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Nick Bollettieri Interview - page 2

Nick Bollettieri and Ana Kournikova
( Photo credit: Art Seitz ©2009 )

Anna Kournikova with Nick Bolliettieri

     Is it true that you charge $900 for a one-hour private lesson?
     Yes sir. That is true. In our lesson, we have a complete DVD crew, a camera crew, a hitter. Then we do a full report with the lesson, including a copy of the DVD. The one-hour lesson has so much value because it also helps the coach that works with the student when the student takes the DVD back home. It gives the parents and the student a great insight into exactly what we are talking about.

     What is your typical day like now?
     I get up at 4 a.m. I do my stretching on the floor. Then I get to the gym about 4:25, and I work out about 30 to 40 minutes on light weights and lots of sit-ups and push-ups, and then my first lesson is at 5 a.m. when I work with my 4 to 6 scholarship students, including Vicky [Duval]. Then 6 to 7:30 is private lessons. 7:30 to 9 I work with the general group by giving 4-minute lessons with their coach present, a DVD crew present, and a hitter. And within 24 hours their group coach e-mails the parents exactly what Nick has suggested to work with. Four times a year we send a DVD to the parents letting them see Nick work with their children and their group coach.

Nine o'clock to 10 is usually with the top students of the world. Ten to 11:30 is private lessons. From 11:30 to 1 o'clock I have a meeting with my business staff of which my wife is my key manager. From 1 to 1:30 I'm with the staff for meetings where I listen to the director and the coaches and give my input. From 1:30 to 2:30 I'm back [teaching] with the general academy again. I give approximately 30 4-minute lessons a day with the general academy. From 2:30 to 6:30 I give private lessons. Then at 6:30 my wife and I eat dinner. We have our niece as our own chef.

Then I do my e-mails that my executive assistant could not answer herself because I feel that if a person takes their time to e-mail me, they certainly deserve a personal answer. David Portnowitz takes care of my website, and my blog [www.nickstennispicks.com] was nominated for the Tennis Blog of the Year for 2008 by OnTheBaseline.com. David spends 10 to 12 hours a day on that website and the academy website. Then, after dinner my wife Cindi does most of the writing. I write columns that are published in nine countries. So we're very busy doing that. I do that schedule five and a half days a week.

On Saturday afternoon I play 18 to 27 holes of golf. On Sunday morning I either go to church or play 18 holes of golf. Then I bike ride with my wife.

     And you're 77 years old?
     Yes, sir.

     Where do you get all this energy?
     I don't know, Paul. I hope to do a tandem jump with the Black Knights Parachute Team at West Point, but it is not definite quite yet. For part of my biography, my writer will spend two days at West Point to learn and write about the impact that West Point has had on me. It's going to be an un-edited biography with all my wives included on the interview list of the 100 people who have played a role in my life. It's going to be a very interesting book.

     What do you do away from the academy?
     I'm doing a lot more speeches. Last year when I spoke at West Point [U.S. Military Academy], they gave me a saber [sword] to show their appreciation for the impact that it made. I speak at Harvard. I speak all over the world for corporations and in the inner city. Last year I received the Honorary Doctorate from the NY College of Health Professions and was its commencement speaker. I just won the Tennis Daily News "Man of the Year" award at Palm Springs [California]. On the May 29th weekend, I will be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame as the Distinguished American Sportsman. President George H.W. Bush and [legendary comedian-actor] Bob Hope have received this award.

     Your state-of-the-art gym is also known as the IMG Performance Institute. What makes it so special?
     What makes it so special are the facilities and the charisma and the ambience of what goes on in that gym. You find little kids there all the way up to Eli Manning and Nomar Garciaparra and Alex Smith and Drew Brees. You can see a youngster 11 or 12 right next to a pro football or baseball star. We have state-of-the-art facilities that include two NBA basketball courts. Everything [an athlete needs] is right there on those 300 acres − their living quarters, their restaurant. It's sort of a sports city. The New York Times many years ago described the academy as a sports city. But what makes it special is the ambience created by the youngsters seeing the great athletes train and rehab and compete. Our mental approach to the game is fantastic. We also have a game called "Game On" that teaches young boys and girls how to react to college and pro interviews and how to react to one another and how to attract sponsorships. We've added a lot to the academy, including a pre-school all the way up to our branch connection with the University of Miami. We also average about 30 to 40 adult tennis students a week. And they love training next to the kids with all their spirit.

