Vegan Athletes

Five time Wimbledon champion only eats a plant based diet

Novak Djokovic is a growing number of elite sports champions who are vegans

The Wimbledon champion, Novak Djokovic who yesterday beat Roger Federer in five gruelling sets to claim his fifth Wimbledon title, is a vegan. He won by 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, 4-6, 13-12 in an astonishing final that lasted 4 hours 57 minutes and was nine minutes longer than the legendary 2008 final which Federer himself lost to Rafael Nadal.

Djokovic is one of a growing band of supreme elite vegan athletes who strive to get every possible advantage in fitness terms. Let’s face it: if you are going to go head to head with Roger Federer at 12-12 in the fifth set at Wimbledon after over almost five gruelling hours on Centre Court, you have to be fit. Very fit indeed – and that’s not to mention the stress you will have put your body under in the previous fortnight of the competition. 

A big part of the 32-year-old Serb’s fitness advantage is his plant-based diet. Djokovic will, of course, have access to the finest fitness and nutritional advice. It is of no surprise to readers of this blog, that that advice puts plant-based food fairly and squarely at the centre of his fitness regime. 

Many years ago at the start of his reign at the top of the men’s game, he confirmed that he had gone gluten-free in 2010 due to an intolerance. As he admitted, before that he did not even know what gluten was. At the same time, he removed dairy and refined sugar from his diet. He has also practised meditation and yoga for some time as well.  

In his press conference after his semi-final win against Roberto Bautista Agut, the world number one tennis player discussed his diet. He believes that his good health, and his swift recovery times, are very much due to his plant-based diet. But Djokovic does not parade the vegan label on his chest. 

“Plant-based” not “vegan”

“I don’t like the labels, to be honest. I do eat plant-based (food), for quite a few years already” he said.

“But because of the misinterpretations of labels and misuse of labels, I just don’t like that kind of name.

“I do eat plant-based. I think that’s one of the reasons why I recover well. I don’t have allergies that I used to have any more. “And I like it.”

Even if he does not much like the label he is not shy in stating why he eschews meat and dairy food. He is a co-producer of the groundbreaking documentary The Game Changers, which is set for release on 6th September. Produced by vegan activist Hollywood icon James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, the documentary showcases elite athletes who know that their success is in part down to their diet. 

Asked about his role in the documentary, Djokovic said: “It is about how this diet affects the world, not just personal health, but also sustainability, ecology, animals.

“This is what I care about so I’m really privileged to be part of that team.”

Together with his wife Jelena, the world number one tennis player has recently opened a vegan restaurant in Monaco called Eqvita.

Symbolism of eating some grass in the moment of victory

Djokovic’s victory celebration has a unique angle to it. He got down onto the turf, took a little grass and ate it. He first did this back in 2011 when he won his first Wimbledon title. 

“As a kid, I was dreaming of winning Wimbledon, so, like every child, you dream of doing something crazy when you actually achieve it I if you achieve it – and that was one of the things,” Djokovic told the BBC in 2018. 

The image of Djokovic falling to the Wimbledon turf at the moment of his triumphs at Wimbledon and munching on a few blades of the hallowed grass turf is powerfully symbolic. He first did this back in 2011 when he won his first Wimbledon title. 

One day the surprise will be that a Wimbledon champion eats meat and dairy washed down with a Coca-Cola. Who would bet against the Serb, who now stands on 16 Grand Slam titles one day surpassing the brilliant Federer’s overall tally of 20? Federer turns 38 in August. 

The championship itself has recognised the giant change in consumer trends by offering strawberries and vegan cream for the first time this year, thus giving a new twist to its iconic food treat.

The woman’s Wimbledon runner up, Serena Williams, is also a vegan. 

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Nicholas Orosz

Nicholas is a former City solicitor and Cambridge graduate. He has a long-standing interest in health & nutrition, the environmental movement, green politics & digital publishing. He has always loved crafting words. His transition to a vegan perspective has been gradual and an ongoing process of self-discovery. Contact: nicholas@vegansbethechange.com
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