Today I'm reviewing a book that is surprisingly lacking in tennis tips. But it's a great book. I loved it. And I do think it can improve the tennis game of a lot of you out there. So I'm recommending Novak Djokovic's book Serve to Win: The 14-Day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence.
The Rise of Novak Djokovic
Now, if you care anything at all about tennis pros and the Tour, you know exactly who Novak Djokovic is. Right now, he hold the No. 1 spot in men's singles tennis and he had 11 Grand Slam titles under his belt, including 6 Australian Open titles, 3 Wimbledon titles and 2 U.S. Open titles. And since we still have 3 Grand Slams left in this 2016 calendar year, I wouldn't be surprised if those numbers go up.
But, just a few years ago, things weren't looking quite so dominating for Novak Djokovic. His tennis career leading up to 2010 was one of what a lot of critics thought showed unfulfilled potential. He went deep in many tournaments and yet, he would not make it to the finals or not win the tournament because of health reasons. And there was a lot of speculation as to what was wrong with him. Perhaps he wasn't training hard enough. Or training correctly. Or that he suffered from numerous ailments.
Anyway, he was having a lot of problems and it did not seem like he would ever break through to become the incredible tennis player that he is today.
But, in 2010, he met up with a Serbian doctor who diagnosed him as having gluten intolerance. He changed his diet and suddenly, in 2011, had an incredible break through year and since that time, as you know, has been truly dominant. He is someone who it is almost impossible to beat and against players of the highest level who play all different kinds of games, Djokovic always seems to come through.
How Djokovic's Changed His Diet and Transformed His Game
So this book of his is about what he did to make this transformation, to take his game to the next level. And, as I said, he's not talking tennis specifically in this book. He does give some insight into his own life story so there is some tennis there. But I'm sure one day we'll have a true Novak Djokovic memoir and this is not that book.
What he talks about are some very basic changes he made to his diet and his lifestyle that I think players at all levels should be thinking about and probably doing. And, in fact, not just tennis players. But athletes of any sport and people in general who want to get healthy.
I love this book because it does fit in with my philosophy that you can become a better tennis player not just by improving your tennis skills, but by improving your health and fitness. And that's really what this book is about. If you want to read about how to hit a better forehand or backhand or serve or volley, if you want to read about what your doubles strategy should be and how you and your partner can bring it to court in a new way, this is not the book for you.
But if you're looking for some insights into what a dominating tennis player did to up his game, things that are very doable by people like me and you, then I recommend Novak Djokovic's Serve to Win.
The Benefit of the Gluten Free Diet
So here are the big things that I got out of it and none of these are flaky or weird. Although I think at times, when you read this book, it does kind of get off into a more philosophical “it's all about being a good person and living a present and mindful life” type vibe. And there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Just be prepared that it does kind of go down that path.
The No. 1 biggest thing to get out of this book is Djokovic's advocacy of his gluten free diet. And there's certainly nothing flaky or weird about that. That is something that has become very popular in recent years because it is true that so many people in the general population are impacted by celiac disease, which is the disease that is specifically gluten intolerance, and then there are a bunch of other people that just do better cutting gluten out of their diet. Frankly, I have had some health issues in recent years that have made me try going gluten free to some extent. I don't claim to be allergic or intolerant of gluten. So I'm not saying that this is a lifestyle to take lightly. But it's something I'm trying and that's what led me to this book in the first place.
There are recipes in this book and none of them are too far out there. They're not made with strange ingredients and I've been trying some of them and they're really quite good. Djokovic indicates that, as part of what he does, part of his being on the Tour, is that he and his entourage that he travels with, they don't eat out a lot. They go out of their way to stay at places where they can prepare their own meals. And so I thought that was very interesting. I'm sure when you're at his level, you can afford to go rent a house at Wimbledon and have a nice kitchen and do all of that. But it's certainly that people like us, who live at home and aren't traveling out on the Tour, can do also. So I did think that the diet part of this book is very doable and something that certainly I'm trying and I'm specifically trying some of these recipes and you may like those too.
The Benefit of Dynamic Stretching
Other things he advocates that, surprisingly, I also have been advocating for a while, include things like dynamic stretching. And he does give his stretching routine that he uses to get ready for matches. And, in fact, he attributes a lot of his tennis success to his flexibility and to his work that he does off the tennis court in keeping in shape, doing exercising, stretching, working on his flexibility, and even doing yoga. That's another thing that he advocates.
The Benefit of Foam Rolling
Another thing he advocates is foam rolling, which is something again, that you've probably heard of. I did a little video on foam rolling for tennis players that's on YouTube and I have a link to that below. My sister is a big runner and she is a huge believer in foam rolling. But it is something that all of us can benefit from. It's a self-massage technique that can really help loosen up your tight muscles and work out some of the problems that you may be having in specific areas of your body that you can't seem to get those areas to be loose and relaxed. Foam rolling can really help with that. I'm doing it and now I know that Novak Djokovic is doing it too so it might be something that you're interested in too.
The Benefit of Mindfulness
The final big thing that I got out of this book that there is quite a bit of time spent by Djokovic going into his thought process behind this is his advocacy of mindfulness. Specifically being present on court but he does talk about this mindfulness concept in life in general. I've actually talked about this in a previous episode called Should You Play One Point at a Time? I'll link to that below. The point of that episode and what Djokovic is saying in his book is to be present in the moment when you're playing tennis and to let your mistakes go and to move forward into the next moment or point on court, being fully focused on that. And not dwelling on mistakes or errors in the past. That's how Djokovic feels. That's how I feel too. And you will get some information on how you go about getting that mindset in this book.
Again, I loved this book. It's not packed with tennis tips. Instead, it's packed with health, fitness and lifestyle tips that I think are very doable and can make you a better tennis player if you adopt some or all of these.
Hey – it's working for Novak Djokovic. So we should all definitely give it a try. As Novak himself says in this book, “All you have to do is try. And to me, the worst kind of defeat is not failure per se. It's the decision not to try.”
RESOURCES AND LINKS FROM THIS EPISODE
For more information on dynamic warm-ups, stretching and mindfulness, check out these Tennis Quick Tips episodes:
- How to Do a Dynamic Warm-Up for Tennis – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 18
- Stretching for Flexibility in Tennis – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 65
- Should You Play One Point at a Time? – Tennis Quick Tips Episode 114
Here's my YouTube video on Foam Rolling for Tennis Players:
Here is a complete list of all of the tennis books I've reviewed on Tennis Quick Tips along with Amazon links to the books and links to the podcast episodes.
- Tennis Beyond Big Shots: The New Power Game – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 102
- Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 93
- Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 83
- The Best Tennis of Your Life: 50 Mental Strategies for Fearless Performance – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 74
- Arthur Ashe On Tennis: Strokes, Strategy, Traditions, Players, Psychology, and Wisdom – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 64
- The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance – reviewed in Tennis Quick Tips Podcast 53
And here's a link to my own book, packed with tennis tips and available in paperback and for the Kindle:
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Full disclosure – Some of the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. I make a very small commission if you purchase any item using my Amazon affiliate links. Your cost is the same for these items whether or not you use these links. This does not influence my opinion of these items and I always tell the absolute truth about every item that I review. I usually do not review items that I don’t like.