     The best player currently training at your academy is Jelena Jankovic, who finished 2008 ranked No. 1. What will it take for Jelena to win a Grand Slam title?
     Jelena can't pray for her opponents to miss shots. At the U.S. Open last year, she had many opportunities to attack Serena [in the final], but she didn't do it. By the way, Serena will be with me at the academy at the end of April to get ready for the European clay-court season. The Williamses and I have always had an excellent relationship. To win a Grand Slam title, you have to feel and believe you're a Grand Slam winner before the battle. You can't wait for your opponent to doublefault or to give you match point. Great champions in every sport, and even in business, go after you. They earn the match point. That's what Jelena has to learn to do.

     All things considered, is the tennis academy structure the best way to master the three phases of learning − mastering strokes, constructing points through court geometry and strategy, and developing a competitive mentality? Or is private one-on-one coaching the best way because it gives players more individual customization?
     First, the academy is not for everybody, and private instruction is not for everybody. You have to evaluate the student, his background, the family background. A lot of questions have to be answered before you conclude whether the academy is the best way. You also have to remember that our academy gives a lot of individual instruction. We have two courts that do only private lessons all day. The academy has the advantage because it provides international competition. In 99 out of 100 cases, you can't make it [to the pros] without a lot of competition. However, Richard Williams took a different road, and it was very successful. But almost everyone has to have regular competition to see how they react. Do they practice well but then play poorly in competition? Or is it just the opposite? Is there a technical breakdown? Is there a physical breakdown? I believe you can learn a lot by watching people from different countries play different styles. That said, I believe you must have some individual help as well to develop.

     Some observers contend that your strength is working with 15- to 18-year-olds with finished strokes, as opposed to, say a Robert Lansdorp, who specializes in developing superb strokes at an earlier age. Do you agree with that?
     Robert Lansdorp has done a terrific job with strokes. But let's go back to Maria Sharapova. She went to Robert Lansdorp with my strokes. She was with us for the first three or four years [after she arrived in America]. So I don't know whether your assertion is true. Some of my strengths include technique at an early age. I've come through the time of Brian Gottfried where the Eastern grip, and even the Continental grip, for the forehand was used. So I'm able to see at our academy what's needed for everybody.

My strength is a combination of finishing students' games along with motivating them and making adjustments to their games, which I seem to do extremely well. Probably my biggest strength is seeing a player and then making a very simple adjustment for their game. Robert has done a terrific job in teaching those flat groundstrokes. But in today's game you have to have more than just flat groundstrokes. But Robert's students have done a great job on the tour.

     When people say you produce only baseliners and no serve and volleyers, how do you rebut them?
     We can do that very easily. Our staff features Brian Gottfried for 10 weeks a year. In the 1970s and early '80s, he was one of the top volleyers in the world, the No. 1 doubles player and No. 3 singles player in the world. He did a lot of serve and volleying. When they said I couldn't teach the volley, back in '87 and '88, I said, "The hell with them, and I told my players, ‘Just go and swing at the ball.' " So my swinging volley is now one of the sport's basic strokes that Courier and Seles and Andre [Agassi] made famous. Besides Gottfried, I also produced serve and volleyers in Paul Annacone, Eric Korita, Mike DePalmer, Chip Hooper and Anne White. Hey, my answer to these critics is that I've been involved with ten No. 1 players in the world, so I must be doing something right. And remember I learned a lot from Boris Becker. I didn't have Boris as a youngster, but I certainly learned a lot about serve-and-volleying when I worked with Boris [in 1994-'95].

     "One thing I learned at the academy is being competitive," Jelena Jankovic told Tennis magazine. "We fought all day in matches like our lives depended on it. You had to play everyone; that's where I learned to battle it out." Agassi and Courier said the same thing. Is this "survival of the fittest" competition and mentality the biggest reason why the tennis academy system of developing players is successful?
     That's just about right. We've also been smart enough to add the physical, the mental, the preventative medicine to the whole program. So, what Jelena says about "survival of the fittest" is absolutely right. But to each player's development, you also have to add strength, movement and exercises for injury prevention.
    
