Nick Bollettieri: My Work With Kei Nishikori - UBITENNIS
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Nick Bollettieri: My Work With Kei Nishikori

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Kei Nishikori in action during the Davis Cup (image vian Koji Watanabe/zimbio.com).

Written by Nick Bollettieri

 

The story and background of Kei Nishikori is very much like reading a fiction story about a boy full of dreams and how many of them are coming true.

Kei began playing tennis at the age of 5. It was quickly evident he had a natural talent for the sport. In 2004, when Kei was 13, going on 14, he was selected by Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund committee to receive one of the four Morita Foundation scholarships to train at the IMG Academy – Bollettieri Tennis Program.

The Masaaki Morita Tennis Fund was created and funded by Mr. Masaaki Morita, former Deputy President of Sony Corporation and younger brother of company founder, Akio Morita. Mr. Masaaki Morita created the Morita Foundation with the purpose of helping develop tennis players from Japan. His vision has paid off.

Seeing his potential, Kei and his family prepared for Kei to leave Japan and begin his full time training at the Bollettieri Tennis Program at IMG Academy.  When he arrived, he could hardly speak a word of English, but it was evident he had the desire and the talent to be a top player. He was lightning fast, saw the ball very early, had no fear, and had the presence of a champion.

While developing at the Academy, Kei had the support of top tennis coaches, physical conditioning specialists, mental conditioning specialists, nutritionists, managers, in addition to his academic schooling. He competed on the ITF Junior circuit and at 16 was ranked in the top 20 in the world junior rankings. One year later he was in the top 300 of the ATP rankings. During the 2008 US Open in New York, Kei again showcased his potential when he made it to the round of 16 and defeated the world’s #4 David Ferrer in the process.

Throughout my 60 year career I have experienced almost every type of student. Each one is different and my approach to each one is also different. For example, Monica Seles was a very unorthodox player who hit with two hands off both sides. She stood on top of the baseline and worked every ball. She was not a gifted athlete but she was willing to work hours and hours every day. Andre Agassi had the ability to see and react very quickly to almost any ball. He was a character and it was a must that I understand and listen to him versus telling what to do with everything he did.  Jim Courier was a gifted physical athlete who made up for any technical weaknesses he had (backhand) by using his strengths (forehand, serve, and movement) to cover up his weakness. Maria Sharapova stands on top of the baseline and hits both her forehand and backhand as flat as possible. She is extremely competitive. Venus Williams is beautiful to watch with her more classical movement and strokes. Serena is a very physical player who only knows one way to play – I am going to beat you up no matter what you do. In addition there was Tommy Haas, Anna Kournikova, Max Mirnyi, Xavier Malisse, Jimmy Arias, Aaron Krickstein, Caring Basset, etc, etc. THEY WERE ALL DIFFERENT. IN ORDER TO EFFECTIVELY TEACH AND MOTIVATE THEM I HAD TO COMMUNICATE WITH EACH DIFFERENTLY.

Kei’s greatest assets are his foot speed, hand speed, and his ability to see and create openings in the court. Because of his unusual quickness, he has developed one of the best returns of serve on the tour. Besides Novak Djokovic, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone return as well since Andre Agassi. He has the ability to take the ball very early on both his forehand and backhand and can drive the ball through the court from either side. He can also defend very well because of his quickness. His serve, and particularly his second serve, used to be a bit of a liability. With the help of his coach, Dante Bottini, he has improved his first serve adding pop to it. He now is able to get free points off his first serve. He’s also greatly improved his second serve and can defend it very well. Kei’s ability to withstand the intense grind of consecutive matches and consecutive tournaments and his exposure to injury was also an area that needed to be improved. With the help of his physical trainers and conditioning program, this area has also improved. Talent is one thing. To become the best, I’ve observed that players have to have heart, desire, and the willingness to make huge sacrifices to achieve their goals. This is where his other coach, and former grand slam champion, Michael Chang comes in. Michael Chang has taught Kei how to fight, scrape, and compete at a higher level. Altogether, with Kei’s IMG managers headed by Olivier Van Lindonk, IMG Academy, his physical trainers, coaches Dante Bottini and Michael Chang, Kei has a powerful team behind him and is positioned well to succeed at the highest levels.

What’s the future for Kei Nishikori?  If he can stay healthy and keep improving, he has the chance to maintain his current position in the top five on the ATP rankings and to compete for the top titles in the game. He has the talent, the desire, and the support team. I’m excited to see what will unfold!

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.
You can join Bolletteri’s website for free at www.nickbollettieri.co.uk.  

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Iga Swiatek Demands Talks With ITF And WTA After Withdrawing From Billie Jean King Cup

Iga Swiatek is not happy with the ITF and WTA after withdrawing from the Billie Jean King Cup Finals.

