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Nick Bollettieri, groomer to tennis champions, dies at 91

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David R Legge, a journalist writing an authorized biography on Bollettieri, has confirmed his death. Legge said Bollettieri started having kidney problems several months ago and his health had deteriorated since then.

Bollettieri was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, RI, in 2014 as a “contributor” to the game. He joined just three other people honored solely for their coaching, the longtime Davis Cup captain Australian Harry Hopman and two other Americans, Vic Braden and Dr. Robert Johnson, an African-American junior tennis defender who mentored Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe.

Bollettieri co-founded the Port Washington Tennis Academy on Long Island in 1966, its star students including John McEnroe and Vitas Gerulaitis.

In the early 1980s he opened the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Florida on what were then tomato fields, pioneering the concept of residential facilities for promising junior tennis players. He sold it in 1987 to the sports agency IMG. Now known as the IMG Academy, it teaches young athletes in many sports and has dozens of tennis courts for the Bollettieri tennis program. Bollettieri, who founded this program, became its president.

Serena and Venus Williams, Monica Seles, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Marcelo Rios and Boris Becker are among the players who trained or boarded at the academy.

Bollettieri was known for his relentless driving style. As Sports Illustrated put it in 1980: “He yells at the kids, insults them. And they work harder. He grabs the players and orders them to leave the field. And they work harder. During the junior tournaments, when the Bollettieri contingent arrives, the other children look at them as if the Marines have just landed. They are the product of harder training.

Nicholas James Bollettieri was born on July 31, 1931 in Pelham, NY, in Westchester County. Her father, James, was a pharmacist and her mother, Mary Rita (DeFillipo) Bollettieri, was a homemaker.

He graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama in 1953 and then did his military service in an airborne division. After his release in 1957, he attended law school at the University of Miami. To earn money for his tuition, he taught tennis on area courts, charging $1.50 for a half-hour lesson, although his experience was limited to a few games at adolescence. His early students included Brian Gottfried, who went on to an outstanding tennis career.

Bollettieri left law school after a year and worked summers at the John D. Rockefeller estate in Pocantico Hills, a hamlet in the town of Westchester in Mount Pleasant, and winters at the Rockefeller-owned Doral Beach Hotel in Puerto Rico, becoming its tennis manager. He returned to Florida in 1978 and became an instructor at what was then the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort in Longboat Key before opening his academy in Bradenton.

The ABC News show “20/20” profiled the academy in its early years, bringing it national attention.

In 2014, Bollettieri was giving private lessons for $900 an hour.

“Nick is one of the youngest, most passionate guys on the planet,” Jim Courier, who had won four major singles titles, told The New York Times at the time. ” No nonsense. He doesn’t do it for the money. He likes to make a difference and make sense of it. As corny as that sounds, it’s true. He has family and more wives than anyone should ever have, but Nick is someone who wakes up in the morning and longs to go to the office. That’s what drives it forward. »

Bollettieri’s survivors include his eighth wife, Cindi Eaton; his children from various previous marriages, including his daughters, Danielle Bollettieri, Angelique Bollettieri, Nicole Bollettieri Kroenig and Alexandra Bollettieri; his sons, James, Giovanni and Giacomo; and four grandchildren.

Bollettieri was the editor of Tennis Magazine and published the memoirs “My Aces, My Faults” (1996, with Dick Schaap) and “Bollettieri: Changing the Game” (2014). He is the author of the educational book “Nick Bollettieri’s Tennis Handbook” (2001).

In his later years, Bollettieri reduced his schedule and did his training on indoor courts.

“Today the whole world is playing tennis, and many years ago there were about six countries,” Bollettieri told The Times in 2014. is much more difficult for me when someone comes and says, “Nick, tell us about another champion.” I’m very reluctant.

Alex Traub contributed report.

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