Nick Bollettieri: His Thoughts on Wimbledon, Top Ranking Players and Connecting with Young Athletes

Nick Bollettieri: His Thoughts on Wimbledon, Top Ranking Players and Connecting with Young Athletes

Interview by Declan Holt

Nick Bollettieri is one of the most influential people in the world of tennis and a legend who has transcended the sport. In 1978, he founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida. It was this proven method that Nick used to coach ten #1 players in the world – Agassi, Becker, Courier, Hingis, Jankovic, Rios, Seles, Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams, as well as a multitude of other world-class players, including: Haas, Kournikova, Arias and Vaidisova, to name a few. The Academy quickly became synonymous with tennis excellence and its coaches and students continue to reflect Nick’s passion for excellence and the game.

We’re always grateful for your time Nick, can you give us your thoughts on Wimbledon this year?

First of all Wimbledon will always be Wimbledon. It’s amazing how the mystique and the tradition just keeps rolling along and to me I hope that never stops. Now it’s pretty interesting because of the talk; where is Nadal? That without a doubt to me was extremely exciting and let me say this; Murray did not lose, he got beat.

He did all he could do and the talk of course was, ‘Holy Mackerel! Look at Federer play, look at the impact Hedberg made on him’. He’s got him standing in closer to the baseline with a bigger racquet and he’s coming forward. He’s playing brilliantly but in the end Djokovic has earned this. If you go back to five or six years ago people were saying ‘He doesn’t train, he’s out of shape.’ Well look what the teamwork did; finding a nutritionist that was able to really help him and now look what he’s doing today.

Now lets give a little note to Boris Becker. Boris Becker was a former student of mine, he’s very strong-minded but he’s a very simple person. And when I gave him tips he said ‘Nick you’re brilliant because you tell me just a little thing.’ Boris hasn’t tried to change Djokovic, he gives him little tips here and there. And what you might say, which I think will be of great interest, it’s too bad that Tiger Woods’ coaches don’t follow. A coach like Boris Becker or Nick Bollettieri follow a simple little tip; you don’t change champions. That’s what’s happened to Tiger Woods, changing his whole game.

Lets go to the Ladies…

Somehow the great champions in life, in business, in whatever you do; nine out of ten times they will find a way to win. Serena Williams, she was down and out, Heather Watson had her. But only a few people can do what Serena Williams does. Is she going to retire? I believe, in her mind she wants to break the all time record. Not for the money, not for the trophies but to stand on top and say ‘I’ve been there, I’ve had the best record of all time.’

Wimbledon, I enjoy my time there, I enjoy it there because it’s totally different to the US Open which is my other favourite – the tradition, the ball boys, how they handle things.

Lets go to the Ladies…

Somehow the great champions in life, in business, in whatever you do; nine out of ten times they will find a way to win. Serena Williams she was down and out, Heather Watson had her. But only a few people can do what Serena Williams does, is she going to retire? I believe in her mind she wants to break the all time record. Not for the money, not for the trophies but to stand on top and say ‘I’ve been there, I’ve had the best record of all time’

Wimbledon, I enjoy my time there, I enjoy it there because its totally different to the US open which is my other favourite – the tradition, the ball boys, how they handle things.

Do you have any thoughts on Tomic, his relationships within tennis and his behavior at the moment?

Well let me say this, anytime you’re in the limelight, you’re a model for your sport and for your country. You have to be very careful when the spotlight is on you and even though the spotlight might be shining dim the press and the people will make it very bright.

When you’ve earned the reputation of being a big-time player, then you have to respect that position. I don’t know what’s happened but I would like to say this; when you’re in the limelight no matter what you do, you’re going to be watched and things will be blown out of proportion. If you fell down one step, you’ve fallen down a whole flight of stairs. That’s the penalty of being in the limelight.

You’ve got to remember though things like that will follow you for the rest of your life. Most people won’t remember the good you’ve done; they remember the negatives of life because they don’t want to acknowledge the good.

It’s great to get your insights on the current playing field, we were watching your ‘Attack’ video with Andrea Agassi and it made us wonder how your philosophy may have evolved from that point in time, a lot of it was about getting through the ball early and having that attack mind set has it changed much as the current players come through?

No, in fact Andre worked hours and you know how he developed his backhand? He took the bottom hand off and played with the top hand, he gambled here and there and he made a living, why? Because the top hand is the key to the two-handed backhand and that’s how Andre developed that backhand, he developed it by taking the right hand off and playing with that top hand as the right hand, the bottom hand only holds the racquet, the top hand does all the work.

And also if you notice when Andre was three or four feet behind the baseline he went for depth and didn’t go for winners. He waited until his depth for the defensive ball, then he would go around his opponent with an inside out forehand or backhand down the line.

Another interesting thing, I didn’t let Andre start learning the slice until he was about 16 years old. I made him go up and hit those backhands, now you want the slice absolutely but you want the slice to be a change of pace not every single stroke. So everybody reading here play with that top hand and you also want to have great racquet head speed when you hit that backhand. At the end of the backhand the palm of the top hand should be to the outside. If it’s to the outside then you’ve accelerated on contact.

I just came out with the first teaching aid of my 60 years called the Ace Trainer. It’s on the tennis channel and what it does is to make you increase your racquet head speed because the majority of people try to get more power through physically with their legs and not racquet head speed.

Also on my website is a membership subscription, its four dollars a month nickbollettieri.com and it gives information starting fifty five years ago. Motivational how to prepare for college, what to do, how parents should greet their children, how coaches should talk to people, how to get a little better physically, tips on doubles and tips on singles.

Nick’s Tip: Admit that you’re nervous, remember if you’re not nervous you’re not a human being. So if you admit that you are nervous and learn how to get over those nerves quicker than your opponent you win a lot more points.

Nick Bollettieri
When I was a paratrooper, when I made my first jump, this little Private said to me ‘Mr Lieutenant are you nervous?’ I said ‘I’ve got a diaper on son but I’m going to jump.’ But I admitted I was nervous and that’s what people have got to do.

The other thing that the website brings out is how to talk to young children, because a coach and a parent can change the personality of young children by negative voice and by putting them down.

There is nothing wrong with giving feedback but do it in a very positive manner and I’m telling you parents today greet their children by asking them what the score was. My grandmother greeted me by saying ‘Sonny, bene qua, grandma loves you, were you a good boy in school, did you try?’ that was how my grandmother greeted me, so this is good advice for the people reading today, learn how to greet your children.

Remember parents should demand that their children try everything that they can do, and if they do that they’re a winner, maybe not by sport but they are a winner.

So this is what the website is about, it’s very interesting and now my book is out in Australia, it’s called Bolletieri: Changing The Game. More what the players thought of Nick and what I did to be where I am.

Three days ago I became, I believe, the first white Caucasian to be inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame with Arthur Ash and that to me means an awful lot.

I grew up with Blacks and Italians and we’re all a part of the same family, I started the Ash-Bolletierri program, the inner city programs but being inducted to the International Hall of Fame was something to dream of but I’ll tell you what, if I had to make a decision I would rather be inducted to the Black Tennis Hall of Fame because I’m giving children hope.

Remember a coach today is more than teaching the student how to hit a ball. He’s a father, a mother, he’s everything. He’s more than just a person that shows you how to hit a ball.

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