Novak Djokovic is on a Remarkable Winning Streak After Going Gluten Free

by Melissa Diane Smith

The hottest story in tennis and perhaps all of sports right now is Novak Djokovic who has had a spectacular record of 43-1 up to this point this year, winning the Australian Open and six other tournaments, and losing only to 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open. With win after win and a few key victories over the world’s No. 1 player Rafael Nadal, Djovokic became the No. 2 men’s tennis player in the world this spring. Many factors have been attributed to the dramatic transformation in Djokovic’s play – including a change in racquet, a change in motion on his serve, and a change in confidence – but perhaps the most notable is his change to a gluten-free diet.

Because of the no-gluten diet, “I have lost some weight but it’s only helped me because my movement is much sharper now and I feel great physically,” Reuters quotes Djokovic as recently saying.

Last year Djokovic’s nutritionist discovered that Djokovic is intolerant to gluten, found in wheat, rye, barley, most oats, and ingredients made from these foods. Djokovic banished gluten-containing foods such as pasta, pizza, beer, and bread from his diet, and his play noticeably improved last year and has essentially blown people away this year. With as noticeable as the improvement in his game has been, the media have hounded him with inquiries about his “Super Gluten-Free Diet” and he now refuses to talk about the details. But with as well as he is moving on the court – some say better than they have seen anyone move – one has to wonder if the gluten-free diet is a key factor that is giving him the winning edge. (Read “Does Eating Gluten Free Give Athletes a Winning Edge?” to learn more about benefits in athletic performance that other athletes have experienced.)

On the women’s side, Sabine Lisicki, of Germany, also has gone gluten free. At the French Open last month, Lisicki’s inexperience with her new diet hurt her when she was ahead but ending up losing in a second round match. “I am sad that my body let me down. Doctors recently discovered that I am intolerant to gluten – meaning I can’t eat e.g. pasta, one of my biggest energy sources,” Lisicki said on her website (

“My body needs to adjust to the big change and needs some time. It is good that we found out and it will only make life better in the long run.”

Just a few weeks later, she seems to be getting the hang of her new diet and it’s paying off. This week at Wimbledon Lisicki was spot on with her big hitting game, saved two match points, and beat China’s newest superstar tennis player and this year’s French Open champion Li Na. Lisicki also won the Birmingham title in the lead up to Wimbledon.


Pretot, Julien.  Some Tennis Stars Say Gluten-Free is Best for Them. Reuters, May 26, 2011 – link to story.

Novak Djokovic Gluten-Free Diet Secret Remains Intact., May 26, 2011 – link to story.

Perrotta, Tom. The Diet That Shook Up Tennis? The Wall Street Journal, May 16, 2011 – link to story.

Upton, Julie. What’s Up with… Going Gluten-Free? EspnW, June 24, 2011 – link to story.

Copyright © 2011 Melissa Diane Smith

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