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Beyond the Baseline

How Novak Djokovic inspired baseball star Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki and Novak Djokovic Troy Tulowitzki (left) has found an unlikely mentor in Novak Djokovic (Icon SMI; Getty Images)

Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is putting up MVP-caliber numbers this season, leading Major League Baseball in OPS and hitting a mind-boggling .512 at home. The three-time All-Star credits his monster start in part to a new routine patterned after that of a top tennis player he's never met.

In a story for the June 2 issue of Sports Illustrated, Tulowitzki describes how a string of injuries and the toll of playing half the season in Denver's high altitude motivated him to prepare differently.

That's where Djokovic comes in, as staff writer Ben Reiter explains:

What Tulowitzki needed to do was to focus maniacally on a daily routine that he has designed not just to keep him on the field -- he believes that his large stature, for a shortstop, has contributed to his breakdowns -- but to operate each night at nothing short of his peak. It involves hours of scripted workouts, stretching, video study, ice baths, hydration and a hyperbaric chamber.

Tulowitzki modeled a significant portion of his regimen after that of a newer and more unexpected idol than [Derek] Jeter: Novak Djokovic, the 27-year-old Serbian tennis champion who has won six Grand Slam titles and is currently ranked No. 2 in the world. Though he has not met Djokovic, Tulowitzki has two photos of him taped next to his locker and went to see him play Rafael Nadal in Key Biscayne in late March, when the Rockies were in Miami to play the Marlins.

Djokovic's 2013 book also made an impression on Tulowitzki:

"I feel like tennis is very similar to my position at short, a lot of lateral movement, a lot of wear and tear on the body," Tulowitzki says. He admired Djokovic's unflagging energy and began to hear about how the tennis star credited his endurance to his strict gluten-free, dairy-free, low-sugar diet. Last year Tulowitzki bought Djokovic's book, Serve to Win, which is part biography and part nutritional guide. "I had a dream, and it wasn't to be one of the best," Djokovic wrote. "There were two men in the world who were the best-Federer and Nadal-and to them, I was nothing but an occasional annoyance, one who might quit at any moment when the going got tough. These guys were the elite; I was stuck somewhere in the second tier." Tulowitzki was hooked.
Djokovic will play Ernests Gulbis in the French Open semifinals on Friday.

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