     Billie Jean King praised you as "the ultimate motivator." Tracy Austin said: "Nick understands how to instill confidence, how to make people believe in themselves." What are the secrets of your motivational and confidence-building success?
     It's very nice of Tracy Austin to say that. You have to believe the message and work the message every day to instill confidence. That's exactly what I've tried to do all my life. You have to persuade players that they have to pay the price physically to succeed. When you give a speech, you have to have the facts accurate and give true stories. I'm Italian, and we Italians are a little flamboyant, and we feel strongly about ourselves. I believe my Italian background has certainly helped me. You want to surround yourself with winners, people who are optimistic. That's how I can get more out of my students than they think they have to give.

Express India newspaper reported that the Jaidip Mukherjea Tennis Academy, which brings tennis to the underprivileged, is contemplating a link-up with your academy. Would you please tell me about that.
     Right now, we are in discussions with a lot of options in India. We hope in the next four to six weeks to tie in because several opportunities are there. We haven't decided until we do a lot more research, but Mukherjea is certainly one group we're talking to because catering to the people who can't afford tennis has always been a high priority to me. We're trying to develop a long-term relationship for the whole country of India with their coaches, with their students. We want their students to come here as well as me going there to give clinics.

     In your autobiography, you wrote: "I know I'm the best tennis coach in the world. I have no doubts about that." Why did you say that?
     I said I'm the best coach in the world because that's the way I actually feel. I'm unusual because God has given me the talent to understand people and know how to relate to them. No two people are the same. One of the keys to coaching is being able to spot those idiosyncrasies in people very quickly, and then be able to deliver a message that they can understand and believe and follow.

     Who are the other great coaches in tennis today?
     Jose Higueras is very good. Larry Stefanki does a hell of a job. Robert Lansdorp has done a darn good job teaching groundstrokes. Paul Annacone and Brad Gilbert have done a great job. Darren Cahill is a terrific coach and a unique person. He knows how to relate in a very calm way. People believe in him. And his record speaks for itself. Uncle Toni has done amazing things with Rafael Nadal, and Richard and Oracene Williams deserve credit for their fantastic work with Venus and Serena.

     What about Patrick McEnroe?
     Patrick McEnroe belongs in that elite group, too. He's a jack of all trades. You saw Roddick's backhand change. I always felt if I had coached Roddick, his backhand would have been much more like Agassi's, which would have given Roddick even more success. When Roddick was with Patrick at the [2008] U.S. Open, his backhand had spin and direction, and he could dip it and angle it. And he could hit a heavy ball because of the use of his top hand and his exaggerated follow-through, rather than hitting it with just his stiff arms. That has made a big difference in Roddick's game, and a lot of credit goes to Patrick McEnroe. Patrick is knowledgeable because he's been a top player, a Davis Cup captain, he's run instruction programs, he's been an individual coach, and he's head coach of the USTA's elite program. So he's had lots and lots of experience.

     One trend is that some highly promising juniors live and train at the Bollettieri Academy but bring their own private coaches with them. Please tell me which leading players do this as well as give me your opinion of this arrangement.
     Many of the leading players bring their own coaches, including Maria Sharapova, Michaella Krajicek, Jelena Jankovic, Nicole Vaidisova and Daniela Hantuchova, just to name a few. It's a trend today that when a student is on the road, it certainly helps for them to have somebody help them with all the requirements that a coach must do. That includes handling travel arrangements, racket stringing, being a mama, being a papa, and so many practice sessions, getting them ready with all their superstitions. When you have a coach at the academy and a family is able to afford an on-the-road coach, it's very helpful to have that coach work at the academy and then go on the road with that student so you have that continuity.

     Besides Brian Gottfried, which other big names recently joined the academy teaching staff?
     We hired Brian Gottfried for one week a month for the entire year because he brings fantastic work habits, respect, integrity, honesty and an overall knowledge of the game. Brian will work with players of all levels, including the adults. He's working with every single student. Brad Gilbert knows how to win. We all know that Brad's strokes were so ugly that I had to wear my Oakleys [sunglasses] all those years because his strokes gave me bloodshot eyes when I used to watch him. Brad brings the experience of coaching so many top players, having the perspective of being a TV analyst, and a broad knowledge of the tennis world today. Ricardo Ycaza brings the ability for us to put him on the road because he's a former Davis Cup player and captain [from Ecuador], and he knows what to do when the kids are away on the road. These three coaches will bring in new ideas. Brian and Brad were my former students, so it's nice to keep this all in the family. They know the strong work ethic that I instilled in them.

