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The Everlasting Legacy Nick Bollettieri Left on the Sport of Tennis

Ben Shin

Nick Bollettieri, founder of IMG Academy, is one of tennis’s all time coaches.

Nick Bollettieri was born in Pelham, New York on July 31, 1931. When Bollettieri was in high school, he played quarterback on the football team. Later, he went to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama to study philosophy. Once there, he played collegiate tennis, not because he was good, but because they needed to fill in the lineup. Afterward, he joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and earned his bachelor's degree. Subsequently, entering the army for four years, he enrolled at the University of Miami for law. To support himself, however, he started teaching tennis at public courts in North Miami Beach. Soon after, Bollettieri became more invested in tennis and he dropped out of school to focus on teaching private lessons. He started by charging three dollars an hour which eventually became 900 dollars once he was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame.

Bollettieri traveled across North America, teaching tennis anywhere from New York to Puerto Rico. During his time traveling, he officially became a personal tennis coach by working for the Rockefellers at the Pocianto Hills Estate near New York. After more coaching, he co-founded Port Washington Tennis Academy in Long Island, New York with his student, Hy Zausner. He continued coaching at Port Washington until he established his own tennis club, Bollettieri Academy. The academy was located in Sarasota, Florida, at the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort. The players were offered living space at a former motel and had to live under strict rules during the weekdays. The Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy was the first place where you could live on campus, focus on school, but mainly, play tennis. In 1987, the academy was sold to IMG Academy and is now a 600-acre, world-class, multi-sport facility. Bollettieri continued to teach high-performing players including Boris Becker, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Jelena Janković, and Martina Hingis. Many of his students reached world number one, or at least, entered the top ten.

Bollettieri was an essential part to the game of tennis and influenced it in a way no one could imagine. He coached ten world number-one players and established the present-day template for sports academies. He built the first tennis academy which brought together school and tennis for young athletes with the main goal of getting a college scholarship or going professional. What made Bollettieri such a special coach was his ability to motivate his players and connect with them on another level. “He knows how to push your buttons, to make you do what you need to you,” said former number one Jim Courier. Even though Bollettieri passed away on December 4, 2022, his legacy will always be remembered in the tennis world.


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