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Tennis Legend Nick Bollettieri Passed Away at the Age of 91

Legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri with former tennis pro Anne White at the historic Los Angeles Tennis Club in March of 2017.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame announced the passing of Tennis Hall of Famer Nick Bollettieri this week. Bollettieri passed away at the age of 91 on December 4, 2022. He was best known as the first to create what would eventually became tennis’ first full-fledged academy changing the way young players are trained for professional tennis.

“Nick Bollettieri, a highly charismatic tennis coach who worked with 10 players ranked No. 1 in the world and is one of only five coaches enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame died on December 4 at the age of 91. A relentless passion for tennis, coupled with a movie star-like persona and a 24-7 work ethic, made Bollettieri one of tennis’ larger-than-life personalities for decades,” wrote ITHF Historian-at-Large, Joel Drucker.

“The Bollettieri portfolio of students includes six Hall of Famers: Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Boris Becker, Martina Hingis, and Mary Pierce. Add to this several likely to be enshrined once eligible for induction: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Maria Sharapova, among them. Bollettieri also greatly aided the growth of dozens of players who cracked the top-20 in the world in singles and enjoyed productive careers, including Paul Annacone, Jimmy Arias, Carling Bassett, Tatiana Golovin, Brian Gottfried, Tommy Haas, Kathleen Horvath, Jelena Jankovic, Anna Kournikova, Aaron Krickstein, Sabine Lisicki, Xavier Malisse, Max Miryni, David Wheaton, Anne White, and many more,” wrote Drucker.

“The global tennis community has been deeply saddened by the passing of one of our sport’s true legends in Nick Bollettieri,” wrote LATC Tennis Director Zach Gilbert. “I was lucky enough to have had the privilege of training at Nick’s academy as a teenager. His boundless passion and energy made a profound impact on my life and so many others. Nick spoke at the LATC a few years back, and it brings me joy to know that many of our members got to meet him and experience his one of a kind exuberance.”

In 2017, Bollettieri spoke at the Los Angeles Tennis Club about his life and his philosophy of the game. He was introduced by Anne White, one of his tennis protégées who reached Number 21 in the world in women’s tennis. She was an honorary member of the LATC and lived in Hancock Park at the time.

Tennis Professional Anne White with Nick Bollettieri and Filmmaker Jill Mazursky

“Nick’s passion, discipline and perseverance changed the game of tennis but his heart changed the lives of every person he met,” White told the Buzz. White, herself a Hall of Famer, created a documentary with filmmaker Jill Mazursky on Bollettieri’s extraordinary life and contributions to the sport.

In 20917, we reported that Bollettieri, was remarkably fit and agile at 85 when his spoke at LATC. He delighted the audience with tales of his early days in tennis.

As a coach, Bollettieri prided himself on never trying to change a player. He preferred to offer tips.

“Slowly players are making changes without even knowing it,” Bollettieri explained. “Never let a child go home thinking they are a failure,” said Bollettieri quoting “Vince Lombardi who once said, I never lost a  game, I just ran out of time.”

Bollettieri spent the next ninety minutes sharing tips and anecdotes about coaching great players, how the game has changed, why US men’s tennis is in the doldrums (Bollettieri says the sport has become too expensive, too exclusive; he provided scholarships), current players to watch, etc.

He shared lessons the following from his life:

  • Never be jealous, it wastes too much energy.
  • Don’t be ashamed to admit you are nervous.
  • Take advantage of the first ball.
  • Never retire, do something.
  • Never use the words “I can’t.
  • You can’t hit a ball you can’t reach.
  • The best players don’t have any weaknesses
  • Surround yourself with people who share your values.
Bollettieri answered a question from Diego Marin and Lucas Ghobrial while Diego’s dad Rick Marin and Anne White listened in. (photo from March 2017)
Bollettieri signs an autograph for LATC teaching pro Melissa Nguyen (photo from March 2017)

Click here to read the extensive obituary by Drucker celebrating Bollettieri.

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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