While the instances of banana-chomping players in tennis matches might have reduced over the years, banana still remains many tennis players’ favourite mid-match meal in the sport. What is the reason behind this and have players now begun to find substitutes for consuming bananas during a tennis match?
The banana-eating trend began in 1985 when Boris Becker, who was still a teenager then, went on to win his maiden Wimbledon title but more vitally, did that while nibbling on bananas during changeovers.
While it’s tough to really know if Becker was the first ever tennis player to eat a banana during a tennis match but it was the German who made this fruit’s snacking in tennis a commonplace occurrence.
There have been tennis players before him who loved this fruit too, namely Aussie Ken Rosewall in the 1960s and John McEnroe in the 1970s but mostly at training.
Becker’s banana-consuming habit created a lasting impact on tennis and as time went by, more and more tennis players began to do just that during changeovers. Wimbledon is famous for its strawberry and cream, but did you know, they ordered for more than 40,000 bananas during its 2019 edition just for its players.
So, if you are wondering why did Boris Becker start having bananas during his Wimbledon triumph of 1985 and why did others follow suit, read on.
Why do Tennis Players Eat Bananas During a Match?
The short answer to this is bananas have a high content of carbohydrate and potassium, among other things, and both of which are required by tennis players during their usually-gruelling matches. As a result, bananas provide an instant source of both for tennis players.
To understand this further, here’s the long-form answer to this.
Here’s what an average banana contains:
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
Among them, two of the most important for tennis players are potassium and carbohydrates which in turn provide calories and hence, energy to the body.
Bananas are a rich source of potassium, an element which is needed by the body to maintain bodily functions like glycogen processing, nerve functioning and fluid regulation. The presence of potassium also helps manage sweating, and when absorbed into the blood, acts as an electrolyte which is much needed by athletes including tennis players.
Tennis players, like a lot of other sportspeople, sweat a lot, thereby depleting the potassium levels in the body (other than the depletion of other minerals as well). In order to maintain a steady performance throughout the match, it becomes necessary for the potassium levels in the blood to remain steady, thereby the need of bananas.
On an average, there’re 25 grams of carbohydrates in a banana. Carbohydrates provide energy to the body, and in case of tennis, players are out on the court, at times in difficult conditions, for more than a couple of hours at times.
Bananas provide a quick source of carbs for tennis players as a result thereby replenishing their lost energy.
Other Benefits of Eating Bananas for Tennis Players
The presence of magnesium in bananas helps the health of the heart, other than possessing anti-oxidants which also help the heart, and various vitamins like B6 and C, and iron.
Can Consuming Bananas Have Side-Effects?
Overdoing anything could lead to side-effects and it is no different with bananas. While a couple of bananas during a tennis match might not cause too many issues, it would make sense to maintain a healthy balance.
Excessive consumption of bananas could lead to issues like constipation, other digestive issues, sleepiness, weight gain and a few other issues, all of which tennis players would prefer avoiding.
Banana Substitutes for Tennis Players?
Over the years, while players still like to consume bananas on court – as mentioned earlier, more than 40,000 bananas were ordered at the 2019 Wimbledon for the players – some of the top tennis stars have begun to experiment with substitutes for bananas.
There’s a line of thinking says it takes a lot more time for bananas to start working their magic on the players after consumption than when carbohydrates are consumed in a liquid form (or as they call, sports drinks).
Others go for energy bars, which consist of a mixture of cereals and sugar to replenish the players’ lost, um, well, energy!
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There are all sorts of things had too; almond butter, a trail mix and dates, which is a favourite for Novak Djokovic. The good thing with dates is they are also a source of instant energy but unlike bananas they don’t contain so much sugar to increase its level in blood.
Bryan twins, Mike and Bob opt for something called as a food gel pack which consists of date-and-coconut but they also consume an electrolyte drink to help them restore their lost carbs and potassium.
With tennis having become as professional as it has in this day and age, pre-match and in-match diet has become a vital component of a tennis player’s check-list. These days some specialized sports dieticians recommend against bananas because of the amount of sugar it contains and opt to advise a player-specific diet instead of a generic one.
A sandwich with jam, according to some, might also do the trick for these tennis players, but one hopes it doesn’t get too messy during a match.
Similarly, even a sweet potato, which contains complex carbohydrates will do the trick but the difficult bit with that is they need to be cooked and when compared with bananas, they aren’t available that easily.
When Tennis Players Went ‘Bananas’!
Tennis has seen players lose their cool on the odd occasion – yep, you, John McEnroe and co. – but bananas have been at the center of some of the most bizarre such incidents.
For example, American tennis star Coco Vandeweghe almost refused to take to court because she didn’t get to consume the bananas she had asked for!
One other time, French tennis player Elliot Benchetrit asked a ball-girl to peel a banana for him because he ostensibly had cream on his palms but the chair umpire retorted back, asking him to do it on his. Rightly so too.
And then there was an incident involving Rafael Nadal, when one of the bananas he consumed got stuck in his throat and he was unable to swallow as a result!