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



Kei Nishikori in action during the Davis Cup (image vian Koji Watanabe/

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
You can join Bolletteri’s website for free at  

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A new documentary, and the rekindling of Serena Williams’ tryst with 2018 US Open destiny



Serena Williams, 2019 US Open, Patrick Mouratoglou
Photo Credit: US Open/USTA

It’s almost a year since Serena Williams got embroiled in a war of words with chair umpire Carlos Ramos in the 2018 US Open final. The subject is yet to ebb entirely from memory though. The first episode of ESPN’s new documentary series Backstory – featured on the incident involving the 23-time Grand Slam champion – does its bit to ensure that on the eve of the 2019 US Open, attention is centred on what occurred a year ago.


Titled Serena vs the Umpire, the episode is an extrapolation of the match’s progression and what transpired within it. It presents facts through the pros and cons of Williams and Ramos’, and also of Patrick Mouratoglou’s actions that charted the match. Yet, in spite of this, the program makes Williams out as the wronged one.

First, by her coach, Mouratoglou, who displayed his commitment as a mentor by using hand signals to try and guide her. Then, by Ramos who penalised her for the Frenchman’s infraction. Without heeding her vehemence that she was not a party to her coach’s decision-making. The narrative of the program puts it out that regardless of Williams’ behaviour that saw her scream and rant at the umpire and call him a liar and thief, she did not deserve to be termed as the pariah of the match.

The program’s one-sided leaning does not change the problematic aspects of Williams’ and Mouratoglou’s behaviours. Williams, in protesting her innocence about receiving (and accepting) coaching, did cross the line with her aggressiveness. There was – and is – no denying her disrespect towards the authority on the chair officiating the match. And, rationales like the momentousness of the occasion getting to her do not justify her stance at all. Rather, they hinted at her being ill-equipped to handle the scenario in what turned out be the proverbial repeating of history, at the same tournament.

Mouratoglou’s near-immediate (after the end of the match) admission that he tried to help her – and his maintaining to do so, even now – also debilitates Williams’ position. The 49-year-old’s statements about what he thought was Ramos’ inability in letting the match spiral out of bands, is a bemusing segue as well.

“Ramos’ job is also to keep the match under control. He totally lost control of the match, completely, because he reacted with emotions. And he’s not supposed to — he’s a chair umpire, he’s not a player,” Mouratoglou said. Ironically, had Ramos lashed out emotionally instead of abiding the rules, the repercussions would have been far serious for Williams for name-calling him and for continuously challenging his authority.

Mouratoglou’s comments are revealing of how the program does not consider the ramifications of that fracas for Ramos.

Since the International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) rules do not permit Ramos from speaking to the media – including to ESPN for this program – the 48-year-old has been short-changed as he cannot present his point-of-view countering the acclaimed coach. Also, in the year that has almost gone by, the veteran official’s on-court calls have been scrutinised and compared with his umpiring of that match. Moreover, Ramos will not be umpiring any of Williams’ matches at Flushing Meadows in 2019. All of these are indicative of how Ramos’ professionalism has been denigrated.

Players have the right to request to not have certain umpires officiate their matches and many have done so for reasons of their own. The avoidance of the tension between such a player and umpire is undeniably a positive to come out of the move. Yet, what does it leave the umpire with, since, irrespective of how a player behaves with the official, the latter does not have the same means to put forth his officiating preference.

Speaking of preferences, proffering his concluding thoughts on the match, Mouratoglou opined, “It was horrible for us. It was horrible for Serena. It’s fantastic for tennis. It was unbelievable, that was the best moment in tennis of the past 10 years. Tennis was everywhere. You don’t have any drama in tennis. We have drama in all the other sports, but not tennis. People should be allowed to be herself and show emotion. You want passion, that’s why people watch sport. They want things to happen. They want to feel emotion, they want to root for someone, they want to be shocked, they want to be happy, they want to be sad. That’s what they want and everybody felt something that day.”

Indeed, the match prompted reactions from everybody who watched it. Nonetheless, its proceedings overshadowed the game of tennis so much so that the bigger picture was not that of the sport but that of egoism.

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Janko Tipsarevic retires from tennis



Janko Tipsarevic has announced that he will retire from professional tennis at the age of 35 next November. The Belgrade native enjoyed his best seasons in 2011, when he qualified for the ATP Finals, and in 2012, when he reached the quarter final at the US Open for the second consecutive year. In 2012 he reached the quarter final or better in 14 tournaments, including the semifinal at Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Toronto.


