Legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri has had 10 No. 1-ranked players, including Monica Seles and Andre Agassi. So who better to turn to when we want a little sage court talk? The Pelham native is as busy as ever, coaching in the IMG Academy Bollettieri Tennis Program in Bradenton, Fla. – “that’s where I’ll remain,” he stresses – and promoting his new book, “Changing the Game” (New Chapter Publisher, $26.95, 319 pages). I caught up with him on his return from Wimbledon, where he did commentary for the BBC early in the tournament, before he headed out to Newport, R.I. where he’ll be among those enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July 12. Congrats, Nick!
Nick, thank you as always for taking time to answer my questions. We’re down to the final days of Wimbledon. Who do you like to win?
“There are a number of players who can win the men's and women's tournament this year. It’s going to come down to who remains healthy and who can execute at the important moments. It’s interesting to me that there are now a number of good young players in each draw who are beginning to make breakthroughs. However, I think this year we will again see one of the veterans come through to win both titles.”
Whom should we keep an eye on?
“On the men's side obviously the big four (Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray). I also like the up-and-comers Dimitrov, Nishikori, and Raonic. On the women's side, I like Sharapova, and Kvitova but the up-and-comers Bouchard, Halep will have something to say. I also like Lisicki, because her game seems to take off on grass.”
There was some talk before the tournament began about Djokovic being seeded ahead of Nadal even though Rafa won the French. Can you explain the seedings? Does Wimbledon have its own little rules?
“Wimbledon seeds with consideration of a player's grass court record. This is different than all of the other majors. I have never got involved with arguing the seedings. If you are the best, no matter where you are seeded, you will win.”
Following that train of thought, some commentators say that Djokovic is regressing at the Slams, because he lost to Wawrinka in Australia and then to Nadal in Paris. Is Nole in danger of become a master of the 1000 tournaments who can’t win a Slam?
“Commentators and the experts should take the Fifth on this. Novak is among the very best players in the world. He could win any of the Grand Slams. He's proven he knows how to win Slams. I wouldn't count him out.”
You’re a coach, so what’s the significance of Andy Murray getting a new coach (former French pro Amélie Mauresmo) at this point in his career, particularly as it’s unusual for a male star to hire a female coach?
“Sometimes players feel they need a fresh start or want to focus on other parts of their game. Sometimes they just want a change. Many top players now are opting to work with former top players as their coaches. I think what Andy has done is good for tennis. I think it’s impossible to tell how it will ultimately play out. We'll all just have to sit back and give our blessings to a very positive decision.”
Will Serena bounce back after Wimby?
“I am at a loss for words to explain Serena's results at the French and Wimby. I will say that there is nothing wrong with her techniques. I believe it’s either something in her mind or a physical issue that's causing her lackluster performances.”
Can Fed win another Wimbledon?
“Roger has improved his game by staying closer to the baseline, hitting fewer defensive slice backhands, getting a bigger serve and aggressively moving into the net when he has opportunities. Stefan Edberg has also been a very good addition to his team. I believe Roger certainly can win another Wimbledon.
Who will be the No. 1 ranked player at the end of the year – Nadal or Djokovic?
“It will come down to which player can hold up better physically over the rest of the year.”
What’s it going to take for Nole to get passed Rafa next year at Roland Garros?
“The results of this year and the end of this year will have an influence on next year. Rafa is the best ever on a clay court. At the French, in his house, in a 3 out of 5 set match, the match is in his hands.”
What’s happened to Wawrinka?
“Stan seems to have had a letdown after the great win in Australia. He's playing better now with more focus and I expect good results from him for the rest of the year.”