The defending US Open champion reveals all about his pizza obsession and Appetite for herbal tea
They call him ‘The Djoker’, but there’s nothing funny about the way Novak Djokovic has torn up the ATP Tour over the past 18 months – unless, of course, you happen to think big trophies are hilarious. As he prepares to defend his US Open title, Serbia’s finest spoke to ShortList.
How do you divide your time between working out and on-court practice?
I usually spend four hours on court doing drills and intense matchplay, then do an uphill run, some agility training, and then yoga and massage.
What’s the toughest part of training?
I run for long distances at high altitudes. If you keep doing it, your fitness will be able to endure in any sort of altitude.
When you’re working out, what areas do you have to focus on the most?
My fitness. You can be a great tennis player, but unless you can handle four hours on court in the heat of the US Open you aren’t going to win it.
What specific exercises do you do for extra fitness?
We do intense matchplay on court, treadmill work, running at high altitude, running uphill, getting the right minerals and vitamins.
Any tips on the best way to improve fitness with running?
Run in different weathers. Running five miles in normal weather and five miles in extreme heat are different things. I struggle with the US Open heat, so you train your body to compete in all conditions.
Do you use any hi-tech equipment?
When I was suffering with my shoulder injury I used a CVAC pod (above). It helps with compressing muscles. It looks like a cross between a giant egg and a spaceship.
What do you eat before matches?
It’s more about what I don’t eat. I have been on a gluten-free diet since 2011 and I feel like a different man. Faster, fitter and more focused.
What’s the one part of life that you deny yourself, but really miss?
My parents owned a pizzeria when I was growing up, and I love pizza. I eat it maybe three or four times a year now, but I promise that if it wasn’t for tennis I would eat it every day.
Do you do any mental preparation before matches?
If you go into a match knowing you don’t have a weakness then you will be strong mentally. I often have fun on court before a big game because I feel relaxed and not stressed about things I haven’t covered in training.
You’re famous for your impressions of your rivals; do you do them during practice to lighten the mood?
Of course. I think my Rafa Nadal took the longest to perfect,because I needed to get the hair flick just right.
Do you do other sports as part of your training?
Not for my training, but I like to play football. Rafa and Andy [Murray] are big football fans, and sometimes we kick a ball around.
Novak’s killer tip...
The fluids you have in you are as important as the food you have in you, maybe even more. Start the day with a herbal tea. Throughout your training, drink water that is lukewarm rather than ice-cold. It isn’t as refreshing, but cold water does not sit well in your stomach.