Novak Djokovic Loses to Juan Martin Del Potro at Rio Olympics 2016, Even After Intense Training and Gluten-Free Diet

Photo Credit: Johnny De Franco / ZUMA Press
Novak Djokovic

Photo Credit: Johnny De Franco / ZUMA Press

The world’s No. 1 men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic is back to awesome form. The 29-year-old followed his Wimbledon loss with a Rogers Cup win in Toronto at the end of July. However, the Serbian pro tennis superstar couldn’t follow that up with success at the Rio Olympics 2016.

Despite being the tennis singles gold medal favorite, Djokovic lost to Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro in straight sets, 7-6, 7-6, at the Olympics.


Novak Djokovic’s Rio Olympics preparation included an intense training regimen. Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet also helped him prepare for the Olympic Games.

Other tennis stars are having better luck at the Olympics than Djokovic. For instance, Spain’s Rafael Nadal won his first-round match-up against Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, two sets to none, despite recovering from a recent wrist injury.

Djokovic isn’t the top-ranked men’s tennis player in the world for nothing. Djokovic has won 12 Grand Slam singles titles: six at the Australian Open, three at Wimbledon, two at the U.S. Open, and one at the French Open. He is also the first Serbian to be ranked No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP). Djokovic has won 66 career titles, which is good for seventh most in the Open Era. He also has the best match-winning percentage at 83% in the Open Era.

A photo posted by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on


Despite losing at the Olympics, Djokovic credits his intense fitness training and gluten-free diet for getting him into great shape.

Djokovic’s Gluten-Free Diet

A gluten-free diet was a real game changer for Djokovic, and the tennis star follows it for good reason. Djokovic says he wouldn’t be the tennis star he is today if he hadn’t cut out gluten-containing foods like pasta, bread, and his dad’s famous pizza.

When did Novak find out about his diet problem? In 2009, Djokovic could barely finish a game, let alone win an entire tournament. Health problems like chest pain, stomach spasms, and breathing difficulties interfered with Djokovic’s playing ability.

A photo posted by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

However, everything changed when his doctor told him he was gluten intolerant. As a result, Djokovic overhauled his diet, which led to tennis success. Djokovic learned to listen to his body, as detailed in his 2013 book Serve to Win.

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, couscous, spelt, semolina, and triticale. Oats are naturally gluten free, but they are often contaminated with wheat. Gluten intolerance symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, bloating, headaches, hair loss, muscle and bone pain, skin problems, poor memory, weight loss, weight gain, stunted growth, anemia, and seizures.

Djokovic now feels more alert and energetic after taking gluten out of his diet. Gluten alternatives for Djokovic include millet, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, quinoa, rice, and teff. Djokovic’s diet is also free of sugar, dairy, preservatives, and anything that comes from unnatural sources.

A photo posted by Novak Djokovic (@djokernole) on

What is included on Djokovic’s menu? For breakfast he eats some honey and muesli, which includes gluten-free rolled oats, raisins, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and almonds. Lunch may include a mixed-green salad with gluten-free rice pasta that has summer squash, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and zucchini. Snacks include gluten-free bread or crackers with tuna and avocado, and an apple with cashew butter and melon. Dinner may be a Caesar salad with kale, fennel, quinoa, and pine nuts, minestrone soup, and salmon with roasted tomatoes.

Djokovic’s Fitness and Training Plan

Djokovic’s training schedule runs 14 hours per day. Some of his daily activities include lifting weights, biking, or running.

Djokovic completes his warm-up with running or stationary biking and a stretching routine. Novak Djokovic’s fitness training also includes 10 to 20 reps of exercises like jumping jacks, walking high knees, walking high kicks, squat thrusts, lunges with side bend, reverse lunges with backward reach, low side-to-side lunges, and inverted hamstring and inchworm exercises.

Novak Djokovic also practices mindfulness techniques, such as objectively analyzing his thoughts, meditation, and yoga.

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Djokovic also does foam rolling, where you roll different parts of the body, including the lower back, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, on a piece of foam to ease muscle tightness. Some of his favorite yoga poses include the cobra, cat pose, child’s pose, and downward dog. He also keeps to a strict daily sleep schedule, hitting bed by midnight and getting up at 7 a.m.

Britt, H., “Novak Djokovic: Going gluten-free was a real game changer,” Express web site, September 10, 2013;
Armen Graham, B., “Novak Djokovic in tears after shock Olympic defeat by Juan Martin del Potro,” The Guardian web site, August 8, 2016;