Tennis star Novak Djokovic—who won a record 23rd Grand Slam title at the French Open on Sunday—claimed two weeks ago a small patch stuck to his chest powered by “nanotechnology” is the secret to his success on the court, the latest in a series of questionable wellness trends endorsed by the player.
Djokovic was first spotted with a mysterious metal patch taped to his body during a second-round French Open match against Marton Fucsovics in late May.
Djokovic later told reporters the patch uses “incredibly efficient nanotechnology” to help him deliver his best on the court and without it, he “probably wouldn’t be sitting here.”
The tennis star added he was trying to “impersonate” Marvel superhero Iron Man, saying he liked the character a lot when he was a kid.
Tao Technologies, an Italian company that sells the “TaoPatch” Djokovic used, claimed on Twitter the tiny disc is “activated by sunlight and body heat” and its “nanocrystals emit photons towards the body providing several health benefits.”
On its website, the company claims the TaoPatch “nourishes the body with wavelengths of therapeutic light, without side effects or the release of any chemicals.”
To back its claims, the company points to a study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Minerva Medica, although the cited abstract only mentions preliminary findings.
Neither French Open officials nor the ATP have commented on the patch or its legality.
What We Don’t Know
Whether Djokovic has an endorsement deal with the company or is simply a consumer of the product. The company’s U.S. retail website claims it is currently in the “process of getting registered with the FDA” but says this “could take months to finalize.” Forbes has reached out to the FDA for comment. The website notes that it sells two versions of the patch called the TaoPatch Start and the TaoPatch Sport (worn by Djokovic). However, only the TaoPatch Sport is listed for sale on the website—for around $266 (€249)—but the description of the product refers to it as the TaoPatch Start.
Djokovic won the French Open on Sunday, defeating Casper Ruud after three sets. It’s Djokovic’s 23rd Grand Slam title, more than any other male tennis player—ending a tie with Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic has previously come under criticism for promoting wellness fads and pseudoscience. He has been vocal about his opposition to vaccination and has refused to take a Covid-19 vaccine, which caused him to miss several top tournaments including two grand slams last year—the Australian Open and U.S. Open. In an interview with the BBC in 2022, Djokovic said as an “elite professional athlete” he closely reviews anything he consumes—including food and supplements—and based on information available to him he chose not to get vaccinated. Djokovic has also been on a gluten-free diet for more than a decade, due to his purported intolerance. But the way he came to that conclusion initially was reportedly based on an unscientific test by a doctor, during which he was asked to hold a piece of bread while his strength was tested.