Bollettieri ― the highest paid tennis coach in the world at 86

Bollettieri giving pointers to four-year-old Maya Sophia Vinod. — Pictures by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Bollettieri giving pointers to four-year-old Maya Sophia Vinod. — Pictures by Ahmad Zamzahuri

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — Legendary Nick Bollettieri’s visit to Malaysia has made a huge impact on those who got the chance to hit with him.

Maria Sharapova, Kei Nishikori, Venus and Serena Williams, Tommy Haas, Mary Pierce, Marcelo Rios, Anna Kournikova, Monica Seles and Andre Agassi are among the tennis stars that have Bollettieri’s imprint.

And there’s no question why he is the highest paid coach in the world even at 86.

“I sleep four hours a day and that’s enough,” said Bollettieri, who arrived in Malaysia on Monday (midnight) and arrived at the hotel at 1.45am.

Despite that, he was ready to work at 6am yesterday.

“When we picked him up from the airport he said let’s go to the stadium now,” said Jeannie Rajani Kurumaloo, manager of Duta International Tennis Academy, the one responsible for bringing Bollettieri.

Beginning at 7.30am, Bollettieri had a non-stop schedule till 9pm. He periodically took breaks and had an iced-towel to keep his shoulders and back cool but managed to stay in the sun.

He took time to teach each of the 150 kids personally. He would watch them hit a few balls and then correct them.

Here’s where Bollettieri stands out from other coaches. He listens more and talks less.

His philosphy is never be afraid of failure.

“My daddy said to me it’s not how you fall but how you get back up again and again,” said Bollettieri.

“I will never accept the words ‘I can’t do it’. No such thing. That mentality gets you nowhere and instilling this attitude in kids is crucial.

“Many coaches have verbal diarrhoea. If you keep talking how are you going to diagnose the problem?

“Hence I say keep it short and simple. Make the player want to come back for lessons and not alienate them.

“They are not smarter than you are and neither are you smarter than them. It takes a team to make champions.

“A tennis coach job is not just to teach, he is a father, mother, friend, travel agent, chef, secretary, all these put into one. Hence the job of a travelling coach is 24 hours non-stop.”

While tennis is not popular here, Bollettieri believes it can grow if Malaysia has a good system in place.

“I’ll be the first to admit I couldn’t have done what I did without strong dedicated staff,” said Bollettieri.

“A leader sets the plan from which his staff works off and what’s lacking here is a system. There’s no lack of talent here.

“That’s why I’m here. When V. Selvam called and asked can I come I replied definitely. I’m here to give guidance so we can do things better be it business or in life,” said Bollettieri.

Selvam, a former national player, is the founder of Duta International Tennis Academy.

“I want to share my 60 years of success and failures and I say that without hesitation. I must also stress the importance of handling the parents. Work with them,” said Bollettieri.

“My philosophy is to listen more. Never shout or make them feel small. Then they won’t want to come and play again.

“People ask me why I’m still doing this at my age? I tell them I want to help kids who can’t afford lessons or can’t afford to play. That’s always and will always be my goal.”

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