Tennis world in mourning after death of legendary coach Nick Bollettieri

Nick Bollettieri, pictured here with Aussie star Lleyton Hewitt.
Nick Bollettieri previously worked with Aussie star Lleyton Hewitt. Image: Twitter/Getty

The tennis world is mourning the death of legendary coach Nick Bollettieri at age 91. The American, who worked with some of the biggest names in tennis including Venus and Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Andre Agassi and Lleyton Hewitt, died on Sunday night.

In 1978, Bollettieri founded the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which was later purchased by IMG Academy. IMG confirmed Bollettieri's death, calling him "one of the best tennis coaches of all time".

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"Nick Bollettieri, the legendary tennis coach and founder of Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which served as the foundation for today's IMG Academy, has passed away," a statement read.

Bollettieri's manager Steve Shulla confirmed the news on Monday, saying the 91-year-old had a number of health issues and died at home in Florida. “When he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. Many came to visit him. He got videos from others,” Shulla said. “It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off.”

Despite never playing professional tennis, Bollettieri worked with a staggering 10 players who went on to become World No.1, including the Williams sisters, Agassi, Sharapova, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras and Australia's Hewitt.

Nick Bollettieri, pictured here with Andre Agassi in 1990.
Nick Bollettieri with Andre Agassi in 1990. (Photo By John Russell/Getty Images)

“Our dear friend, Nick Bollettieri, graduated from us last night. He gave so many a chance to live their dream,” Agassi wrote on Twitter. “He showed us all how life can be lived to the fullest… Thank you, Nick.”

In 2014 he became the fourth coach in history to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, while six of the players he coached are also already in the Hall of Fame. “I forged my own path, which others found to be unorthodox and downright crazy,” Bollettieri said in his induction speech at the time. “Yes, I am crazy. But it takes crazy people to do things that other people say cannot be done.”

Nick Bollettieri, pictured here giving instructions to a young Anna Kournikova during a training session.
Nick Bollettieri gives instructions to a young Anna Kournikova during a training session. (Image: Simon Bruty/Allsport via Getty)

Tennis world mourns death of Nick Bollettieri

Tommy Haas - who reached World No.2 and four grand slam semi-finals - posted a moving tribute to his former mentor. "So many memories, I am not sure where to begin," posted the 44-year-old. "Nickiiii, that's how i have called you for the longest time.

"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."

Fellow Hall of Fame member Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter: “Our sport lost one of its most passionate coaches and advocates. Nick was always positive and was able to get the best out of everyone fortunate enough to work with him.”

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Jimmy Arias, IMG Academy director of tennis and one of Bollettieri's original students, said: "Tennis wouldn't be where it is today without Nick's influence. 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."

Tim Pernetti, President of IMG Academy Bradenton, a division of IMG Academy, added: "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."

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