Legendary Tennis Coach Nick Bollettieri Dead At Age 91

Nick Bollettieri, the Corridor of Fame tennis coach who labored with a few of the sport’s largest stars, together with Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, and based an academy that revolutionized the event of younger athletes, has died. He was 91.

Bollettieri died Sunday night time at house in Florida after a collection of well being points, his supervisor, Steve Shulla, stated in a phone interview with The Related Press on Monday.

“When he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. Many came to visit him. He got videos from others,” Shulla stated. “It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off.”

Bollettieri, pictured right here in 1997, remained energetic into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the highest tournaments and, in 2014, grew to become solely the fourth coach to be inducted into the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame.

Lutz Bongarts by way of Getty Pictures

Identified for his gravelly voice, leathery pores and skin and wraparound sun shades — and a person who known as himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis” regardless of by no means enjoying professionally — Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 gamers who went on to be No. 1 on this planet rankings. That group contains sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.

He remained energetic into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the highest tournaments and, in 2014, grew to become solely the fourth coach to be inducted into the Worldwide Tennis Corridor of Fame. That was the identical yr one other certainly one of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the ultimate of the U.S. Open.

Six of his pupils already are within the Corridor of Fame, a quantity certain to develop as soon as others are eligible.

“I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri stated in his induction speech on the corridor in Newport, Rhode Island. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”

The Bollettieri Tennis Academy opened in 1978 in Bradenton, Florida, and was bought by IMG in 1987.

The IMG Academy now spans greater than 600 acres and affords applications in additional than a half-dozen sports activities along with tennis.

Bollettieri was an educator who would brag he by no means learn a ebook, by no means thoughts that he majored in philosophy in faculty and even gave regulation college a attempt, albeit for lower than a yr.

He additionally was an adept self-promoter — one who would publish a pair of autobiographies — regardless of that detractors dismissed him as a hustler and huckster. The reality is, any criticism was no match for the astounding success of his pupils.

His instructing strategies have been broadly copied and tennis academies dot the globe right this moment.

“Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” Corridor of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.”

Bollettieri helps to inspire children during Kids Day at the 2017 Miami Open on March 21, 2017, at Tennis Center at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, FL.
Bollettieri helps to encourage kids throughout Children Day on the 2017 Miami Open on March 21, 2017, at Tennis Heart at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, FL.

Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Pictures

Bollettieri’s first pupil to succeed in No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then got here others, akin to Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.

Simply as rewarding, Bollettieri stated, have been the successes of much less completed gamers.

“The fuel that has sustained me to the summit is, without a doubt, my passion to help others become champions of life, not champions just on the tennis court,” he stated. “Nothing makes me more happy than when I run into a past student or receive a kind note telling me how I changed their lives, that they are better parents, lawyers, doctors, CEOs and people because of the impact I made on their lives.”

Bollettieri’s devotion to his gamers got here at a price. For a lot of his profession, he was on the highway 9 months out of yearly, and he cited his journey schedule as one purpose he was married eight instances.

Survivors embrace his spouse, Cindi, seven kids and 4 grandchildren, in response to Shulla, who stated a celebration of Bollettieri’s life is deliberate for March.

Nicholas James Bollettieri was born July 31, 1931, in Pelham, New York. He earned a philosophy diploma and performed tennis at Spring Hill Faculty in Cell, Alabama, and was a paratrooper within the Military earlier than enrolling in regulation college on the College of Miami.

For spending cash, Bollettieri started instructing tennis for $1.50 an hour, in response to the Corridor of Fame. Greater than 60 years later, his charge was $900.

After a couple of months, he dropped out of regulation college to focus on teaching. At first, he conceded, data of tennis method wasn’t his forte.

“I didn’t know much about teaching the game,” he stated. “The gift God gave me was the ability to read people.”

Bollettieri received reward for his motivational expertise, yelling when he deemed it mandatory. He had a watch for expertise and was a visionary concerning boot-camp coaching for younger athletes who lived collectively.

He purchased a membership in 1978, and college students lived in his home. Two years later, he borrowed $1 million from a good friend to construct a first-of-its-kind complicated in what had been a tomato subject.

The positioning now has a boarding college, 55 tennis courts and amenities for seven different sports activities, together with soccer, basketball and baseball.

Operating a enterprise wasn’t Bollettieri’s sturdy swimsuit, and he offered the academy to IMG however continued to work there, stressing a tactical method that reworked tennis. He urged gamers to make the most of trendy racket expertise, emphasizing energy over finesse.

The academy churned out huge hitters who relied on their serve and forehand to overpower opponents. That method labored for Agassi, Seles, Courier and plenty of others.

“In my dreams,” Bollettieri confessed with a smile, “I say, ‘Nick, you’re darn good.’”

Steven Wine is a retired AP sports activities author.

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