Renowned tennis coach Nick Bollettieri dies at 91
Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world rankings.
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Nick Bollettieri, the legendary tennis coach who worked with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Andre Agassi and Monica Seles, and founded an academy that revolutionized the development of young athletes, has died. He was 91.
After a series of health issues, Bollettieri died Sunday night at home in Florida, his manager, Steve Shulla, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Monday.
Known for his gravelly voice, leathery skin and wraparound sunglasses — and a man who called himself the “Michelangelo of Tennis” despite never playing professionally — Bollettieri helped no fewer than 10 players who went on to be No. 1 in the world rankings. That group includes sisters Serena and Venus Williams, Jim Courier, Maria Sharapova, Agassi and Seles.
He remained active into his 80s, touring the world to drop in on the top tournaments and, in 2014, became only the fourth coach to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. That was the same year another one of his proteges, Kei Nishikori, reached the final of the U.S. Open.
Six of his pupils already are in the Hall of Fame, a number sure to grow once others are eligible.
“I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri said in his induction speech at the hall in Newport, Rhode Island. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”
“Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches & advocates,” Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter. “Nick was always positive & was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work w/him.”
Bollettieri’s first student to reach No. 1 was Boris Becker in 1991. Then came others, such as Martina Hingis, Marcelo Rios and Jelena Jankovic.
He bought a club in 1978, and students lived in his house. Two years later, he borrowed $1 million from a friend to build a first-of-its-kind complex in what had been a tomato field.
The site now has a boarding school, 55 tennis courts and facilities for seven other sports, including football, basketball and baseball.
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