Neapolitan origins, married 8 times, he revolutionized tennis by training the greatest players in the sport between the 90s and 2000s: from Becker to Sampras, up to the Williams sisters and Maria Sharapova
One could have loved or disdained his methods, and for many kids who have passed through him perhaps the second option was the most popular, but there is no doubt that Nick Bollettieri, who died this morning at the age of 91, revolutionized tennis, devising the “run and shoot” has now become the prevailing style of play and introducing into training the maniacal care of physical preparation and absolute respect for discipline, both borrowed from his military experience as a Marine.
Son of immigrants of Neapolitan origin, Nick grew up in Pelham, a stone’s throw from New York, in a multi-ethnic neighborhood where the only known sports are soccer (our football) and football. His father dreams of a career as a lawyer for him, but young Nick sees only tennis in his destiny. Already a philosophy graduate, he dropped out of law school in Miami after three months and began teaching on a public field in North Miami Beach. At the time he’s pocketing three dollars an hour, he’ll get 300 times that. The real miracle began in 1978, the year of the foundation of the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which in 1987 was bought by the management giant IMG which in any case left him the complete technical direction of the structure. The fundamentals are simple: talent is not enough, the young tennis player must face life by also strengthening his mind and body. His methods are certainly not conventional, but 12 future number one will pass through him: Agassi, Becker, Rios, Courier and Sampras among men; Serena and Venus Williams, Sharapova, Jankovic, Seles, Capriati and Hingis among the women.
Obviously, the most famous bond is the one with Agassi, the true prototype of his ideal player. Andre arrives at the Academy at the age of 14 to stay there for three weeks, he will leave after 9 years now drained, as he will tell in his famous autobiography, from a relationship always on the wire, he is a rebel genius led by a coach who does not tolerate the slightest mistake: yet it will be Agassi himself who will give him the first Grand Slam in his career and then support his candidacy for the Hall of Fame in 2014. Bollettieri’s, after all, is total dedication to his work: wake up at 4.45, workouts until 11.30 and then again from 5pm At the end of the day, relaxation consists of a few holes of golf. Bollettieri wasn’t a great player (someone jokes that he hardly knows how to play), but tennis went exactly in the direction he theorized. And his Academy has also developed and today it covers a land of 450 acres (from the initial 40) and offers work to 650 people. In all of this, he had time to marry eight times and raise seven children, without ever forgetting his Italian origins: he has always chosen Capri for his honeymoons. It was the same with Cindi, his last wife who gave the ideal definition: “When I married him I knew very well that I would be the lover: he has already married his Academy”. Goodbye, Nick. In your way, you were a giant.
December 5, 2022 (change December 5, 2022 | 10:03 am)
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