Coaching Legend Nick Bollettieri Passes Away at 91

Coaching Legend Nick Bollettieri Passes Away at 91

3 min read

Universal Tennis is saddened by the passing of Nick Bollettieri, a close friend and one of the most influential coaches and legends in tennis history. Bollettieri was 91. He leaves behind his wife Cindy and eight children, Jimmy, Angel, Danny, Sean, Nicole, Alex, Giovanni, and Giacomo.

Bollettieri and his son Sean Bollettieri, the owner of The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach, have worked closely with Universal Tennis CEO Mark Leschly. Bollettieri’s IMG Academy is an important partner of Universal Tennis and is closely aligned with the mission to grow tennis globally.

“Nick was a close friend, and the tennis world feels this loss deeply,” said Universal Tennis CEO Mark Leschly. “He was a brilliant innovator, powerful leader, and one of the biggest supporters of the game in history. His resounding legacy will influence generations of players, coaches, and entrepreneurs to come.”

Bollettieri’s journey to legendary status had humble beginnings in the 1950s. He began coaching for $1.50 an hour after briefly playing college tennis at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala, and serving as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army 187th Airborn Division for two years. Tennis lessons were initially a means to make extra cash while pursuing a law degree from the University of Miami (before dropping out).

He turned his attention to a career in full-time coaching, moving up the ranks and eventually securing a loan to open the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy (NBTA) in 1978 in Longboat Key, which later became the IMG Academy in nearby Bradenton.

The NBTA became the first live-in tennis academy of its kind — anchored by Bollettieri’s military-like discipline, which he developed in the U.S. Army, and his powerful motivational speaking. Today, the IMG Academy campus covers hundreds of acres and includes soccer, golf, swimming, football, and more.

Nick Bollettieri
Nick Bollettieri was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. (AP Photo: Michael Dwyer)

Bollettieri revolutionized junior development forever by creating a tennis factory model with fitness, instruction, competition, housing, and education all in one place. By instituting a fully immersive experience, he changed how tennis could be taught, allowing players to have everything they need to succeed, including competition and access to the best facilities, coaches, and mentors.

Bollettieri, a father of eight, took in many young talents over the decades, treating them as part of his own family and giving them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue tennis seriously. He would coach 10 No. 1 players and Grand Slam champions, and many Top-10 stars. His many pupils included Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Mary Pierce, Jelena Jankovic, Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, and Serena and Venus Williams.

“I think most people do things they know that can be a success, and crazy people do things that people say can't be done,” Bollettieri told Mark Leschly during their All-Access Series episode in 2020. “And that's why only a few people will reach a pinnacle of success like this.”

Bollettieri authored two books, My Aces, My Faults, released in 1996, and an autobiography titled BOLLETTIERI - Changing the Game in 2014. He received numerous awards and honors and appeared in magazines and documentaries, including the 2017 Showtime hit Love Means Zero.

Anyone who has had the privilege of meeting Bollettieri or learning from his legacy knows that he championed the sport's growth and worked to make it more accessible for everyone, regardless of their geographic location, financial status, age, or gender. These values mirror Universal Tennis' goals to help players worldwide access everything the sport offers.

Bollettieri was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014, one of just four coaches bestowed the honor (along with Vic Braden, Harry Hopman, and Dr. Robert Johnson).

Bollettieri's life celebration will be held on March 18, 2023, at the IMG Academy.

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