Nick Bollettieri: DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM - UBITENNIS
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Nick Bollettieri: DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM

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In the first of a series of articles that Nick Bolletteri has agreed for Ubitennis to publish, the renowned tennis coach writes about how he created one of the most influential training centres in the history of tennis.

How could I have known that my two, broken down tennis courts in Victory Park was someday morph into the greatest athletic training facility that the world? How could I have imagined that those two courts, in North Miami Beach, Florida would one day lead to a training facility that would host 10 of the top tennis players in the world? How could anyone have predicted that those modest beginnings would one day become IMG Academies, training the finest athletes in the world, in nearly a dozen sports? Only a dreamer; someone who put no limits on his imagination! My life has been a series of opportunities; both seized and missed. Imagine this:

 
  1. I entered into teaching tennis by accident. I played college tennis but knew nothing about teaching the game.
  2. I had to earn some money to support my wife and son while attending the University of Miami Law School.
  3. I knew nothing about tennis and even less about how to teach it.
  4. I learned by watching the most respected coach in the Miami area. His name was Slim Harbett and he taught at Henderson Park.
  5. I listened intently and copied his techniques. Over time I developed my own teaching techniques and soon realized that I had an eye for talent and an even quicker eye for recognizing technical problems.
  6. I learned that making small adjustments was much more effective than making macro changes. Students got better more quickly and didn’t suffer the anguish of a major disruption of their games.

To cite two examples, Cheryl Smith won the Girls USTA National 14s. Cheryl was a steady baseliner. Brian Gottfried preferred coming to the net and volleying and became one of the top world-ranked players.

Yes, I have always been a dreamer. Far beyond what we would call normal ambition, I gave up on serious opportunities to achieve my goals. For example, I dropped out of law school after only 3 months, realizing, although I had a gift for law (I could sell sand in the desert), that it wasn’t the destination that was meant for me.

My uncle, Tony DeFillipo, who was head of the sanitation department in the City of North Miami Beach, and his best friend, Frank Sepedi, who has the Water Commissioner for the City, helped to change this small, broken down tennis facility. With their influence my small complex became an 8-court facility with lights. You see the picture? Two Big Hitters, Two Big Italians! Little by little I began to learn more about teaching tennis and one important realization, “No two players are alike.” My top students were Brian Gottfried, Cheryl Smith, Margie and David Gengler, George and Randi Shuert, Paul Kantrowich, Joe Szucs and a few others.

Before long, my name became attached to the excellence of my students and another big opportunity arose. I was offered the job of Director of Tennis for the City of Springfield, Ohio. The program there was only for the summers and had earned the reputation as one of the best junior programs in America. 1,500 youngsters, dressed in white clothing, attended each week. Although the children paid $.50 to travel on the bus, the instruction was absolutely free. My winters were spent at various clubs until another opportunity presented itself. With the support of the Passarell family, I became the tennis director of Laurance Rockefeller Hotels (Rock Resorts). I spent the next several winters in Puerto Rico running the tennis programs, which gave me the opportunity to meet some of the most influential people in the world. Some of those titans were: Bob Kraft, owner of the Boston Patriots, Louis Marx, whose father owned Marx Toys. (He later lent me $2 million to build the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy). Vince Lombardi, Coach of the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Murphy, the Horowitz Family, who would later support everything that I did in tennis, Dan Lufkin, the Carlson Family, the Landow Family, and the Zausner Family (who built the Port Washington Tennis Academy for me).

I realized that other tennis facilities were bigger, had rest rooms, club houses, etc. My facility had a few courts, a rock wall, a Pepsi machine and an umbrella serving as my pro shop. But I realized that success depended upon my willingness to devote my life to the sport; to get to know the kids and their families. It also allowed me to understand that “success” means different things to different people. To some, it meant learning to play a game that can last a lifetime. To others it meant making the high school or college tennis team. To still others it meant getting a college scholarship or playing on the pro circuit. It became clear to me that the aspirations of the player had a great deal to do with the outcome.

I have enjoyed a career that has helped thousands of players achieve their dreams. I’ve had ten number one players in the world and thousands who achieved the level of success that they aspired to. I must have been doing something right. I was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. This was followed my induction into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of my decades of commitment to the inner cities of America and my collaborations with tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe. Who could ask for a more rewarding life?

The IMG Academy was founded by Nick Bolletteri in 1978 and has been the training centre for some of the worlds best tennis players. Bolletteri has already coached ten world No.1 players, including Andre Agassi, Brois Becker, Martina Hingis, Venus and Serena Williams. The 400 acre complex trains 13,000 junior, collegiate, adult & professional athletes annually, including families and corporate groups,  from over 75 countries. To find out more about programs provided by the academy, visit https://www.imgacademy.com/

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No US Open For Rafael Nadal Due To COVID-19 Concerns

The will be no men’s world No.1 in New York this year.

