Millions of people have watched this video of Novak Djokovic’s support team cooking something up during his semifinal win over Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Paris Masters last week, and plenty of them have drawn unsavory conclusions on how a water bottle was treated like a highly sensitive dead drop .
The video could be an example of an innocuous activity being conducted in maximally sketchy fashion. Many tennis players drink electrolyte concoctions during play, sometimes colorful, sometimes unbranded, and sometimes prepared by their support team mid-match. Andre Agassi was famous for his “Gil Water,” mottoed by his forward-thinking trainer Gil Reyes. Here’s how Agassi described it in his 2009 memoir, open:
Time to make the Gil Water. I sweat a lot, more than most players, so I need to begin hydrating many hours before a match. I down quarters of a magic elixir invented for me by Gil, my trainer for the last seventeen years. Gil Water is a blend of carbs, electrolytes, salt, vitamins, and a few other ingredients Gil keeps a closely guarded secret. (He’s been tinkering with his recipe for two decades.) He usually starts force-feeding me Gil Water the night before a match, and keeps forcing me right up to match time. Then I sip as the match wears on. At different stages I sip different versions, each a different color. Pink for energy, red for recovery, brown for replenishment.
Some players are guarded about their nutrition secrets, hoping to preserve any competitive edge. Others will openly slug maple syrup out of the bottle. You see it all.
So maybe Djokovic’s physiotherapist, Ulises Badio, is mixing such an electrolyte beverage in this video. Why Badio is doing this at roughly ankle level, I cannot say. Perhaps he, like his client, is always working on his flexibility and just wanted to get a deep hip hinge in. A man in a green jacket hands stuff to Badio between the seat rows. Then comes the paranoia. Djokovic’s coach, Goran Ivanisevic, suspecting that their activities are being filmed, orchestrates the surrounding bodies to block the line of sight. A conversation is staged, shoulders are adjusted, and the home-brewing continues. The bottle is then handed to a ball girl who runs it over to Djokovic, resting during a changeover.
At Wimbledon this year, Djokovic was seen consuming something out of a white water bottle. It did not appear to be liquid, based on what he did with his mouth to consume it. In press that week, he was asked about the bottle and its contents. “Magic potion,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I can say. It helps. You’ll find out soon, but I can’t speak about it now.”
After winning the final over Nick Kyrgios, Djokovic was asked again about the magic potion, and he suggested that it was a business secret that might one day be for sale. “It’s going to come out as one of the supplement, let’s say, lines that I’m doing right now with drink and a few other things, sports drinks, et cetera. It will come out there,” he said. “You’ll try it and you’ll let me know how it feels. You might win Wimbledon.”
Djokovic hasn’t been directly asked about the bottle in Paris yet, but on Tuesday, his wife Jelena replied directly to the tweeted video. “I don’t see anything dodgy. In fact, I see people trying to be private about their business in a world where everyone feels like they have every right to point camera at you whenever they want,” she wrote. “Apparently, wanting/trying to be private makes you dodgy these days.”
An apparent Djokovic fan had some PR advice for the camp. Jelena did not appreciate it: