Meet the most important man in Novak Djokovic’s camp in Melbourne: Ulises Badio

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While all eyes are fixed on Novak Djokovic's bid for a record-extending ninth Australian Open title, there is a man behind the curtain who is making it possible for Novak to even step on the court. His name is Ulises Badio and this is his story.

“Uli cares deeply about my career and myself, and he takes care of my physical well-being. He is a true professional and an extremely dedicated individual. For the last six or seven days, he has been working around the clock and I thank him with all my heart”.

This is a statement by Novak Djokovic on his physiotherapist Ulises Badio whose “magic hands”, as Djokovic declared, have helped the world number one enormously on his way to the final in Melbourne.

Who is Ulises Badio? The Argentinian graduated in kinesiology and physiotherapy, he practices manual and chiropractic therapy, as well as acupuncture and Chinese medicine, which is well-aligned with Djokovic’s often spoken about holistic approach and worldview. Djokovic regularly talks about this approach to care, which consists of taking into account the whole person, rather than treating an organ, a disease or the symptoms of a disease.

Having spent four years as one of the ATP Tour’s physios, Badio’s vast experience also includes a stint with football team Valencia CF, six-time champions of Spain, and working for several clinics and a sports medicine center in Arizona.

Ulises stepped up for Novak during the elbow crisis in 2017

According to those around him, Ulises is a lifelong student, always looking to improve his skills and perfect his craft. After all, it is not an easy task to become part of the team of one of the sport’s elite.

Badio earned the honor not only with his skills, but with his toughness during the period of crisis; Uli started working with Djokovic in May of 2017, a month and a half before Djokovic would retire during his Wimbledon quarter-final match versus Tomas Berdych, which caused him to miss the rest of the season due to elbow problems. That is when the good-natured Badio stepped up. Novak’s and Ulises’ relationship was solidified during those hardships and the Argentinian became a trusted member of Djokovic’s inner circle.

“Uli’s knowledge is really extensive, he knows his work thoroughly. Equally important, he stuck with Novak during the time of crisis in 2017; his help was tremendous for Novak in dealing with the elbow issue, so Uli earned his spot,” Djokovic’s coach Marian Vajda told Sport Klub in Melbourne last year.

Marian Vajda & Ulises Badio, Roland-Garros, 2018

Badio’s role in the team is very important in normal circumstances as well; with Novak being one of the fittest players on the tour, he does not leave anything to chance and Uli once stated that the way Djokovic is built allows them to stretch four times a day. This year in Melbourne, though, Badio had his work cut out for him; after Djokovic injured himself in his third round match against Taylor Fritz, virtually all of his time is spent on recovery.

Maestro in his field, but a quality human as well

“Recovery is 100 percent of my day for the last five days,” Djokovic said after beating Aslan Karatsev in the semifinals. It was not just a figure of speech, Badio is working on Novak’s body on an hourly basis and the work is so immense that he needed help from his colleagues, the ATP’s physios.

“Before everything else, Uli is a wonderful person and you can see it every day by the little things he does. The way he treats other people, always has a chat with the guards here in Melbourne, the other day he brought some chocolates and gifts to his colleagues that work with the ATP,” said Djokovic.

 

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It is indeed a rare occasion that you will find Ulises without a broad, friendly smile on his face. He relishes the opportunity and even by having only a few casual chats with him, you can tell how much the 42-year old Uli is in love with his job.

“Uli has fit in perfectly, Novak loves him, we love him,” Vajda summed it up.

Working within the team, music and yoga

As Djokovic likes to have all of his angles covered, Badio is a bit different than Miljan Amanovic, another of Novak’s physio who is currently not in Melbourne.

“Miljan is my godfather and a very dedicated physiotherapist too. One thing that I like about Uli and Miljan is that they complement each other with their skills. Although they have different approaches to some extent, the bottom line is that they always make me feel good and ready,” observes Djokovic.

There isn’t a lot of spare time to be had in Melbourne this year, but when there is, Uli’s passions include music and yoga, which Djokovic practices as well. Also similarly to Novak, Badio enjoys oriental philosophy and often quotes Buddha: “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”

Along the same lines, Novak has spoken numerous times of the importance of visualisation in his preparation for matches. Come Sunday against an on-fire Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic will need all the help that he can get to conquer Melbourne for the ninth time.

If he does so, Ulises Badio will be a huge part of Novak’s Grand Slam title number 18.

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