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BY EMIL EVTIMOV

The 2020 US Open will be staged without it’s defending champion Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard has withdrawn from this year’s tournament which is set to start in New York later this month.

 

The reason for his decision is the ongoing COVID-19 situation and the increased number of cases lately. His participation was always in doubt given his interviews in the previous weeks where he stated his concerns about the situation with the pandemic.

The world No.2 announced his decision through the social media. He thanked the organizers for their efforts staging the event and described the decision as a one he “never wanted to take”.

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Tras pensarlo mucho he decidido no participar en el US Open de este año. La situación sanitaria sigue muy complicada en todo el mundo con casos de COVID-19 y rebrotes que parecen fuera de control. Sabemos que el calendario de este año tras 4 meses sin jugar es una barbaridad, si bien entiendo y agradezco los esfuerzos que todas las partes están poniendo para que se jueguen torneos. Acabamos de tener la noticia de que el torneo de Madrid también ha sido anulado. A dia de hoy la situación es complicada para hacer torneos y todo mi respeto a la USTA, organizadores del US Open y a la ATP por los esfuerzos que están haciendo para que se juegue el torneo para los millones de fans que lo verán por TV o en las plataformas digitales. Esta es una decisión que no querría tomar pero en este caso sigo mi corazón para decidir que por ahora prefiero no viajar. After many thoughts I have decided not to play this year’s US Open. The situation is very complicated worldwide, the COVID-19 cases are increasing, it looks like we still don’t have control of it. We know that the reduced tennis calendar is barbaric this year after 4 months stopped with no play, I understand and thank for the efforts they are putting in to make it happen. We have just seen the announcement of Madrid not being played this year. All my respects to the USTA, the US Open organisers and the ATP for trying to put the event together for the players and the fans around the world through TV. This is a decision I never wanted to take but I have decided to follow my heart this time and for the time being I rather not travel.

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This means that for the first time since the 1999 US Open there will be a Grand Slam tournament (if played) that will not have either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal in the field. With the absent of the Spaniard the second seed in New York should be Dominic Thiem. The other big names missing in the entry list are Gael Monfils, Fabio Fognini, Stan Wawrinka, Nick Kyrgios, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lucas Pouille. At the moment, the last direct entry in the main draw goes to world No. 127 Sumit Nagal.

As for Nadal, after the cancellation of the ATP Masters 1000 in Madrid and his decision about US Open, his 2020 season can restart at the earliest in Rome, the only one clay Masters tournament still in the calendar, starting on 20 September.

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Former French Open Finalist Lied To Get Doping Ban Reduced

Mariano Puerta says he told a false story to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but two former members of his team have disputed this claim.

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The man who Rafael Nadal played in his first ever Grand Slam final back in 2005 has admitted for the first time he lied to officials after failing a doping test for the second time.

 

Mariano Puerta faced the possibility of getting banned from the sport for up to eight years just weeks after playing in the Roland Garros title match. He had tested positive for the cardiac stimulant etilefrine, which at the time he said he accidentally consumed after drinking his wife’s glass of water which contained menstrual medication. Initially handed the eight-year ban he successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration to the sport using the glass of water story to get it slashed to two years. Something he now astonishingly claims was a false story.

The explanation we used as a strategy was a lie. But I didn’t gain any sporting advantage, I don’t want to be seen as a cheat any more,” Puerta told the La Nacion newspaper on Monday.

Former top 10 player Puerta maintains that he never intentionally meant to take a banned substance to get a competitive advantage over his rivals. The 41-year-old says his positive test was because he was taking a nutritional supplement which contained “caffeine and ginseng.” Something he said was given to him by his former fitness trainer Dario Lecman. According to Puerta, the supplement contained traces of the banned substance etilefrine.

“We couldn’t do anything because the pills were bought, I don’t know how to put this … not in a legal way,” said Puerta.
“My lawyers didn’t think it was a good idea to say what happened.”

At his high Puerta was ranked ninth in the world back in 2005 and made $1.7 million in prize money. During his controversy-stricken career, he won three ATP titles on the clay. The Argentine was also banned from the Tour for nine months in 2003 after testing positive for Clenbuterol.

The Argentine’s latest revelation about his lie to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) have been dismissed by two former members of his team. Lecman says he never gave any pills to Puerta.

“I’ve got nothing to do with this. I didn’t give him anything. It’s a lie,” he said.

Former coach Andres Schneiter also voiced over Puerta’s new version of the story. According to the ATP, Schneiter is currently working alongside Karen Khachanov and Christian Garin on the Tour.

“I asked him what had happened and he told me he didn’t know. I thought he was lying. I sensed that reply wasn’t sincere, I think he took something without knowing and it was negligence,” he said.

Puerta claims the glass of water story was created by lawyer Eduardo Moliné O’Connor, who was a former executive of the Argentine Tennis Federation. O’Connor died in 2014.

