In order to reach the heights of a superstar tennis professional, you don’t just have to work on your backhand. Other things are crucial for your performance, such as following a special diet.
When tennis players are in training for a tournament, and indeed most of the time, they plan their eating accordingly. Diet can actually boost how elite athletes play, so a great amount of focus is given to it.
Players such as Novak Djokovic (who betting providers have as Wimbledon favourite) and Daniil Medvedev have a tailored nutrition plan. They need to keep their energy levels up, to allow them to play long sets, and give them strength.
In fact, Djokovic wrote a book on the matter, describing how his diet actually helps him win. He avoids gluten and dairy, and he limits sugar to a great extent.
What do the top tennis stars eat?
Most nutritionists agree that there are four phases in a tennis player’s diet. These are:
- General diet, with ongoing need for the right minerals and nutrients to keep a player in peak physical condition
- Pre-match – eating foods that will fuel the body for hours to come
- Mid-match/tournament – snacks and drinks that will keep a player going
- Post-match diet – the meal directly after, to ensure that they recover well.
So, when they are planning to win the American or Australian Open, their diet is planned far in advance.
So, let’s take a closer look at what the tennis greats put into their body on a daily basis.
Swiss great and holder of 20 major titles, Roger Federer has claimed in the past that his favourite food is pizza.
He starts his day with homemade waffles topped with fresh fruit compote, a sweet morning treat. He has a glass of orange juice (high in Vitamin C), a coffee and a shot of apple cider vinegar.
By the time it’s mid-morning he needs a protein bar, which is understandable. Then it’s time for a light pasta dish, he needs to carb load before a match.
If he’s playing a match, you’ll regularly see Federer snack on a banana. This is because they are full of potassium and a good carb shot to avert cramps and boost energy.
He also drinks energy drinks, rather than water, as they maintain his salt levels. A lot of salt is lost from the body when sweating through a match.
In the evening, Federer spoils himself. While he often eats Italian food, including lots of cheesy dishes, he also likes Indian and Japanese food.
He embraces his Swiss background, with plenty of raclette and fondue. Cheese is vital to his diet, he says.
Federer allows himself treats, such as chocolate, ice-cream and champagne. When you train the way he does, they don’t seem to matter so much!
Oddly enough, Rafael Nadal’s diet does not look the same! In a marked contrast to Federer, Nadal doesn’t like cheese!
Nadal’s diet is rich in seafood, echoing his Mediterranean background. He has spoken about his love of shrimp dumplings and seafood paella in the past.
Breakfast is also a Spanish affair; Nadal likes fresh bread drizzled with olive oil and Iberian ham. Washed down with fresh OJ, that sounds like a true breakfast of champions.
Lunch is usually fish, though he’ll mix it up with chicken breast from time to time. He doesn’t eat pasta much but has been seen buying cannoli.
After a match, Nadal replaces lost nutrients with filtered seawater or a protein shake.
With 39 grand slams to her name, Serena Williams is one of the greatest tennis players who ever lived. Surprisingly, she often skips breakfast!
For lunch, she relies on carbohydrate-packed plant-based meals, such as bean burritos or burgers. Although she says she’s not vegan, she never eats beef.
Like Federer, she eats pasta before playing a match, but on other days, she eats mostly greens. Her vice? Moon Pies, she says she loves them!
Novak Djokovic has been famously gluten-free for over a decade now. Like Federer, he has a sweet breakfast, consisting of honey, fruit and an oat-based cereal mix.
Lunch is normally a Power Bowl that includes dried fruit, seeds, nuts and rolled oats. He’ll add some fresh fruit and rice or almond milk too.
Gluten-free pasta is his go-to pre match, prepared with summer vegetables like asparagus and zucchini.
It’s evident that a balanced diet is the most important thing for any tennis player. Food rich in Vitamin C help with muscle repair, hence the fruit and orange juice.
Djokovic’s inclusion of seeds is for Zinc, which helps with hand-eye coordination, although this is found in animal protein too. Nadal’s love of seafood means he gets plenty of DMAE, which positively affects brain function.
Federer including cheese isn’t just an indulgence, it’s high in Vitamin A, which helps muscle tears.
It’s likely that more and more players will begin following a pescatarian or plant-based diet in future. Sports trainers and chefs would recommend excluding any processed food for peak performance.