Tennis Prose



Nick Bollettieri Now In Paradise

By Scoop Malinowski

There is something poetic about Nick Bollettieri passing away at age 91 right after the conclusion of the 2022 Eddie Herr tournament played at the academy he founded and built into a colossus.

My two stand out memories of Nick are doing a telephone Biofile with him one afternoon in 1992 (my first year as a reporter/writer) and he said his favorite music is the Bee Gees and Saturday Night Fever is the greatest album of all time.

And earlier this year Marcelo Rios did a rare media interview at Sarasota Open 2022 with local TV host “The Koz” who dared to ask Rios, “What did you learn from Nick Bollettieri?” Rios, who trained at NBTA for over a half decade, answered: “Not to marry eight wives… and to smile all the time and be nice.”

There are so many more colorful, fun, memories of Nick Bollettieri. Too many to mention now. But here’s one from Kathleen Horvath, who was one of Nick’s first star players at the first location of NBTA at The Colony on Longboat Key, FL. And another from former ATP doubles champ Sander Groen…

Kathleen Horvath:  I was one of Nick’s “originals” and we launched each other’s international tennis presence at the 1979 US Open.  Although we were together less than two years, what an intense ride it was… so much joy, success, learning and tears.  I was happy we had that incredible lunch together on May 7, 2021 where we reminisced and left feeling all was good again. In fact, Nick called me a few hours later full of emotion calling those hours we spent earlier in the day his “paradise.” Because Nick was larger than life we all seemed to assume he would last forever. And though he is not physically with us now, Nick’s memories and impact will indeed last forever for more people than could ever be imagined.  

Question: What is your first memory of Nick? And a lasting memory?

Kathleen Horvath:  Him watching me at the 16 & under Orange Bowl in 1978, being impressed and inviting me down to see his “academy.”  And then wining and dining my mom and I to make sure I loved it -which I did – and offering a full ride. The rest is history.

Former ATP doubles champion Sander Groen shared this thoughts and memories of Bollettieri today: He is so beloved because of his personality. There is not too many people with this kind success who are so accessible and kind as he is. The past 20 years he has been like a grandfather to anybody who loves tennis and he makes everybody feel like they are same important to him, no matter if player, coach or fan. And he had nothing to gain from that. Every time I spoke to him he made me feel as if he was my father. And I can imagine he hardly had any idea who I was because I cannot imagine he knew me as a player.

I think the last time I saw him he was mingling with the crowd in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium sitting on the edge of the fountains promoting his book… I couldn’t believe that. To me he is the godfather of modern day tennis.

(Note: I’m finishing a book on the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy and this is short excerpt.)

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