Dec 6, 2022 - Sports

Nick Bollettieri, legendary tennis coach, dies at 91

Bethanie Matek Sands of the United States takes a selfie with tennis coach Nick Bollettieri after taking part at the Kids Day event

Tennis player Bethanie Mattek-Sands takes a selfie with tennis coach Nick Bollettieri (center) at the Miami Open in 2018 in Key Biscayne. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Nick Bollettieri, who called himself the "Michelangelo of Tennis" and taught many of the world's tennis stars when they were teens at his Bradenton academy, died Sunday night. He was 91.

Why it matters: The Tennis Hall of Fame-inductee trained some of the best β€” Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Jim Courier, Boris Becker, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, Anna Kournikova and Tommy Haas.

What they're saying: "(W)hat he turns out on the court are little troopers, once-dear children transformed into steely-eyed tennis fanatics who scowl across the net. This is called producing champions," Sports Illustrated's Barry McDermott wrote in 1980.

Flashback: Bollettieri's controversial methods included denying his students the simplest pleasures, like television on weekdays, or water.

  • He grew angry if kids twirled their tennis racquets or if they took too long picking up practice balls, some of which was addressed in the 2017 Showtime Films documentary "Love Means Zero." Sprints on the beach was common punishment.

Bollettieri sold the academy to IMG in 1987, but he continued to train young players there and worked with Arthur Ashe to bring tennis to kids in urban communities.

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