     In your autobiography, you confided that "I've always believed in getting even," and one reason why you wanted to coach Mary Pierce was that one day she might beat Monica Seles whom you said had betrayed you and the academy. When you coached Boris Becker, you wanted him to beat Andre Agassi whom you felt disrespected you at one point. Do you still believe in getting even? Or have you mellowed?
     Getting even doesn't really do anything for you. One of the major mistakes I made was to part with Andre Agassi by writing him a letter. I should never have done that. It hurt Andre to see me with Boris. I can understand that because our relationship was very, very close. It would be very difficult for me or anyone to be mad at Monica Seles. She is a good example of what sports is about. She's never once complained about what happened [being stabbed during a Hamburg tournament in 1993] in the prime of her career. She's a lady both on and off the court.

Both Andre and Monica are very close to me. They were a part of my life, and they always will be. The speech that Andre gave through a DVD at my 30th anniversary shows our relationship goes far beyond just words. I hope what he has done with his life and his school for disadvantaged children [in Las Vegas] is an example of what can be done by other athletes who make it big. Only a few coaches can have the experience I've had with people like Andre and Monica.

     Monica recently told me that she very much wants you to be selected for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
     If you go through all of your past champions, you'd find it difficult to find anyone like Monica Seles. She is just a kind soul. And what made her so good is when she went on the court, she was meaner than a snake. But she was always ladylike, and she always respected the sport. That's why it's fantastic she is being inducted into the Hall of Fame [in July].

During the past 50 years, which players were the most enjoyable to coach on the courts, and which players did you have the most fun with off the courts?
     Tommy Haas has a split personality like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. He's a good guy off the courts, but can be difficult on the courts. Mark Philippoussis was great to travel with. My experiences with the Williamses on the court for a couple years were outstanding. Of course, when you travel so much with Andre and his brother Phil and [client manager] Bill Shelton and [trainer] Gil Reyes, these experiences and stories will be in my biography. Jim Courier traveled with my son Jimmy and was a very dedicated person. The stories about Boris Becker are unbelievable.

I worked for one week with Martina Hingis, who couldn't get along with her mother, during the last world championship held at Madison Square Garden. I was fortunate that week, and her mother said, "Nick, I have to get my daughter back into it." I said, "I can't help her with her strokes." And her mother said, "Nick, get her to believe in herself again." That was an important week, and I flew up to New York on a Friday, and she won the world championship that year. Her mother acknowledged me, and sent me a check, which I didn't expect. To be able to help somebody, in just five or six days, to believe in herself again, that's very inspiring and gratifying.

I don't believe any coach has had the impact, or at least the opportunity, I've had to work with so many top players, including Maria Sharapova, Jelena Jankovic, Daniela Hantuchova, and Tatiana Golovin. Then there has been the Ashe-Bollettieri Program that brought tennis to inner-city kids. And my wife and I now are doing our camp to help girls with child obesity. It's just been an unbelievable journey.

     In a recent Tennis Week interview, Brian Gottfried, whom you first taught back in 1961, said: "I think working with juniors you have an opportunity to change lives and create habits − a good work ethic, fairness and sportsmanship − that players can carry through life." Do you agree with Brian?
     That's why Brian is with us. Brian brings integrity and honesty and a work ethic that will help players long after they leave the tennis court. And in that interview he expressed it magnificently. At the academy, students learn a work ethic that will help not only their tennis career but in business and as a parent and whatever they do. That's why we try to instill these valuable lessons about life: integrity, honesty, not cheating, and everything else.

     In the same interview Brian said, "If I can touch someone's life like Nick touched mine, then that's very exciting and fulfilling to me." What is your reaction to what Brian said? 
     When Brian says he'd like to touch others' lives like I touched his life, that's my Hall of Fame. If I'm never [inducted] in the Tennis Hall of Fame, his remark is enough. To me, that's the greatest acknowledgment anyone can receive.

     Please tell me about Camp Kaizen, a nonprofit fitness and weight-loss camp for teenage girls that you and your wife Cindi founded in 2004.
     My wife and I were walking through the airport, and I saw some young boys and girls, and I said, "Shit, they're fat!" So Cindi said, "What are you going to do about it?" I said, "We ought to start a camp and do something."

