Tennis Prose



Biofile: Yury Bettoni Interview


By Scoop Malinowski

Status: Former Italian/American professional tennis player with a unique entrepreneurial mind, inventor of the Y-system.

DOB: December 27, 1976 In: Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

First memory of tennis: As a boy living in Tanzania, Dar Es Salaam, one day after school my friend invited me over his house and suggested I would try playing tennis at his tennis court. I might have been only 7 years old. The first time I saw a tennis court was that day.

It was unbelievably hot and I remember it very well like it was yesterday walking up to the court and what caught my eye right away was that old broken up net and distressed tartan court. I remember hitting my first ball ever and I actually hit it with the strings – yes! But being probably over excited, I ended up hitting not a so called “tennis shot” but instead a pure home-run out into the back trees. Hey – at least I hit the ball with the strings. That was my first and last day I would play tennis or at least until I was 13 years old. While I was not consciously aware at that moment, there was a magical alchemy about that experience that touched me. Hard to explain, maybe the faded color of that hard court, or those two gray racquets, maybe those white original Pirelli balls, or the mixture of everything of that hot dry day, but for sure something it moved my soul that would be reflected later in many years loving the sport.

At 13 years old, I was going to boarding school every day. Monday was soccer and Thursday was tennis. I did not like tennis, I would always go and play soccer and yet, the tennis teacher forced me to go and play my Thursday tennis hour. At the end of the semester, I was put into a tournament where believe it or not I got to the finals. The same week, I played and got to the finals of the Italian National Mini tennis championship, where I lost to the same guy. That’s when my mother Alessandra, encouraged me to consider to take tennis more seriously also due to always getting injured playing soccer. So she enrolled me into a tennis club where I would play at least three times a week tennis with my first tennis coaches Angelo Rossi and Maurizio Brilli. Definitely the turning point for me, was that tournament week. Made me love and appreciate the sport at a completely different level.

First famous player you met or encountered: Emilio Sanchez Vicario was the first player that definitely caught my attention, it was at the Italian Open in 1990, I was maybe only 13. I saw him walking down stairs in the reserved players area, he had just arrived from some where and what hit me was his swag, suit and a tennis bag and I thought that looked so cool, plus he was 4 in the world and he was supposed to be the favorite for Rome. that aura he was carrying inspired me tremendously and I wanted at least shake his hand and be part of that moment for at least a split of a second. I would have been really happy to have just shake his hand, and who knew that only seven years later I would be playing with him.

Greatest career moment: Winning the Italian Open with Mary Pierce in 1997. It was my first big tournament with a big player. I was her hitting partner and Craig Kardon was the coach. What was so special for me, was that back in 1990 my father had taken me to the Italian Open and purchased really good seats. Back then I was sitting watching Andre Agassi on the court, my dream was to play like him and maybe go train at the Academy where he was training. By chance, 7 years later I find my self part of an experience that I had only dreamed to be part few years before. Helping Mary for the entire tournament, reaching the final against Conchita Martinez, sitting literally few seats away from where my father and I as spectators were sitting years before and celebrating Mary’s win on “Pietrangeli’s” center court.

Most painful career moment: This would be two moments which are related, one during a match at Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy (NBTA) in 1995 and the other in Swiss tennis in 1997.

First time against Jean Rene Lisnard during the Masters, tough match! I remember being up in the third, but cramps were all over my body, during a long rally I came to the net and dive for a volley, my body went into a total spasm, I collapsed immediately with excruciating pain all over my body, every muscle was cramping at the same time, tournament gets suspended from my yelling of pain, everyone gathers on court, I get helped from few coaches and nurse until the ambulance, IV in my arm and rushed to the hospital immediately.

Later on when recovered from that incident, the cramps issue got so severe that literally was impossible for me to be competitive on tour. Likely after that I had the chance to work on tour with top players as Mary Pierce, Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, Jeff Tarango, that gave me strength and that compensation of not being on the competitive personal side, or for at least that time being. Later on Sven Groeneveld, believing in my potential, wanted to give me a last chance and asked me to train at Swiss Tennis Federation, so I went for a while. Few months later, Sven approached my family suggesting for me to move to Switzerland full time to train. Unfortunately my father feeling responsible of my health, forced me to not take the valuable opportunity.

Favorite tournaments: Italian Open, US Open and Monte Carlo.

Funniest players encountered: Mark Philippoussis definitely with his Australian accent added a funny twist to his stories.

Mark Keil. A unique character on the tour fun to be around. The way he would tell the stories was always very flowery, out-there analogies. Super loud did not really care much what other people thought. Especially when he retired and taught tennis at the Playboy mansion for Hugh Hefner. And oh boy! Didn’t he have some very interesting stories?!

Favorite players to watch: Andre Agassi. He was very colorful in the way he would play. His shot selection and the way he would use his short angles always inspired me since my early tennis years. His attitude, his way of involving the crowds and his unique way of walking was so entertaining. He was a very unique player and I would never get tired of watching him.

Funny tennis memory: There has been many, especially traveling with crazy tennis players, something funny always happens. I remember one time betting with Roger (Federer) something in which he completely underestimated me. Him being so sure of winning had him lower his guards till he had realized he had lost, but what was really funny was the different games he kept pulling that made me crack up laughing every single time.

