What do these players have in common other then the fact that they were all ranked as the Number 1 player in the world during their careers:- Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Marcel Rios, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, Venus and Serena Williams, and Jelena Jankovic. The answer is, they all attended the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy (NBTA).
Respectfully named as the, ‘Mother of all Academies’ by the New York Times, the NBTA was founded by Nick in 1978 to provide coaching and instruction for junior tennis players. Since its inception the NBTA has grown to include other sports such as golf, soccer, baseball and basket ball, and also offers a full fitness and mental health program. It now accommodates 12,000 students annually from 75 different countries.
Originally designed to teach tennis, the NBTA combines a program for players of all ages with intense on court training with an academic curriculum tailor-made for each student. It is a boarding academy where the players eat, sleep and dream about tennis. A qualified staff provides hours of daily tennis instruction, physical training exercises, and academic lessons. Emphasis is placed on preparing the students for a life off the court as well as on the court. Handling the mental side of the game has much to do with the success of each player, and is often the difference between being successful over many years instead of being just a one tournament winner.
Nick Bolleteiri is now 76 years old, but doesn’t look or act like it. He’s in the gym every morning at 5am, and giving his first lesson of the day by 5.30. He might stop for a brief lunch, most days he forgets, and he continues on until his final lesson is completed, usually by 7.30 pm. He is a shining example of an advocate of a healthy living and a fitness ‘nut’. He oversees every facet of his operation and takes a personal interest in every student who attends his academy.
He has written several books about tennis, he has been a TV colour commentator, and a frequent guest on many fitness and tennis oriented programs. His raspy voice is easily identified, as are his opinions and assessments of many of the current players. He likes to predict winners, and his selections are often proved to be correct. He declined to predict the winner of the 2009 Australian Open this far ahead of the tournament, adding that he will make his selection in January.
Recently Jelena Jankovic became his latest pupil to reach the number 1 position. She celebrated her success with Nick and her on-tour coach, and paid tribute to the NBTA as being the foundation for both her tennis skills but equally importantly for her mental stability.
With such a world respected facility as the NBTA in its own back yard, it seems strange that the USTA, who is seeking measures to improve the quality of its members, wouldn’t include Nick Bolleteiri in their future plans.