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The court doctor

SOORAJ RAJMOHAN
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PEOPLE Dr. George Varghese has worked with tennis stars such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray

Helping sportsDr. George Varghesephoto: K.K. Mustafah
Helping sportsDr. George Varghesephoto: K.K. Mustafah

Anyone who has watched competitive tennis will be familiar with top names such as Roger Federer, the unflappable Swiss , and Novak Djokovic or ‘Djoker’, famous for his stupendous performances on court, as his antics off it. But what most do not know is that these greats were helped out in some small way by a doctor from Thrissur, Kerala.

Treating athletes

George Varghese is a knee and shoulder specialist who focuses mainly on sports injuries and arthritis. As the official physician on court during the Dubai Open in 2009 and 2010, he has interacted with Federer, Djokovic, Andy Murray, Marcos Baghdatis and many other top players in international tennis.

“Most international players now have their own physiotherapists and hiring a doctor on a full time basis can be quite an expensive affair. So the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) usually provides doctors for each tournament to help the players when required. I was given the task in Dubai. While my interaction with Federer cannot be defined as treatment, I did help out Novak with a small issue,” he says. George recounts how he once watched Andy Murray practise 1,000 serves non-stop and return another 1,000 from his coach!

Tips to Federer!

About Roger Federer, he recalls, “I told Roger that he may get better results against Rafael Nadal by employing more under-spin on his slices instead of topspin. He chose to humour me and said half jokingly that he would take my advice. In 2011, I actually noticed him use this strategy a few times! I told my family that Roger Federer is taking my advice!” he jokes. George also adds that he extended an invitation to Federer to visit India, something which the Swiss has agreed to do before he retires. An avid tennis player himself, George decided to specialise in orthopaedics with the aim of treating knee and joint problems in athletes and help them recover quickly. He is Associate Professor and Head of Department of Sports Injuries and Arthritis at Jubilee Mission Medical College in Thrissur and a visiting senior consultant at Queensland Health in Australia.

A tennis player himself

With a flourishing medical career in place, he also returned to playing tennis in the senior category, reaching the semifinals in the singles category in the ITF Asian Open Tennis Championship held in Thailand in 2009. George empathises with athletes who struggle through injury, and “being able to understand their frustration” is a great motivator to do the work he does, George believes.

SOORAJ RAJMOHAN

While most tennis players travel alone, Novak is usually accompanied by at least his brother, if not the whole family

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