Novak serves up his recipe for success



I first watched a young Novak Djokovic play at Queens just at the time when he and Andy Murray burst onto the tennis scene. At that time he was known as the joker in the pack, mimicking the other professionals – especially Rafael Nadal’s tics. Although obviously a fantastic talent Novak, or Nole as he is known to fans,  reached semis and finals only to struggle, tire and sometimes even retire at the crucial moments in the match. Commentators said it was asthma, fellow players said he was unfit.

So what happened between that and the Serb becoming Number One in the world and widely considered to be one of the greatest players ever? This short book charts his story from the bombings throughout his childhood in Belgrade up to his successes of the present day. Much of the biography is spared and we cut to the chase of how he suddenly reached physical and mental excellence to climb above the dominant Federer and Nadal in the rankings.

So how did he do it? Simple, he changed the food he ate.

Astonishingly, it does appear as simple as that. One day nutritionist and fellow Serb Dr Cetojevic was watching tennis on TV, the match panned out in a familiar fashion with Djokovic losing his grip on the game to aches and pains, breathing difficulties and fatigue. The doctor soon got in contact with the tennis star’s team and explained to them how he could change his diet to make his body perform better.


All ears, Novak was tested and found to have a strong intolerance to wheat and dairy. Growing up in the family pizza business and with homemade bread all that kept them going when his country was torn apart by war, going gluten and dairy free would not be easy. But he did it and what an enormous difference it has made to his game and his attitude! Tennis fans, players and pundits the world over are now marvelling at this new man written off by so many as not having what it takes mentally or physically.

This is an easy read for anyone with even a vague interest in tennis, health, optimum nutrition and fitness. Novak talks us through his daily routines for food and exercise and the final part of the book is made up of some surprisingly mouth-watering and simple recipes to help you steer clear of wheat and dairy should you wish to.

djok banana

I’m primarily a Nadal fan and always felt wary of Novak and his wide-eyed glaring and on court mood swings, but this book really does explain what was behind all of that and what he has done to overcome the variety of problems that were holding him back from greatness. After reading Serve to Win, I feel quite warm towards him and I’m pleased that he wrote this book to give the rest of us the facts about wheat as well as to tell us the story of his own fascinating journey.

Since reading this book I’d say I’ve gone about 80% wheat free – I’m pleased to report that it’s been a doddle so far and that I’m feeling pretty good! Aiming for 100% free!


Notes on the author: Novak Djokovic

  • Born in Belgrade, Serbia in 1987 (he is currently 26 years old)
  • To date, Djokovic has won 41 career singles titles, including six Grand Slams, three year-ending championships and sixteen ATP Masters Series 1000 titles.
  • He currently leads a gluten free lifestyle and his home is in Monte Carlo, Monaco


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