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UK Coaching Team
5
Talent and Performance

Nick Bollettieri: Living and Breathing Tennis

Matt Majende meets tennis legend Nick Bollettieri to discuss his impressive tennis career. Bollettieri discusses his enthusiasm for coaching the sport and offers some top tips. Key to his coaching is adapting his approach to work for the individual

Nick Bollettieri, the tennis legend and human whirlwind, shows no sign of slowing down. At 82 years old, he still has the energy and exuberance of any number of 20-somethings.

This is a man who has lived and breathed tennis for most of his adult life, and yet he remains thoroughly in thrall to it all, so much so that his enthusiasm is addictive. In fact, it’s easy to see why an array of tennis greats – from Andre Agassi to Maria Sharapova, from Boris Becker to the Williams sisters – have turned to him at some point in their careers.

Then there is the infrastructure that he has set up. Thanks to a $1million loan from a wealthy friend in 1978, he founded his eponymous academy in Florida. He sold it to IMG in 1987 but is still president. Originally a 40-acre site, now it stretches to 11 times that and boasts 650 employees and 55 tennis courts. And each year, 30,000 people pass through its doors.

He also managed to get budding players to pack their bags and leave home for his academy so that they lived and breathed tennis too, immersed in the sport at all hours of the day. This was an approach that hadn’t previously been taken in tennis.

Changing the Game is the title of his book, and Bollettieri has undoubtedly done that.

Bolletieri’s remarkable career trajectory

Bolletieri’s heart was set on being a pilot, but he failed the test, so joined the US Army as a paratrooper just after the Korean War. He was stationed in Japan for two years.

His father had set his sights on his son becoming a lawyer, but he defied his dad’s wishes by dropping out of law school, and announcing plans to become ‘the best damn tennis coach in the world’. The problem was that he’d never reached that high a level in the sport and had no great grounding in tennis coaching.

Trying to unpick the secret of his success in nurturing talent, he says:

I just like life, being with kids and being with action, being with people most of all that want to achieve, and not people that want to sit on their butts. I love talking with people and having an impact on their lives.

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