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Justin Gimelstob Recalls His Three Decade Friendship With Nick Bollettieri

By Scoop Malinowski

Former Grand Slam mixed doubles champion and Tennis Channel analyst/commentator Justin Gimelstob recalls his long association and friendship with Nick Bollettieri, which began in the 1990s.

“I used to go to the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy all the time when I was a teenager. My family didn’t want me to move away to Florida. I’d go to his academy to supplement my training in New Jersey. I had so many good coaches. Nick didn’t really coach me but I did benefit from training at his academy, if that makes sense. From age fourteen to seventeen, I spent a good amount of time there. I had a lot of inspiration, good relationships, Bobby Banck, Tommy Haas – we still play together thirty years later. I kept in touch with Nick over the years, texting with him up until a couple of weeks ago.”

“My first memory of Nick… probably what I remember most early on… he was this form or energy. When he came on your court you felt so much energy. It was like an infusion of energy. He’d come on the court and pump you up and make you feel better. If you made a hundred bad shots and then made that one great shot… he would concentrate on that great shot. He had an innate ability to have you believe what he wanted you to believe. As you get older you realize it’s who he was, a force of energy by sheer will or belief, whatever it was he just imposed his will on the situation. I actually bought a lesson with him for my son, him feeding some balls to my son, coming full circle. I had lots of fun experiences with Nick, just being in his orbit, his world.”

“Nick was inducted into the International Hall of Fame in Newport, RI when I introduced Lindsay Davenport. So that was nice. That meant so much to him – it was the validation of his whole career, to be recognized by the establishment.”

“I remember playing cards at Nick’s condo, where he knocked down all the walls and combined the units. We were all there playing cards one night. I still have this habit of chewing on ice. At some point I got on his nerves that night and he snapped at me for chewing the ice [smiles].”

“I remember running into Nick at the US Open. He always had nice things to say to my father, my son. He had so many relationships. In the later years we spoke more about life stuff. He lead an extraordinary life and he had a huge impact on a lot of people. I remember when I was coaching John Isner, after some matches he would leave messages and comments. He was just very connected to a lot of people all through life, a big part of a lot of people’s lives.”

“Even if he was far from perfect, at the root of it, sure, he was also in it for himself, but you can’t do what he did for so long if he didn’t truly love the sport and people. I don’t think you can fake that for so long. That’s how I see it.”

“Nick was great. During your best moments and your worst moments, he’d stay in touch with you in all moments of your life. That was Nick.”

Nick Bollettieri, tennis titan, visionary, pioneer, trailblazer, passed away at age 91 on Sunday on the last day of the 2022 Eddie Herr tournament which was played on the grounds of his old Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.

Justin Gimelstob won 15 ATP doubles titles including the 1998 Australian Open and French Open mixed doubles titles with Venus Williams. He had career wins in singles vs Andre Agassi, Gustavo Kuerten, Petr Korda, Alex Corretja and Patrick Rafter.

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