An Interview with Nick Bollettieri

Nicholas James Bolletieri (1)

Filip Orth
Student at Santa Clara University, Freelancer
Bratislava, Slovakia

Nicholas James Bollettieri is an American tennis coach with a passion for life that he likes to pass on and an unbelievable record of accomplishments in the development of tennis players.

 

He has participated in the development of many leading players, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Mary Pierce. He also worked with Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchová, Jelena Janković, Nicole Vaidišová, Sabine Lisicki, Sara Errani, Tommy Haas, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Marcelo Ríos, Kei Nishikori, and coached Boris Becker for two years.

Nicholas James Bolletieri

Nicholas James Bollettieri

 

Born in New York on July 31st, 1931, he graduated from Spring Hill College with a degree in philosophy.

In his early career in the 1970s, he was a tennis director at various hotels and tennis resorts.

Nick Bollettieri is the creator of the tennis academy concept, the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, now the IMG Academy. It opened in 1978 near Bradenton, Florida, on 40 acres (162,000 m²) on the west coast of Florida, about 50 miles (80km) south of Tampa. NBTA was the first major tennis boarding school and it changed the way tennis was taught at the elite junior level.

In 2008, Bollettieri was honored at the New York College of Health Professions with an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters for his contribution to the world of sports, fitness, and wellness.

In 2014, he was inducted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

 

Nicholas James Bolletieri is legend. He has participated in the development of many leading players, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Mary Pierce. He also worked with Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchová, Jelena Janković, Nicole Vaidišová, Sabine Lisicki, Sara Errani, Tommy Haas, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Marcelo Ríos, Kei Nishikori, and coached Boris Becker for two years.

Nicholas James Bollettieri is legend. He has participated in the development of many leading players, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, and Mary Pierce. He also worked with Maria Sharapova, Daniela Hantuchová, Jelena Janković, Nicole Vaidišová, Sabine Lisicki, Sara Errani, Tommy Haas, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, Marcelo Ríos, Kei Nishikori, and coached Boris Becker for two years.

 

Nick Bollettieri for UnitedLife

by Filip Orth

 

You are very well known in the tennis world. You were the coach of several world´s tennis stars, who have reached the first place in WTA or ATP rankings. Could you tell us and describe how did you actually get into this enticing, yet specific sport?

My introduction to tennis started when I was 16 years old. My main sport was American football and that was my focus in high school so I did not play tennis tournaments or have a ranking in high school. I did, however, play four years of college tennis for Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. I graduated from college in 1953 and went into US military service for two and a half years. I was a First Lieutenant in the 187th Airborne R.C.T., where I became a Master Paratrooper. I was honorably discharged from the military in 1956 and then attended law school at the University of Miami for three months. I began teaching tennis in North Miami Beach at Victory Park for $3.00 per hour with very limited experience or knowledge in 1956, while attending law school, to make some extra money. It was really an accident that I got into teaching tennis.

 

The beginning of your stellar tennis career is linked to the launch of your own academy in Florida, in 1978. It has been more than 35 years – what do you think was crucial for the academy to be where it is today?

I started the first live-in academy of the world and created the academy training model. My concept was new to the world and it created a lot of publicity worldwide. The academy has stayed at the top of the industry because of our desire to be the best, our passion for the sport(s) and our students’ successes, and the teamwork of our staff.

 

Tennis Academy founded by Nicholas James Bolletieri

Tennis Academy founded by Nicholas James Bollettieri

One of your most famous students was Andre Agassi. It is well known that he hated trainings, yet he played matches unbelievably. Besides the fact that he was talented, why do you think he was such a great tennis player?

God created a person in Andre Agassi with hands, eyes, and feet that worked together with lightning speed and with the precision of a Rolex watch. His father told him when he was just four or five years of age to hit the ball as hard as he could and not to worry if it goes out. This aggressive, yet thoughtful shot-making mentality was also crucial, along with Andre’s commitment to physical training in later years.

 

Right now you are working with players like Kei Nishikori. Since you trained several generations of players, do you see any differences between the past and today´s generation in regards to tennis?

Kei Nishikori has some of the same gifts and traits that Andre had. Kei has exceptional feet and hands and he is a shot-maker. Kei has a dedicated team to support and advise him. The difference in today’s game is that it is much more offensive, there can be no technical weaknesses, and it is much more physical. Physical training, nutrition, mental training, all have greater importance. The size and athletic ability of the players has also increased significantly.

 

Andre Agassi and Nick Bolletieri

Andre Agassi and Nick Bollettieri

In your opinion, will there be any further improvement of shots, technique etc., in terms of the game of tennis?

Today’s top players must be able to do everything well and also have a few exceptional shots which can help them WIN points, for example, a killer forehand or a very strong serve. I think, as the game progresses and the players become better and better athletes, the ability to have an all-court game will become more and more important.

 

What is the key rule during a game of tennis?

For me, the key rule in tennis is to respect the sport and respect your opponent.

 

Nicholas James Bolletieri (3)

When you train players, what is that secret recipe that makes them better?

My success is the ability to understand that there are no two people alike in the world and that to influence and impact them you have to listen to them and understand what makes them tick. I have the ability to instill in them that “They CAN do it!” I make small adjustments to their games, but work within their styles. I also make adjustments and fixes very simple.

 

During your entire career, which one of your students has become the closest or the most favorite to you? Who is that? Whose career are you watching? Is there anyone like that? Why?

All of my students are special to me and hold a special place in my life.

Nicholas James Bolletieri (1)

Nick on Fatigue – It Can Be a Mental Toughener and a Psychological Teacher

Players, as well as non-players for that matter, can learn that fatigue need not be an impassable barrier, but an obstacle that can be overcome. When you are in a tennis match and you are tired, acknowledge that you are tired, but tell yourself that you will find a way to battle through that feeling. Let it be a challenge to you. All you tennis players and non-tennis players, it has been proven over and over again that a positive attitude and mindset can allow you to overcome the actual existing facts.

Athletes Are Not Perfect, In Fact, No One Is

As human beings we are very unique because we can adapt to many circumstances and situations. We are also, however, at the mercy of an imperfect machine, our human body. The body changes all the time. Bjorn Borg, Martina Hingis, and Chris Evert accepted that they were not perfect and engineered their games in such a way to have the odds in their favor as they built their points.



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