Cindi and I worked very hard to find a site, and we found one at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. We decided to take girls between 9 and 14 for five weeks and bring them back to the way life was in the 1950s − with no computers, no iPods, no video games, no cell phones. Instead, we had hiking, canoeing, dancing.

The girls learned how to prepare meals with correct portions. They have proper guidance with nurses and doctors and psychiatrists. We're now in our fourth full-time year. It's been a magnificent thing to see young girls come with their parents, and five weeks later see an unbelievable improvement. The girls feel good about themselves.

We also continue their education with e-mails, phone calls and reunions with those young girls throughout the entire year. I've had a lot of boys and girls who have won tennis titles. But when you see children run up the hill on the last day and see their parents' faces, you would say this is something special. It's been a terrific thing because child obesity has gotten out of control in America.

     Like Elizabeth Taylor, you've had eight marriages. What have you learned from all these marriages?
     What I've learned from all these marriages is that I can seek out kids and tell them what they need to improve and I have a pretty good nose to pick out a winner. But my nose was stuffed for seven marriages. Now my nose is wide open. And I have a beautiful wife now. That's my answer.

     So you did learn. It just took you longer than other people.
     That's right. I tell people, "Don't listen to Nick on this."

     Which ATP and WTA tour players as well as senior circuit players periodically visit your academy to train? 
     A whole bunch of players. Of course, Jelena, Sharapova, Tommy Haas, Taylor Dent, Xavier Malisse, Nicole Vaidisova, Petr Korda, Michaella Krajicek and Max Mirnyi, who is one of my all-time favorites. Stepanek, Venus, Serena. All of them come back to the academy. Hantuchova is coming back next week. One way or another, they always seem to come back to the academy for good competition. At Christmas time 20, 30 or 40 pros come for two to four weeks to prepare for the Australian Open, and that's a lot of fun. They come back to the place where they started.

     You have unapologetically flouted the prohibition against on-court coaching and once admitted, "Over the years I've probably broken the rules more than anyone else." Do you have any regrets about that?
     No, not really. Because when you get a personality like myself, and I'm trying to help one way or another, that happens. I'm not condoning giving signals to my students. It just comes about. But I think on-court coaching has an asset and a deficit. The deficit or negative is that you take away the ability for the player to figure out how to overcome adversity, to be able to think and make tactical adjustments.

The other argument is that it's very difficult to accept a prohibition against on-court coaching at pro tournaments when it takes place at Davis Cup, college and high school matches, and special team events. Tennis should be consistent one way or the other. Either you have it everywhere or not at all. It would be fantastic for the audience to be able to hear on TV what the coach is telling the player. It's exciting to have on-court coaching, but it does take away from a player's self-reliance.

     Rafael Nadal has beaten Roger Federer five straight times and on three different surfaces. Will Federer turn the rivalry around? And will Federer win any more Grand Slam titles?
     I'm asked that question almost every day. First, Nadal has added three important things to his game. He's moved closer to the baseline by two or three feet. Instead of just a heavy topspin [forehand] that wears you down and produces defensive returns and errors from opponents, he's learned to come forward and hit the big, flat forehand. Second, he's improved his serve tremendously. So he's become much more confident now that he is more than a one-surface [clay] player. I don't know what's going on in Federer's mind, but he's lost the "fear factor" that players used to have against him. I predict Federer will win some more Grand Slam titles.

One factor will be whether Nadal stays healthy and doesn't hurt his knees and his ankles and his wrists. He's [almost] five years younger than Federer. With Nadal in his way and Murray slipping in and five or six other players slipping in and some unknowns who will slip in, that decreases Federer's chances, except on one surface where he's dominant, grass. Federer's confidence has also gone down against certain players such as Nadal and Murray. I still think he'll break Sampras's record [of 14 Grand Slam titles]. But Federer has to win at least one major this year. If he doesn't, then his chances decrease drastically [in 2010 and after].
    
     As the second decade of the 21st century draws near, how do you predict coaching will evolve?
     Coaching today is more important than ever because the duties are much greater than they were 25, 20 or even 15 years ago. Also, today's players stay with their coaches and overall team much more. They are insulated and don't play poker and backgammon games with other players the way they did in the 1970s and '80s. Everybody does their own thing now. So now the coach plays another role and is the companion for that student off the court as well. Coaches will have to learn more about the mental game and the physical side of tennis, so that when they are on the road they can continue the diverse training [players receive at their home bases] throughout the year.