“To today’s tennis players I would say don’t do anything that puts you in a position like mine. How can you be safe?” he said. “Being extremely responsible, do not delegate, do not trust anybody. The price that you might pay for making a mistake is very high. It doesn’t make sense. I was irresponsible.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Love, Not Money, Drives The Palermo Open As Chief Welcomes Idea Of Second Event In 2020

Tournament director Oliviero Palma tells UbiTennis Palermo is being staged ‘as an act love for tennis’ despite the tournament facing losses in the region of 50,000 euros.

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Five months since the last professional tennis tournament took place, the task of restarting the WTA Tour relies on a tournament taking place on the Italian island of Sicily.

 

The Palermo Open officially marks the return of WTA tennis following its lengthy suspension due to the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. All eyes will be placed upon the event which has already experienced its fair share of obstacles. Wimbledon champion Simona Halep withdrew due to ‘travelling anxiety’ despite being assured that she will be exempt from quarantine rules. On top of that, a player in the qualifying draw pulled out after testing positive for the Coronavirus over the weekend. These scenarios are the ones set to become the new normal for the rest of the year at least.

Overseeing events taking place this week is long-time tournament director Oliviero Palma, who admits that ‘everything is different’ in 2020. Due to the current climate, the number of people allowed to enter the 1500-capacity centre court has been slashed to 350 and the prize money pot has been cut by $27,500. Nevertheless, the 31st edition of the tournament boasts a strong field with every seed being in the world’s top 30. Croatia’s Petra Martic is the highest ranked at 15th.  

“The first tournament after the suspension is more concerned with the safety aspect firstly. Sport comes after,” Palma told ubitennis.net. “Even though we had little time, we are being able to control and foresee all kinds of situations.’
“The world has been waiting for the first tournament post- Covid with the public and to understand whether we can go back to normal, although with all due precautions.’
“Previous tasks do not count now, this is not the 31st Palermo Ladies Open, this is the first tournament after lockdown. Everything is different.”

Even with balls being hit on the courts at the Country Time Club, which is the venue of the Palermo Open, it is evident that there is a lot of uncertainty in the air. Within the past two weeks all events in China have been scrapped, Japan has lost its premier women’s event and the Madrid Open is on the brink of being cancelled. Meanwhile, in Italy the country’s biggest tournament in Rome scheduled for September has been warned not to welcome fans to the event.

Given the circumstances, the fact Palermo is happening at all is an achievement in itself. Palma says his event has been able to go ahead due to a lower number of cases of COVID-19 and what he describes as ‘faith’ from the local government.

The Sicilian government had and has faith in the 31st Palermo Ladies Open and opened the Centre Court to a limited number of spectators, exactly to test this opportunity. I’m so concentrated on my tournament I haven’t had the possibility to follow Internazionali d’italia,” he said.

Thousands of euros will be lost

Image via https://twitter.com/LadiesOpenPA

Palma doesn’t sugarcoat the fact his event isn’t taking place without a significant economic hit. In a recent interview with Reuters he said the event will ‘bear losses’ in order for the Tour to start again. But how significant will these losses be?

“This is an act of love for tennis. We didn’t look at the balance sheet, this year,” he explains to UbiTennis.
“Our marketing experts explained to us that we will have to evaluate the revenues over this and the next year. Losses, however, are estimated to be around 50,000 euros.”

Instead of dwelling on the financial turmoil that many other tennis tournaments are also facing, Palma and his team hope to lead the way when it comes to their COVID-19 testing. Players undergo two types of tests called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and Serological.

“Thanks to the strictness of protocols, we successfully intercepted a positive case,” Palma said in reference to Saturday’s announcement.
“The protocol dictates that players arrive in Palermo having already undergone (about 4 days before) a PCR test. As soon as they arrive, they do a serologic and a PCR test. They then go to their hotel room, which they can’t leave until we have the test result, normally within12 hours. As she receives the negative result, she leaves isolation, receives the badge and can start training.”

The player who reportedly tested positive was Bulgaria’s Viktoriya Tomova who did  not show any symptoms at the time. Tomova was the only player to withdraw from qualifying due to ‘illness’ but there has been no official confirmation.

Tomova highlights the complexities faced by players and tournaments with guidelines being constantly updated. For example, in an interview by The Hindustan Times on July 29th quoted Palma saying that players could ‘have a tour of the city if they wish to, since the virus is barely circulating.’ However, since the interview his view on this matter has somewhat changed.

“WTA protocols do not encourage tourism or city tours; on the contrary, they are highly discouraged,” Palma points out.

Whatever happens this week, Palermo will forever remain the event which kick-started the world of tennis during the troublesome COVID-19 pandemic. As other tournaments start to disappear, the WTA and ATP have a lot of space to fill during the final quarter of this season. So what about having a second Palermo Open or an equivalent in the region later this year?

 “Why not! We would only need to see the conditions,” Palma concluded.

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