He liked to pose with a bare, suntanned upper body, sunglasses and a tennis racket in front of his chest: Legendary coach Nick Bollettieri has now died at the age of 91, according to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, which he founded.
In his academy in Florida, the American formed numerous stars, among his protégés were Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki, the former German number one, Tommy Haas, and in the meantime also Boris Becker. He formed tennis celebrities such as Andre Agassi, Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Anna Kurnikova into world stars.
Farewell post from Haas
A few weeks ago, Bollettieri's daughter announced that her father was about to move "to the next place". Haas said goodbye to his former coach in an emotional post on Instagram. "You were a dreamer and a doer and a pioneer in our sport, really unique," wrote the former world number two.
Lisicki tweeted that Bollettieri gave many children a place to work on their dreams. He supported her with his knowledge and the belief that anything is possible. "I was lucky enough to be one of them," Lisicki wrote. Bollettieri helped shape tennis. He looked after the three-time Wimbledon winner Becker for a year and a half between 1993 and 1995, Bollettieri ended the employment relationship shortly before the start of the US Open.
The former skydiver founded his academy in Bradenton in 1978 and throughout his life was also considered a PR professional who knew how to market himself. "Tennis would not be where it is today without Nick's influence," said Jimmy Arias, tennis director at IMG Academy Bollettieri, in a statement Monday.
Hard training was the recipe for the later success of his protégés, many of whom trained with him as children. This also brought a lot of criticism to Bollettieri, who himself attached great importance to his personal fitness. The relationship with Agassi broke up despite his success.
"I never thought"
"There are many negative things that I've done. But if I had thought before doing things, I wouldn't be where I am today," Bollettieri told "Spiegel" five years ago. "I never thought. That's me. Yes, that's the way I made mistakes."
Agassi, who is married to Steffi Graf, described the academy in his autobiography as a "better prison camp" and lamented: "We are served beige meat, gelatinous stews and gray cardboard with rice and sleep in rickety bunk beds lined up against the wooden wall in the dormitory." In summary, the American found: "Like most prisoners, we spend our time sleeping and working, and our quarry is the tennis court."
Haas, on the other hand, had other memories of the former soldier Bollettieri. The American-by-choice and director of the Indian Wells tournament wrote in an endearingly ironic way that he will miss the way Bollettieri showed off his tan, his white teeth and his body fat. "I miss seeing you do tai chi, play golf with you, and see you try to cheat, eat a Snickers and run into the bushes." He also misses hearing Bollettieri's plans at age 91, Haas added. "Thank you again for everything. Rest In Peace Nickiiiiii."