     Will stroke or footwork technique change?
     If you look at the game today, you cannot have a weakness. You could get away with a weakness 10 or 15 years ago. To protect a real weakness today is very difficult. For example, I worked with Ivo Karlovic at the academy two months before the [2009] Australian Open. He can only chip the ball with his backhand. He has a huge serve and a fairly good volley. But I watched him play yesterday. He lost to Frederico Gil from Portugal. Ivo hit one topspin backhand in the entire match. When an opponent knows that all you can do is slice the ball from the backhand side, how the hell can you win? That's where a coach on the road has to say to him: "You have to have an offensive backhand because your only chance of winning is on one surface, and that is the first two or three rounds on grass. That's when you can use your slice more." That's why Roddick improved his backhand.

     Do you think Roddick can win another Grand Slam title?
     I'm beginning to think he possibly can. But everything would have to fall his way. He'd probably have to have a little luck when he plays one of the top seeds, perhaps an injury to Federer or Nadal or Murray that hampers them. Roddick has been playing better and better in recent months. He's in better shape physically and emotionally. His backhand is certainly much better.

     What else will change on the pro tours in the next decade?
     Players may be built like Nadal and look like the Big Hulk. He looks like a wrestler but he moves so well. What's amazing about Nadal is not only his strong stature, but he moves extremely well and anticipates well, and his mind-set is: I'll get the damn ball back [no matter where my opponent hits it].

When Venus and Serena first came into the game at five and six years old, their father Richard told them: "Wherever the ball comes on your side, you get every ball." Why do you think they can reach balls that no other girls can get? They were trained that way. And Nadal feels the same way. So, it appears that the game will become much more physical. The physical makeup of future players will have a big impact on the pro game. The big boys on the tour, like [Juan Martin] Del Potro and [Ernests] Gulbis, are beginning to move a lot better than they used to.

     Perhaps the ultimate compliment came from highly respected TV tennis analyst Mary Carillo when she said: "Nick is a believer − and he doesn't just believe in himself. He believes in his sport." What do you think Mary meant by that?
     A compliment from Mary Carillo like that is something that she only gives to a few people. Tennis lives with me and is even part of my dreams. Wherever I go, I'm always supporting the sport. And there's a darn good reason why I support the sport. There are only a few individual sports. An individual sport is totally different from a team sport. It forces the athlete to think and do things, and if they don't do things according to what they are capable of doing, they're exposed immediately. You cannot hide, as you can hide inside the interior linemen [in football]. But I also believe in the sport because it's a lifetime sport. It's a sport that can bring joy not only to you but also to your children, and you can play with your friends. It's more than just a competitive sport at a 5.0 [rating] or higher level.

When Andre Agassi won the 1992 Wimbledon title, you said in your 1996 autobiography that was the happiest day of your life. What have been the happiest days of your life since then?
     The happiest day of my life since then was [the wedding day of] my last marriage. I've been taken into a family in Vermont that I wish my mother and father could have been a part of. It's kind of strange for Nick to have a farm up in Vermont. I look forward to going there. My wife and I are working night and day, especially Cindi, to adopt a baby from Ethiopia. We'd love to be able to do that. My time at West Point with the military is really very important to me because I still maintain that discipline. We also have the West Point men's and women's tennis teams come down to the academy and train.

But to see my boy Andre come through and win Wimbledon in 1992 was a fulfillment that I can't even describe.
Andre has made such an impact on the sport. People can win championships, but it's the impact they've made on the sport or on business or on humanity that is even more important. That's what great contributors to society are remembered for. To be able to do what I do today with the same enthusiasm and be able to meet troops at the academy and go to tournaments and see players and tournament directors who come up and say, "Nick, thanks for everything you've done," all of that means a lot to me. I am always open to giving speeches and clinics. Like last night, I did a one-on-one interview with Bud Collins. Those things are very important. At the Colony Beach Hotel three or four times a year, I give clinics for Dr. Klauber where our academy began. I could go on forever. I'm just a happy person. It's fun to see my grandchildren. I've just had a lot of things come my way.

