Djokovic on gluten-free diet

Djokovic on gluten-free diet

Published May. 16, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

The secret to Serbian star Novak Djokovic's recent domination of the tennis world might be as simple as his switch to a gluten-free diet after his nutritionist discovered he was allergic to the protein, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

Djokovic has had a breakout season and has been, by any reasonable standard, the world's best athlete of 2011.

On Sunday, he beat Rafael Nadal in the Rome Masters, his fourth-straight win over the Spaniard. It was his second win over Nadal on clay in two weeks, and again, amazingly, he did it without losing a set. The match ran Djokovic's 2011 record to 37-0 with seven titles.

As the French Open begins Sunday in Paris, Djokovic's amazing streak -- the longest to start a season since 1984 -- is threatening to push Roger Federer (the winner of a record 16 grand slam titles) and Nadal (the French Open's five-time champion) off the front pages.


Last year, Djokovic's nutritionist found he is allergic to gluten, which is found in common flours. Djokovic banished it from his diet and lost a few pounds. He says he now feels much better on court.

A gluten-free diet can have implications far beyond the physical, especially in tennis, which taxes the mind like few other sports. The season is 11 months long, matches are grueling and can last for hours, and the slightest dip in a player's confidence can derail months of hard work.

"It's mostly mental energy you're talking about, not energy supplied to muscle tissues," said David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, when asked about the effects of giving up gluten if one has an allergy.

If Djokovic reaches the French Open final, he could have 43 consecutive victories -- one more than John McEnroe's record 42 to start 1984.


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