Novak Djokovic has silently flown under the radar, becoming one of the greatest tennis players of all-time while the likes of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have enjoyed all the adulation from the fans.
But with a brilliant comeback story of his own in 2018, after struggling for almost two seasons with a bad shoulder, Djokovic now sits on 14 Grand Slam titles, making him the joint-third most successful tennis player in the history of tennis. He has leveled American great Pete Sampras on 14 Slams and will soon chase down the 17 Grand Slams won by Nadal and 20 won by Federer.
With all the three players now at the peak of their health and with the likes of Juan Martin del Potro, Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray slowly but surely regaining their own fitness, 2019 promises to be a cracker of a year for all the tennis fans.
But before his super-consistent avatar which he started to find around 2011, Novak Djokovic was known to be physically and mentally quite weak and had quite a few meltdowns and breakdowns on the court, where his body simply could not cope up with the intensity of the match.
It all changed when Djokovic consulted Dr. Cetojevic who dropped the bombshell to him that his body was not reacting well to gluten.
He wrote in his book Serve to Win, “This is a test that will help us see if your body is sensitive to certain foods. 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.”
Igor Cetojevic then conducted a procedure which opened Novak’s eyes and set the wheels in motion for a transformation which would change the course of tennis forever.
Djokovic further wrote,
“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.”
Djokovic then added, “And yet, there was a noticeable difference. With the bread against my stomach, my arm struggled to resist Dr. Cetojevic’s downward pressure. I was noticeably weaker.
“This is a sign that your body is rejecting the wheat in the bread,” he said. I had never heard the term “gluten intolerant,” but I had just taken the first steps in learning how big a role food had played in my life, how much my wheat-based diet had been holding me back—and how much was in my power to change.”
Djokovic then had a tough decision to make, as his doctor asked him to make some big sacrifices. “If you want your body to respond the way you’d like it to, you will need to stop eating bread,” Cetojevic said. “Stop eating cheese. Cut down on tomatoes.”
“But Doctor,” I replied. “My parents own a pizza parlor!”
Djokovic indeed decided to cut down on wheat-based and a gluten-free diet and soon started reaping the rewards of this call which has led to the birth of one of the greatest tennis players of all-time.