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05 June 2023

Cheeseburger or pasta: The stars' recipe to success...

By Joy Chakravarty

I was recently involved with producing the Official Programme of the ongoing Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, which showcases six of the top male players in the world.

One of the features of the Programme, in which the six stars reveal their diet secrets, was quite fascinating. All six – Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Andy Roddick, Nikolay Davydenko and James Blake – may not agree upon a lot of issues, but one thing they were unanimous about was the choice of their favourite pre-match food. And the one dish that made it to the top of everyone's list was pasta. Plain and wholesome pasta, with some fruit. Which must be making life a lot easier for the organisers.

Golf and tennis have been pretty good mates in recent years. Federer and Woods have developed a special friendship, and so have Nadal and Sergio Garcia. But food is one subject they will surely differ on.

The dieticians may well choke on this, but Woods is happiest when his jaws are wrapped around a cheeseburger. So much so that when, in keeping with tradition, he had to decide on the menu for the Masters Champions Dinner as the defending champion in 1998, he chose cheeseburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches and milkshakes.

Garcia loves Spanish paella and lobster rice, but give him a milkshake anytime. In fact, I remember him coming to the media centre at The International (a PGA Tour event in Denver, Colorado, now discontinued) with two glasses of its banana milkshake. He said that as long as the club kept making the milkshakes the way they did, he would keep playing the tournament!

Talking a bit more on tennis, golf and food; just like tennis has Wimbledon and the much talked about strawberries and cream, golf has the Masters and its delicious pimento cheese sandwich, which comes wrapped in a green paper napkin. These signature foods have been comparatively recession proof. The Masters Committee has kept the price of the pimento cheese sandwich at $1.5 (Yes! That's Dh5.5 only). For the past 20 years, strawberries and cream at Wimbledon is sold at 2.25 pounds (Dh12).

In golf, except for the Masters, the other Majors have no fixed venue. But the Grand Slam events in tennis have the advantage of having a permanent home, which help them develop some traditional food. The US Open would be incomplete without the aroma of hot dogs being grilled at the side of the Arthur Ashe stadium.

I'd have loved to wax eloquent about more appetising joys, but excuse me, it's time for my second serve… of shawarma.

-Joy Chakravarty is Editor of Middle East Golfer