Ulises Badio, Djokovic’s physiotherapist, in AS: “It’s like a Ferrari”


Ulises Badio (Gálvez, Santa Fe, 43 years old) has been Novak Djokovic’s physiotherapist and shop steward in his team since 2017. In Turin, where he monitors the Serb’s health “24 hours a day”, he talks to AS about his work and his relationship with him. “It’s not from this planet,” says the Italian-Argentinian.

-How did you end up on Djokovic’s team?

-I started working for ATP in Rome between 2011 and 2012, so we saw each other every time he came. I knew the team I had before. As a physiotherapist, I’ve had very clear goals since I was young and my dream was to work with a number one. I had the corresponding offers, but I always said no because I was waiting for this moment. Years went by until 2017 rolled around and Novak asked me to treat him. A more mundane relationship began, but ended with nothing. Then he told me to go to Roland Garros with him and so far.

-What was it like to step into the vicinity of a star?

-As with all things, I wanted to see what it was about because it was a new world. In fact, I started when he ran out of equipment because he made that decision (before the Mutua Madrid Open 2017). I entered without knowing the rules that were in place around them. I knew how to work and what my specific role was on a professional level, but not what my role on the team was. Since there were only two of us, a strong connection developed and we got to know each other very well from the start. There was a very important link.

-You are a professional, but did the responsibility initially burden you a little?

-The responsibility with a tennis player like Djokovic is 200% because if you touch such a tall athlete, you can always be a second away from hurting him. You have to know his anatomy and his job just as he knows his body. It was important to have a lot of experience in the professional field and also to be a bit more alternative and holistic. I studied Chinese medicine for many years. This experience of mine in other areas was good for him.

-And, given Djokovic’s interest in this world, did it bind you even more?

-Apart from being holistic (Doctrine that advocates viewing as a whole any reality other than the sum of its parts that make it up) he has a very special life story, just like me. I don’t know if that brought us closer together, but it helped us to have a very special everyday sensitivity and to be very open-minded about decisions or forms of therapy. In large part, that made us want to stay together.

“I follow Novak, even when he is sitting, to see his posture.”


-What they do is some kind of mix of physical therapy and other practices like meditation?

-We unite everything in something very global, body and mind, with a spiritual sense, not so much from religion, there he has one thing and I the other. This makes us two very spiritual people who meditate and have our space to learn. We are alone for a long time and create a connection without words. In fact, I work with him in silence a lot.

-What is your method?

– Starts the day before a tournament or game. I need to know how he’s going to sleep, what he needs, make his electrolyte drinks, what to take the night before, his diet … I need to have all of these controls and when game day comes I ask him how he is. It’s a 24-hour job with him. I can’t spend four hours treating him and then visiting him before playing. I always have to follow him, even when he is sitting, to see how his posture is, or to know how much water he has drank or eaten, or whether he has been on the phone with someone for a long time, because every little detail can turn him into one Change match. That’s the external part. When I treat him physically, there comes the part where I have to work on a manual level with therapy to keep him in optimal shape. It’s a machine, a Ferrari, as I call it, and it always has to be screwed down to the millimeter.

-Is your famous elasticity innate or is it worked?

– On a scientific level, it may be something structural and genetic that your parents or family may already have a foundation, but I have also confirmed that it is because of the intense work you have done. I remember he asked me in 2017 whether I thought it would be good to continue with this elasticity or not to work on it as much. I am a physical therapist who understands the importance of. stressed stretch (Extension) and how fundamental it is because it makes a difference when the player has to reach a ball. This elasticity makes Novak this way of playing today. We usually do stretches and stretches about four times a day.

-Injuries are often caused by stress, so is this a mix of mind and body work?

-There are studies showing that the people who take him out on the field create stress and subject him to constant tension, which, depending on his mental state, often leads to muscle injuries. He may have been treated very well and then something happened to him. Therefore we work on the mental level, on the proprioceptive level (related to proprioception, the unconscious perception of movements and posture, independent of sight). He needs to be aware of his muscles, take care of himself, and eat right.

“Djokovic is intelligent, spiritual and sensitive, he perceives the details”


Besides that, what’s the most personal Djokovic like?

-This is a difficult question because it would take a long time to speak. But he’s a very intelligent person, very spiritual. This gives us a connection that I call yin and yang, because there is black and white in one. Novak is a very good person, very sensitive who pays attention to all details. And he’s never satisfied, that’s why he’s a champion.

-The atmosphere in the team from the outside seems to be very good, to what extent is that important?

-The environment is like happiness, it does not come for its own sake, it is created. We have and feel that in team, an ability to want to be healthy, to have a positive energy alignment every time we step into the field with a smile. Before Novak arrives, we’ll talk to the others if there’s a problem. And then we have a code of respect, we greet everyone, the opposing team, and if we say a stronger word during the game, it stays on the field, we never take it out.

– Do you think Djokovic’s bad image of the film is unfair?

-I don’t think about it just for him, it happens to all of us in life. Before you see anyone as the villain in the movie, just check out yourself. Let him who is free from sin cast the first stone. You talk about someone when you don’t know them and that often hurts me because when they attack them, I take it personally. In any case, if you know him, it can even be a good thing to be yelled at and told about everything because it can turn him into strength. You learn from it and do not take it as something negative and take action against everyone, but transform it into something positive.

After beating Hurkacz, Djokovic said he hoped to play tennis for at least two more years. Then he made it clear that he was not thinking about withdrawal. How long do you see him

-He is an extremely unusual person, someone who is not from this planet. I did things and therapies that I had never been able to practice with other athletes. The other day a footballer named Zlatan (Ibrahimovic). 34 and that next year might be the best? ‘. The important thing is that you know that you still have many years ahead of you, four or five at the highest level, I think.

It’ll be the best ever …

For me it is. In the years I’ve been with him, we’ve won a lot of tournaments and, above all, a lot of positive things in life. If God wants us to go on together, then that’s what I want: be healthy and earn a lot more.

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