Also another time during the indoor “Muratti Time”, Milano, on an afternoon after practice Roger and I decide to go back to the hotel to play at “Play Station.” I remember like it was yesterday sitting on the edge of the bed in front of the TV screen:

Roger: Hey Yury! What do you want to play? With that sarcastic way he always had.

Me: I don’t know! I never play video games Rogie. Cars!?

Roger: How about we play tennis!

Me: Ok Rogie!

Roger: which player do you want to be?

Me: Agassi! of course, what about you Rogie?

Roger: Mh…! Oh I guess I’ll be Roger Federer! (With a smiley sarcastic expression,) How about that?

Me: You bastard! I did not know that was his first Nintendo game as a testimonial.
During play it was surreal but a cool feeling having next to me the guy I was playing in the video game.

That was for sure a funny strange moment that we still laugh about when we remember it.

Why do you love tennis: Because it allowed me to see the world and meet very interesting people, broaden my horizons. Meet people that love tennis and don’t love tennis, yet love sports, but tennis has always been a conversation piece that allowed me to interact with pretty much anybody. Before all that tennis taught me discipline, determination, respect, loyalty, passion, work ethic, how do deal with life adversities that definitely helped me to deal in general with life outside sports.

Strangest match: A match that I had under control till 6-3, 5-3, match point and cramps started, on that point I remember very clearly trying to hit an easy over head, but my legs seamed anchored to the ground, could not jump, could not reach the ball for a tiny bit and got passed, then after that it was just like a bad dream, back and forth with a series of 9 total match points with close calls till I lost the second set.

Then in the third I was up 3-1. Felt like a roller coaster, but seemed I had fell into a negative spire that it did not matter what I would nothing would work my way that day.

Racquet you use: Dunlop CX200.

Attire/shoes: Lotto.

Bio: Yury is a former Italian/American professional tennis player with an unique entrepreneurial mind and a huge love for construction. Since 2014 he has been a business partner in Italkraft ( and successfully closed several prestigious development for the company. In parallel he is developing the “Y brand” which expands not only in teaching coaches his tennis and training system but also in product development ( Yury has been featured in several national TV commercials and in a HBO series, Ballers. Training at the Nick Bollettiri/IMG Academies from 1992 to 1997, Yury, trained with some of the top tennis players as Marcelo Rios, Marat Safin, Max Mirnyi and others – becoming a professional tennis player at the age of 20. Yury has assisted for many years Sven Groeneveld as a full time and assistant coach, serving at the highest professional level. Yury also traveled with Sven Groeneveld (Head Coach for the Swiss Tennis Federation), between 1997 and 1998; where during this period Yury was not only training but also traveling with Roger Federer. Yury also worked with Mary Pierce, Jeff Tarango, and Aranxta Sanchez Vicario becoming the youngest coach in tennis to coach top world ranked players. During his professional career, Yury has brought professionalism and dedication to the court. He is not only an inspiration but a role model of dedication and determination to all the players he is worked with throughout his career. Yury is sponsored by “Lotto USA” and “Dunlop Sports.” In 2005 Yury achieved two degrees from University of South Florida in International Management and Economics, in addition he is also certified as a professional tennis coach from United States Professional Tennis Registry (USPTR) and personal trainer and dietician from International Sport Science Association (ISSA).

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  • Dan Markowitz · April 2, 2019 at 6:52 am

    Interesting guy, but until I met him the other day with you at the Miami Open, while he looked familiar, I’d never heard of him. I think it’s almost impossible to do what he did though which is become a pro tennis player when he says up till the age of 13 he didn’t play more than once a week. That’s very rare.

  • Dan Markowitz · April 2, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Like a lot of players who call themselves “pros” this guy Yuri is not listed on the ATP web site as ever having had a ranking. But he looks like he’s in great shape and is now a physical trainer for tennis.

  • Scoop Malinowski · April 2, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Yury’s got the strokes, the power and the game that’s on the same level or better than some guys I have hit with who did have ATP points and a good ranking. Some really good players don’t get ATP points, it’s not easy to get a single point. Maybe beating Federer on that video game could have gotten him some special honorable mention ATP points 🙂 To beat Roger Federer playing as himself Roger Federer in a video game has to be worth at least one ATP point? 🙂

  • Dan Markowitz · April 2, 2019 at 9:33 am

    Yes, true that some guys who’ve gotten points don’t hit the ball as well as others who haven’t gotten ATP points. My point is that tennis is a lot like fishing, you hear someone say I was 300 in the world and then you look them up on the ATP site, and not only didn’t they get to 300, they never had a ranking.

    Now Eric Sharf, who once played no. 1 at St. John’s, his highest ranking was like 1000, but he said it was unfair because the ATP didn’t give points when he played–I don’t know if they do now either–for matches won in Furtures or Challenger qualifying rounds.

    All I’m saying is that there’s either different ranking systems or guys are grossly elevating their rankings even when they never were ranked before. I know in the juniors now it’s pretty confusing. My son has an Eastern ranking, a Nationa, a UTR and a ranking.



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