He reached his best ranking of world number 8 in April 2012 after qualifying for the quarter final in Miami. He won four titles in his career and reached the fourth round at Roland Garros, Wimbledon and Australian Open.

He returned to action at the Australian Open last January after a long absence of 16 months following two harmstring surgeries. The Serbian player lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the first round at the Australian Open. Later this year he reached the quarter final in Houston.

Tipsarevic is planning after the Davis Cup finals in Madrid next November.

“It has been a great 16 years. After a lot of sour searching and thinking what is important to me in this stage of my life and what does make make me happy, I have decided to retire from professional tennis. My last competition will be the Davis Cup in Madrid. In the following years my focus will be my family, franchising our Tennis Academy and International coaching for several weeks per year. Thank you for your ongoing support”, announced Tipsarevic via social media.

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Cincinnati Open Final Preview: Will Kuznetsova And Medvedev Achieve Double Glory For Russia?

It’s Championship Sunday in Cincy, with two unlikely yet intriguing singles finals.



Svetlana Kuznetsova – Western & Southern Open (foto via Twitter @CincyTennis)

Both world No.1’s were upset on Saturday by Russian opposition, opening up a golden opportunity for today’s singles finalists.  For three of the four, it’s a chance to win the biggest titles of their careers to date. And for the fourth, it’s a chance to win their biggest title in a decade.


Madison Keys (16) vs. Svetlana Kuznetsova (WC)

15 years ago, Kuznetsova was a teenage who shocked the tennis world by winning the US Open.  Five years and three Major finals later, she’d win a second Grand Slam title at Roland Garros.  But recent times haven’t been as kind to Svetlana, who has struggled with injuries, coaching changes, and visa issues.  As per the WTA’s Courtney Nguyen, Sveta missed the beginning of the US hard court swing due to those visa issues, and contemplated retirement with her ranking at risk of dropping outside the top 200 due to her inability to travel.  But just a few weeks later, she’s into her biggest final in over two years, thanks to four victories this week over players ranked 11th or higher.  But in today’s final, she faces a competitor she’s never beaten.  Keys owns a 3-0 record in their head-to-head, with all three of those matches played on hard courts.  Madison is yet to drop a set to Svetlana. And just like Kuznetsova, Keys has looked really strong this week.  She’s been just clubbing the ball, and taking the match completely out of her opponents’ hands. But as a player who has choked in big matches before, can Madison maintain her form in this final?  Based on how well she’s fought this week and made slight adjustments when needed, and with a boisterous American crowd behind her, I think Keys will be ready for this moment.

Daniil Medvedev (9) v. David Goffin (16)

After a set-and-a-half against Novak Djokovic yesterday, it appeared the world No.1 would be cruising to a straight set victory.  Novak had been dominating opponents all week, and Daniil was receiving treatment on his right arm, which looked quite painful. But it seemed the 23-year-old Russian decided if he was going down, he was going down swinging.  Medvedev started going for his second serves, striking some just as hard if not harder than his first serves. He’d hit a total of 16 aces in the match. That, combined with his strong ground game which suddenly wouldn’t miss, infuriated Djokovic to the point where it seemed the world No.1 just wanted off the court before the final game had even been decided.  Danill is now into his third final in as many weeks, but lost in the final of his last two tournaments. His opponent today capitalized on an extremely open half of the draw. But the tennis gods definitely owe Goffin some luck after the bizarre injuries that have recently sidetracked his career. He injured his eye when a ball glanced off his racket, and injured his ankle when he slipped on the tarp at the back of the court at the French Open.  These two have met twice before, with both matches occurring earlier this year. Medvedev prevailed in straight sets at the Australian Open, while Goffin outlasted Daniil 7-5 in the fifth at Wimbledon. This will be Medvedev’s 16th singles match within the past 20 days, which is a ton of tennis no matter your age or your level of fitness.  And coming back less than 24 hours after a thrilling victory over the world No.1 is never easy. But against an opponent that hasn’t been playing with much confidence, and who is also vying for the biggest title of their career, I suspect Daniil will power his way to the winner’s circle again today.

Other notable matches on Sunday:

In the men’s doubles final, Wimbledon champions Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah (1) vs. Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek, who were Wimbledon semifinalists.

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