an athlete and trying to keep your sugar low, you can opt for dairy-free yoghurt and manuka honey, which is quite expensive and very sought after, with its anti-inflammatory properties. People use it in food and skincare, making it a super food. The bowl is then topped with blueberries and strawberries, packed with natural sugars.”
Djokovic would usually start warming-up with his physiotherapist, then move onto to mobilisation and movement exercises, to minimise the risk of major injuries.
Warm-ups can be anything from the running man, squat reaches to the sky and lunge rotations, all of which encourage great blood circulation.
A match can last one and a half hours, and there are so many things to manage on match days, according to Mark Taylor, who coaches British tennis player Ryan Peniston and also works at the Junior Tennis Coaching academy. “They play all year round and often under immense pressure. It’s why I also work with a sports psychologist,” he says.
Djokovic is heavily into mindfulness, and might begin his day with silent meditating — especially if he’s got an important game to focus on — in a grounded way, to promote mental clarity, calm focus and energy.
“Most of us find it difficult to sit still,” says Loren Peta, yoga teacher and personal trainer. “But gentle movement and box breathing — where you draw a box with your mind’s eye to help you stay present — is a great way to transition from a state of doing to state of being.”
Whilst in conversation with former Spanish tennis player Alex Corretja at ASICS’ House of Tennis event last Friday, Djokovic opened up about his mental health and wellbeing.
“If we are talking about mental strength and preparation, and how it affects performance, I feel like half of the work is already done before you step out on to the court – also known as the battlefield,” Djokovic said.
“It’s why I try to only peak at the biggest tournaments and take more time than I used to, to get my mind and body into perfect harmony. My body is responding differently than it was 10 years ago, so I have to be more specific with my preparation, work, training and recovery. I believe in a holistic approach to this sport, and everything else in life.
“It’s about everything you do, eat, the relationships around you, how you perceive yourself, the traumas and emotions that are suppressed in you. I know for me, if I suppress something, it will always surface on the court. The more you put these things aside, the bigger the monster will become.
“If you fail to prepare, it’s going to be a difficult mountain to climb during the match. Tennis isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon as well.”
Getting the right footwear
There are certain things that are important to keep in your kit. But for Djokovic, his racket and shoes are the two most important items for every tennis player, especially at his level.
Good shoes adapt to the way a tennis player moves their feet, to ensure the right support and exact comfort can be added, if required. For example, improved extra heel cushioning and ankle support.
“The details [are important],” said Djokovic. “Every single thing matters. How you move, how you feel with your racket and shoes. You need to be comfortable with what you are wearing, because it’s going to help you perform and move better.
“I probably move differently to most of the guys out there – even on grass, I slide. [So I need] really flexible shoes that allow me to stop when I need to stop, and change directions when I need to change directions. It can’t be too light or too heavy.”
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