Nick Bollettieri, the Corridor of Fame tennis coach who labored with among the sport’s greatest 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 sequence of well being points, his supervisor, Steve Shulla, mentioned in a phone interview with The Related Press on Monday.
“When he grew to become sick, he obtained so many great messages from former college students and gamers and coaches. Many came visiting him. He obtained movies from others,” Shulla mentioned. “It was great. He touched so many lives and he had an important send-off.”
Identified for his gravelly voice, leathery pores and skin and wraparound sun shades — and a person who referred to 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 the planet rankings. That group consists of sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.
He remained lively 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 one in every of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the ultimate of the U.S. Open.
“I cast my very own path, which others discovered to be unorthodox and downright loopy,” Bollettieri mentioned in his induction speech on the corridor in Newport, Rhode Island. “Sure, I’m loopy. However it takes loopy folks to do issues that different folks say can’t be executed.”
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 packages in additional than a half-dozen sports activities along with tennis.
Bollettieri was an educator who would brag he by no means learn a guide, by no means thoughts that he majored in philosophy in school 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 educating strategies had been extensively copied and tennis academies dot the globe right now.
Bollettieri’s first pupil to succeed in No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then got here others, equivalent to Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.
Simply as rewarding, Bollettieri mentioned, had been the successes of much less completed gamers.
“The gasoline that has sustained me to the summit is, definitely, my ardour to assist others turn out to be champions of life, not champions simply on the tennis court docket,” he mentioned. “Nothing makes me extra completely happy than once I run right into a previous pupil or obtain a form notice telling me how I modified their lives, that they’re higher dad and mom, legal professionals, medical doctors, CEOs and other people due to the impression 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 occasions.
Nicholas James Bollettieri was born July 31, 1931, in Pelham, New York. He earned a philosophy diploma and performed tennis at Spring Hill School in Cellular, Alabama, and was a paratrooper within the Military earlier than enrolling in regulation college on the College of Miami.
For spending cash, Bollettieri started educating tennis for $1.50 an hour, in accordance with the Corridor of Fame. Greater than 60 years later, his payment was $900.
After a couple of months, he dropped out of regulation college to focus on teaching. At first, he conceded, information of tennis approach wasn’t his forte.
“I didn’t know a lot about educating the sport,” he mentioned. “The present God gave me was the power to learn folks.”
Bollettieri gained reward for his motivational expertise, yelling when he deemed it needed. 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 pal to construct a first-of-its-kind complicated in what had been a tomato discipline.
The positioning now has a boarding college, 55 tennis courts and services for seven different sports activities, together with soccer, basketball and baseball.
Operating a enterprise wasn’t Bollettieri’s sturdy go well with, and he offered the academy to IMG however continued to work there, stressing a tactical method that remodeled 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 lots of others.
“In my desires,” Bollettieri confessed with a smile, “I say, ‘Nick, you’re darn good.’”