Novak Djokovic - Wimbledon 2023

Novak Djokovic offers insight into champion mentality in ‘weak’ moments

Novak Djokovic offered a fascinating insight into his champion mentality as he discussed his health problems at the Paris Masters.

Early in the tournament, Djokovic was struck by a stomach bug which he admitted left him ‘spending more time on the toilet seat than on the court.’

That left him understandably uncharacteristically sluggish in his third-round match against Tallon Griekspoor, which he narrowly won in three sets.

That continued into his next two matches as well against Holger Rune and Andrey Rublev, both of which he won before securing the title against Grigor Dimitrov in the final.

How, though, was he able to overcome it?

Novak Djokovic felt ‘weak’

“I’m not a doctor so I’m unable to give medical advice,” Djokovic told a reporter when he asked if he had any advice for the journalists wife, who was suffering from a similar stomach bug to the one experienced by Djokovic.

“I guess, you know, everyone is different, but, you know, for me hydration is the key, I think, for anything, really. I can’t talk on behalf of your wife or anybody else, you know, what kind of diet helps or doesn’t help.

“You know, I couldn’t eat much really these days, so I probably would eat only once in a day, and then I wouldn’t eat anything. Just be on liquids, because anything that I, you know, would put in my mouth, it would go out very quickly.

“And then of course you feel dizzy, you feel dehydrated all the time. You feel weak.

“But I guess, you know, for a professional athlete, once you are out on the court, it’s basically very clear. Either you let the circumstances and the feelings that you have at that moment master you or you try to master them in a way. So there’s no in between.

“So you either fold, retire, or just, you know, kind of give away the match, or you try to draw the energy from the adrenaline that you’re feeling from the crowd, from the momentum that you’re feeling on the court.

“That’s what kind of helped me to have extra, I think, extra push, extra energy this week.

“I experience the stomach bugs like anybody else. Maybe for me it lasted shorter than for your wife, I’m not sure, but it was three, four days of big struggle. So Sunday (the final) was the first day that I have been actually feeling that it’s behind me.”

Of course, Paris was far from the only time that Djokovic has overcome injury and illness to somehow win matches. He has done it so much that opponents have, unfairly, suggested he fakes injury before. However, he clearly doesn’t, and he has the record to prove it.

How diet saved Djokovic’s career

Nowadays, Novak Djokovic is famed for his ability to play long matches without tiring, but it wasn’t always the case.

Early on in his career he was suffering from tremendous physical crashes during matches, even to the point where they forced his retirement in matches. However, all that changed when he discovered a gluten intolerance.

He changed his diet as a result and even released a book, Serve To Win, the 14-day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence, on the matter.

“My life changed because I had begun to eat the right foods for my body, in the way that my body demanded,” Djokovic explains in the book.

“Every morning I wake up, I drink a glass of water and do my stretching, maybe mixed with some yoga or tai chi, for 20 minutes. I eat a breakfast perfectly calibrated to my body for the day ahead – the same breakfast almost every day of my life.”

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Michael Graham, Editor, has been a professional sports journalist for his whole career and is especially passionate about tennis. He's been the Editor of for over 5 years and loves watching live tennis by visiting as many tournaments as possible. Michael specialises in writing in-depth features about the ATP & WTA tours.