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Iga Swiatek (@IgaSwi_France - Twitter)

The world number one has announced that she will not compete at the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in November after criticising tennis’ governing bodies for not looking after player welfare.

 

The event is set to take place the week after the WTA Finals in Glasgow which causes a huge problem and obstacle for many players.

This is definitely the case for Swiatek who has qualified for the WTA Finals which takes place in Texas on the 31st of October.

A huge dilemma which now means Swiatek will not compete for her country at the Billie Jean King Cup.

Speaking on Instagram the Pole criticised the decision from the ITF and WTA and wants to speak to them about player welfare to prevent future decisions from happening, “I was thinking it through a lot and discussing it with my team all over again, but I will not be able to play at the Billie Jean King Cup in Glasgow,” Swiatek said in her Instagram story.

“And it makes me sad. I’m very sorry because I play for Poland whenever it’s possible and I always give it my best. Playing in Poland this year was an honour and I hoped to do this again at the end of the season.

“I’m disappointed that tennis governing bodies didn’t come to an agreement on something as basic as the calendar of tournaments, giving us only one day to travel through the globe and changing the time zone. This situation is not safe for our health and could cause injury.

“I’m going to talk to the WTA and ITF in order to change something. This situation is difficult not only for the players like me, but mainly for the tennis fans that support our fans.”

It’s clear Swiatek wants change in terms of player welfare and communication between governing bodies on how to facilitate the schedule.

However Swiatek now turns her attention to preparing for the WTA Finals and first up for the Pole is Ostrava this week.

In her opening match Swiatek will face either Ajla Tomljanovic or Shuai Zhang.

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Cameron Norrie Withdraws From Tokyo After COVID Positive Test

Cameron Norrie will miss the rest of the Asian swing due to COVID.

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Cameron Norrie (@the_LTA - Twitter)

After withdrawing from his quarter-final in Seoul, Cameron Norrie has now withdrawn from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo.

 

The Brit’s absence from the latter stages of the ATP 250 event in South Korea, raised eyebrows with Norrie suffering from illness.

However Norrie then withdraw from the ATP 500 event in Tokyo where he was due to play Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Now his absence has been explained as Norrie confirmed on social media that he tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement originally posted on Instagram, Norrie explained he had no symptoms but has to quarantine in his hotel room in Seoul, “Unfortunately I had a positive COVID test in Korea and wasn’t able to compete in the rest of my matches,” Norrie said.

“I have no symptoms and I am feeling 100%. It’s been a complicated situation and I appreciate the Republic of Korea trying their best to be amicable in a very tough situation.

“I was really hoping to go to Tokyo but because of the quarantine period I will not be able to play there. Looking forward to getting back to Europe for the indoors. See you guys soon!”

This is the second time Norrie has tested positive for COVID with the first time being before the start of the season.

Norrie’s scheduled next tournament will be in Stockholm which will take place on the 17th of October.

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Carlos Alcaraz Faces Rune Test In Astana

Carlos Alcaraz leads a stacked field in Astana next week.

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Carlos Alcaraz (@WeAreTennis - Twitter)

Carlos Alcaraz returns to the ATP tour next week in Astana next week where he faces Danish talent Holger Rune.

 

The world number one plays his first ATP tournament since winning his first Grand Slam title at the US Open and becoming the youngest world number one in history.

Having qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, Alcaraz will now look to build momentum over the coming weeks for the event in Turin.

First up for Alcaraz is the ATP 500 event in Astana next week where the Spaniard faces a tough opening round in the form of Danish talent Holger Rune.

The Dane reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros earlier this year but had struggled for form since then.

However Rune has reached the semi-finals in Sofia this week and is hitting form at the right time so this will be a big test for Alcaraz.

Should Alcaraz get through that test than a potential second round meeting with Stan Wawrinka could be on the cards with the Swiss wildcard facing Adrian Mannarino in his opening match.

Andrey Rublev is the player that could face Alcaraz in the last eight with the eighth seed facing a qualifier in his opening round match.

Rublev is one of a number of players who are chasing the remaining spots at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Also in the top half of the draw is Stefanos Tsitsipas and Hubert Hurkacz with Tsitsipas facing Mikhail Kukushkin.

While Hurkacz faces Francisco Cerundolo and a potential second round match against home favourite Alexander Bublik could await in round two.

In the bottom half of the draw, Novak Djokovic will continue his search for a surge up the rankings against Cristian Garin.

Djokovic’s potential quarter-final is Jannik Sinner who begins against tricky serve and volleyer Oscar Otte.

Daniil Medvedev is also taking part in a stacked field in Astana as he faces Albert Ramos-Vinolas in his opening round match.

In the bottom quarter there is also an intriguing opening round match between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Roberto Bautista Agut.

Here is the full draw with play starting on Monday:

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