Nick Bollettierri: Legendary Coach And Academy Founder Dies At 91

Nick Bollettieri (photo: Brigitte Urban)

WASHINGTON, December 5, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Nick Bollettierri was a pioneer and quite a presence around the tennis court. He was also a legendary coach and founder of the Nick Bollettierri Tennis Academy, which served as the foundation for today’s IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., on the Florida Gulf Coast.

Bollettierri passed away Sunday at age 91. His death was announced Monday morning by the IMG Academy via social media.

“Anyone who knew Nick knows how much he loved developing the potential in young people, coaching tennis and this Academy,” wrote Tim Pernetti, President of IMG Academy Bradenton, a division of IMG Academy, in a statement. “Even in his last days, you could often find him on campus, coaching and mentoring young student-athletes and staff with the same passion and enthusiasm as he did in his 20s. Our heart goes out to his wife, Cindi, and his children. He has made a permanent and lasting impact on all of us.”

One of Bollettierri’s original pupils was American Jimmy Arias, who came to him at age 12 from Buffalo, N.Y., and turned pro four years later. Arias, who reached the US Open semifinals in 1983 and the French Open quarterfinals in 1984, rose to World No. 5 in April 1984. Now age 58, Arias is IMG Academy director of tennis and an occasional commentator on Tennis Channel.

“Tennis wouldn’t be where it is today without Nick’s influence,” said Arias, quoted by IMG Academy. “His tennis academy, which I had the privilege of growing up within, not only served as a launching pad for many tennis greats but evolved into an institution that has had a profound impact on the development of athletes across many sports at all levels.”

When Bollettierri, born in 1931 in Pelham, N.Y., founded the Nick Bollettierri Tennis Academy (now the IMG Academy) in 1978 as a year-round boarding school, it was with the idea of creating an environment that focused on intense physical training – a total immersion in tennis – and included competition among many of the most talented tennis players in the world.

In time, Bollettierri, a great talent scout and motivator, became considered one of the best tennis coaches in the history of the sport. Consider this: he played a role in training, developing and coaching 10 players who would become ranked World No. 1. They include: Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, Jim Courier, Martina Hingis, Jelena Jankovic, Marcelo Rios, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Venus Williams. He also helped shape the careers of many others who would play professionally, including: Mary Pierce, Daniella Hantuchova, Sabine Lisicki, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, and Kei Nishikori. Six of his former pupils have been inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame: Agassi, Becker, Courier, Hingis, Pierce and Seles.

Patrick Mouratoglou, who would coach Serena Williams to 10 Grand Slam titles and opened his own highly-regarded tennis academy in southern France in 1996, wrote on Twitter: “The tennis family has lost someone very important today, someone who has made our industry grow and has opened opportunities for coaches and players. 

“We will remember the very special human being you were and will miss you.”

Bollettieri, who forsook a career in law for one in tennis, coached for more than 60 years. He was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014 – one of five coaches who have been enshrined – and eight years later became the first inductee of the IMG Academy Hall of Fame. According to‘s Joel Drucker, Bollettieri once said: “I don’t want to be Perry Mason. I want to be Fred Perry.”

In his remembrance of Bollettierri, Drucker, who is also a historian-at-large for the International Tennis Hall of Fame, wrote: “Everyone is special and everyone has something to offer,” he once said. “The trick is to understand who a person is and then reach them the right way. Some players want encouragement. Others need a kick in the butt. Some people like to hear a lot of words and ideas. Others want as few as possible. And it varies even with the person, from one situation to another. Coaching is not a science. It’s an art.”

Among the many heartfelt tributes shared via social media came from former player Tommy Haas, who is now the BNP Paribas Open tournament director in Indian Wells, Calif. Haas wrote on Instagram:

“Thank you for your time, knowledge, commitment, expertise, the willingness to share your skill, your personal interest in mentoring me, and giving me the best opportunity to follow my dreams. You were a dreamer and a doer, and a pioneer in our sport, truly one of a kind.

“I surely will miss you around the academy, our tennis talks, miss showing of your tan, white teeth and body fat, miss watching you do Tai Chi, missing playing golf with you watching you try to cheat, eating a Snickers bar and running for the bushes, and hearing all about your plans even at the age of 91.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by tommy haas (@tommyhaasofficial)