     In your autobiography you also said: "It was at Dorado Beach [during the 1960s] that I first began to realize that I could be somebody if I put in enough effort…. I really wanted to be the best, the most famous, the most important tennis coach in the world. I admit I also wanted to be rich." Have you achieved each of your ambitions?
     I've achieved some of them. But I'm certainly not rich. My tell-all biography will be published just before the 2010 U.S. Open. It will tell certain stories about my life and why I made certain changes and what my motives were. All of that will start with Nick Bollettieri in the little town of North Pelham, New York. My biographer, David Legge, is interviewing more than 100 people who have played a significant role in my life. They include several interviews with players, parents, coaches and my eight wives. That's why my biography will be an un-edited one that captures my whole life.

    Do you believe you have achieved the ambition of being the best and most famous coach in the world?
     When people introduce me as the most famous coach in the world, that sends a chill through my body. But that's not what I want to be remembered for. What Nick wants to be remembered for, which will be in the book, is the impact I've made on different lives. There will be examples in that book of how I've impacted lives. That's the most important thing.

     Would you please cite those people you've had the most impact on.
     I believe the opportunity Andre Agassi had at the academy inspired him to give that same opportunity to other boys and girls. I've also impacted Monica Seles. She had some major setbacks, but she never feels sorry for herself and says, "It's too bad this happened or that happened." She's moved on with her life. That's why you always have to respect her. Take Anna Kournikova. She's doing so much for the Boys and Girls Clubs in America. It's nice when you see someone like Anna who wasn't born in the U.S. but is very appreciative of our country.

     Would you please reveal some interesting stories likely to appear in your coming biography.
     One of the best parts of my book is about the relationships with my wives, and why they didn't work, and why my marriage today is working, and what some of the ex-players and coaches who have been with me and left say. What impact, positive or even negative, I've had on their lives. It will be interesting to see what Boris Becker, who always has strong opinions, people in the USTA and USPTA, and some parents whose children did not make it [to the pros] all have to say. I'm anxious to see what Anna Kournikova is going to say about her times with Nick Bollettieri. Everyone talked about her not making it [big]. What does she think about not winning even one singles title?

     Who else will talk about you and their own lives in the biography?
     The book will reveal Max Mirnyi's real story about how he wanted to be a great singles player but became a great doubles player, and how he still says, no, I want to do more. The book will tell how Taylor Dent, smack on his back [after major back surgery] and never supposed to play again and didn't even know if he would walk normally again, and how he's back at the academy and winning matches on the tour. Readers will find out why he felt he could come back and what he did to come back. Al Parker was a junior sensation who came here, but he never made it. Martin Blackman and Chris Garner were the two best 14-year-olds in the world, people thought then. And neither one of them made it. I know Martin Blackman will tell his story. Why didn't they make it?

Another interesting and unusual thing for readers is how David Wheaton developed a slice backhand due to crashing through a window when he was roller-blading at college. He had a great slapstick backhand. What did he do to offset that injury when he was laid up for several months?

Patrick McEnroe's story will be interesting. Look at what Patrick McEnroe has done. He was a helluva player, then became our Davis Cup captain and now also head of the Elite Player Development program. He's taken a different path from his brother, but his current role [developing future stars] is one of the most important because he's trying to get America back to the top again.

     Your wife said your 2010 biography is one of three legacies you want to leave. What are the other two legacies?
     A very important legacy of my life is that my family will always remember their daddy as a guy who people said couldn't make it in his field − and what he did to make it. The other legacy is that Nick has affected not just 10 or 15 or 20 top players in the world, but I've made an impact on the whole world by starting things nobody else did. The inner-city programs. The first live-in academy in the world. I made a big impact that really changed the direction of tennis. That's very rewarding.

     When your long and illustrious career is over, how do you want to be remembered?   
     That's a difficult question because I don't see my career ever being over. I'm not trying to be egotistical, but I don't believe I'll ever stop doing something every day to help children − whether it's [combating] child obesity, teaching tennis, or speaking. I have never thought for one second of ever retiring. I believe Nick Bollettieri will continue on until there is no Nick Bollettieri. No matter what age I am, there will always be new goals to achieve because the world is always changing. That is what makes Nick tick. I want to be able to impact what needs to be done today.

 

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"I hated it at Bollettieri’s academy. The only way I could get out was to succeed."

   — Andre Agassi

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