With the Australian Open on in Melbourne, we take a look at the hottest tennis players, past and present, who are powered by plants.
As bushfires raged across Australia in early 2020, Nick Kyrgios was devastated by the huge loss of animal life in his country. He began fundraising for the relief effort and in an Athlete’s Voice blog, he wrote that his passion for animals is what made him go vegan.
“I don’t eat meat or dairy anymore. That’s not for my health, I just don’t believe in eating animals,” he said. “Seeing the footage of these animals suffering with the fires only reinforces why I’ve chosen this diet. When I see these terrible photos, I can’t comprehend eating meat.”
Novak Djokovic has won 20 Grand Slam singles titles. After winning Wimbledon in 2019 (for the fifth time), he told journalists his performance on the court has improved since switching to a plant-based diet:
“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.”
In 2016, Novak Djokovic previewed his new vegan restaurant to his tennis pals, Andy Murray, Tomas Berdych, Fabio Fognini and Grigor Dimitrov, ahead of the grand opening.
Queen V has been following a mostly vegan lifestyle since 2011, when she was diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome.
“It definitely changed my whole life. It changed the pace that I live at. It changed everything… there’s something about when you’re eating healthy food, it makes you feel proud,” Venus said in a 2017 interview for Health magazine.
Australian professional tennis player Bernard Tomic says Novack Djokovic was who inspired him to make the plant based switch, recently telling his Instagram followers that being vegan “feels good. You should try it!”
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One of the world’s best-known female tennis champions, Martina Navratilova’s list of achievements is staggering. The only player in history to have held the number one spot in the world in both singles and doubles for over 200 weeks, she also won a staggering 18 Grand Slam titles and 31 major women’s doubles titles, an all-time record.
Eating a plant-based diet at the height of her career, Martina was able to maintain her competitive edge into middle age.
Watch her talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet here:
In the video, she says:
“Most professional athletes retire in their early to mid-30s. I won a US Open Mixed Doubles title six weeks before my 50th birthday. … I also believe that my moving toward a more plant-based diet was the major reason that I was able to continue playing professional tennis through my 40s.
It made me mentally sharper and made it possible for me to endure the physical conditioning that is required to compete at that level.”
Vicki Cosio has played tennis since high school, and she’s still successful now that she’s in her 40s. She won the US Senior National Tournament in August 2014, even though she was playing in the age group that was below her own age.
In a recent interview, Vicki discusses the decision she made, along with her husband, to go vegan in 1999. She says:
“We are vegan for the animals. We love them so much. We can’t stand the thought of animal cruelty, and we don’t want to be a part of it. That’s the reason we went vegan.”
A vegetarian for 45 years, Peter Burwash was inducted into the Tennis Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2015. Since retiring from tennis, he has coached many other players, including Venus and Serena Williams, Greg Rusedski, Andrew Sznajder and Sébastien Lareau.
In an interview with Vegetarian Journal, he said:
“If you’re going to build a 40-story building, vegetarianism is the ground floor. It teaches you to be less selfish, it teaches you respect for life, it teaches you discipline, it teaches you a sense of humility. … You will notice that someone who truly understands vegetarianism will have a sense of humility about them because they will have respect for all life.”