Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Towpath review of Novak Djokovic's "Serve to Win"

Barbara Youel | Towpath Member Contributor

Serve to Win: The 14 Day Gluten-Free Plan for Physical and Mental Excellence 
by Novak Djokovic (Zinc Ink, 2013)
Forward by William Davis, M.D. 
Book rating: 

“…I have a very simple diet: vegetables, beans, white meat, fish, and fruit. Most of the food is natural and hasn’t been processed.”  This pretty much sums up tennis superstar Novak Djokovic’s way of eating since he made drastic changes to his diet in 2010. This very readable memoir takes the reader back to his upbringing in Serbia, his family’s struggles during the NATO bombings of his native Belgrade, his unlikely path to professional tennis, and his climb to ATP’s No. 1 in the tennis world after he changed what he ate.

Too Much, Too Little, Too Wrong
The tie that binds all of these is food…too much, too little, or too wrong. Djokovic remembers eating lots of bread and dairy, and especially pizza (wheat crusts, cheese, tomatoes) with abandon at his parents’ pizza parlor, The Red Bull.  He also reports having to live on simple fare during the bombings, and then eating as he wished as wealth and fame came through professional tennis.  When his persistent health issues showed up time and again during matches despite his excellent physical condition and training regime, neither he nor his doctors could determine what was wrong.

Enter the Right Doctor
As recently as 2010, Dr. Igor Cetojevic, while watching Djokovic play at the Australian Open from his home in Cyprus, (8,700 miles away) knew what was wrong with this distressed player…his digestive system was causing breathing problems. The two men quickly connected and devised a new plan for his eating which according to Djokovic, led to his record season in 2011. (In all fairness, Djokovic was already competing and winning at the highest levels before his diagnosis of gluten sensitivity – his natural abilities and superior conditioning however, surely contributed to his success)

Gluten-Free at Last
 Djokovic admits that a gluten-free existence, while perfect for him, is not for everybody, and encourages readers to find “what’s slowing you down?” His humble and friendly approach in this memoir avoids a “preachy” tone, which from his world-class athletic status would be easy to assume and even forgivable. Djokovic reminds the reader that he is no doctor nor nutritionist, but shares what works for him in a weekly menu plan, plus easy–to-make recipes from “The Champion’s Plate” that include breakfasts, smoothies, lunches, snacks, and dinners. 

A Realistic Invitation to Try
Novak Djokovic invites the reader to try his plan for just two weeks. There are no magic pills, potions, or promises here. In our current culture, laden with fad diets and ‘easy’ fixes, two weeks seem to be reasonable enough. I admit that my view of this tennis superstar changed after reading Serve to Win.  I see now a more serious, committed, and aware person, grateful for his life, his loves, his heritage. While he didn’t achieve his goal at the 2014 French Open, he is walking the talk. “All you have to do is try. And to me the worst kind of defeat is not failure pre se. It’s the decision not to try.” Well spoken, Nole!

Special note: After reading Serve to Win, as well as The Wheat Belly Diet by Dr. William Davis (father of Cleveland local and junior tennis prodigy Lauren Davis), Towpath owners Dallas and Nancy Aleman have since made the commitment to a gluten free diet and have already lost 10lbs! 

(Serve to Win is available at local bookstores, public libraries, and online.)

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

How to beat junior tennis players

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Online Store Manager

These days we're all too often finding ourselves across the net of opponents who are fresh out of high school or college. And if your first thought is 'oh crap', then you're already falling into their hands. Nobody's jumping for the chance to play some kid doing high kicks at the baseline, but you should not have to overcompensate or dumb down your game just because you're playing somebody in a different age bracket. So here are some tips on the most common mind games you might face when playing a junior tennis player in regular league play.

Not all junior tennis players have an attitude.
Whats up with the 'tude? - Not all junior players are as immature on the court as you might assume. Many are actually quite courteous and show more sportsmanship than those twice their age, however that doesn't discount the few that can't remember their manners. Whether they feel it was provoked, junior players tend to deal with adversities on the court by defending themselves with their words and actions instead of through their game, so try not to take it personally. Instead of stooping to that level, kill them with kindness (real kindness, not the overly fake stuff), because you'll find yourself in a much more positive mental state-win or lose. 

The temper tantrum - It's embarrassing for somebody at any age to throw their racquet or shout out angrily, but we can almost expect it with a youthful player who tends to be less experienced in controlling their emotions. Depending on the severity, avoid getting rattled by your opponent's self-wallowing by continuing to play your game in a quiet, mature manner. Even after making a few errors, if your opponent sees that you're unfazed, they'll most likely fixate on wondering why they're still in a funk and further self-destruct. If their temper becomes so intense where you fear for your safety (ie. your opponent smashes balls at you or punches a hole in the wall-hey, it's happened!), then stop play and seek out a captain or umpire to officiate the rest of the match. 
Let inconsistency shine through - Even if they have a strong game, you won't typically see a lot of seasoned junior players in regular league play. More often than not, the secret to winning is keeping the ball in play! Younger players have a difficult time staying patient and want to rush the point while forcing their own error. So gear up for the long haul and be ready for some rallying. Think of the match as a game where you count how many times the ball crosses over the net, and then try to beat that record. If you feel in control, try taking the ball for a spin by moving it side to side and back and forth. Your opponent may be young, but can they outlast the Energizer bunny?

The feather/cannon game - You will most likely face two types of games when playing a younger opponent, the 'let's hit as hard as we can' game, and the 'nothing's working so I'll just tap everything over' game. You might even experience both in one match! The junior player thrives on hitting a hard ball, so simply take the pace off. You may hate having to adjust your game but your junior opponent will hate it even more. So when the balls are flying out, younger players will sometimes back off the pace completely by pushing the ball with a feather-light touch. When playing against a pusher, you can try adding topspin and move those feet so that you can 'punch' the ball back.

Cheater, cheater - Too many times we see junior players get chastised for cheating -or- we're accused of cheating ourselves. The thing about cheating is a lot of the time nobody is actually cheating! Adults are to believe that junior players cheat because it's the easy way to beat an adult, and juniors are to believe that adults cheat because they're sore losers and have bad eyesight-neither one being true. Always give the benefit of the doubt after a questionable call. Question them after a second call (without the 'tude), then ask your captain/umpire to officiate the match after any subsequent calls. Request the later if you're being continually accused of cheating, otherwise aim well inside the line. 

Intentional or not, junior players will play head games with you, but it's up to you to keep your emotions in check. Stop hoping to at least win a game or two, or swear you'll quit if you lose to some kid. What many junior players have in power and imperial confidence, they are lacking in consistency and experience in tough match situations. It's not the end of the world if you lose to a player who could easily be your own child. If they're a good sport, be a good sport in return. Ultimately, we're happy to see a larger younger generation of tennis players emerging. No matter the outcome remember this, the majority of junior players are just as grateful for the opportunity to play with the big kids.

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