By Ann Liguori
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He’s 85 years young and doesn’t need more than three to four hours of sleep a night. He’s coached 10 No. 1-ranked tennis players in the world, including Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Mary Pierce. He’s also worked with Serena and Venus Williams, Kei Nishikori, Boris Becker and Maria Sharapova, to name a few, and thousands of other tennis players at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, which he started as the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in the 1970s.READ MORE: 'A Tragic Loss Of Life:' Michelle Go Remembered As Selfless Volunteer After Deadly Subway Push In Times Square
He still travels more than 200,000 miles every year giving speeches and tennis lessons across the world. He enjoys boasting that he’s had eight wives. He’s the ultimate promoter. He’s none other than legendary tennis coach and Hall of Famer Nick Bollettieri.
Bollettieri came up to my WFAN radio broadcast booth at the US Open, where he visits me every year, to catch me up on all his latest news. He has been in New York for 12 days already, attending the qualifying tournament. He’s already made about a dozen appearances, was a guest on the Tennis Channel on Thursday morning and was heading out to do an American Express interview. He’s excited about a new initiative he says he is doing with the United Nations, which will “bring hope to children around the world.” And his website, nickbollettieri.com, provides articles he’s written, tips, strategies, teaching philosophies, videos and predictions.
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Having a conversation with Nick is enlightening and educational. He’ll talk about the importance of staying fit (which he is), about the importance of parents not pushing their kids in sports, about kids staying away from drugs, alcohol and violence and a number of other subjects in any given sentence.
“You only have one body, baby. Take care of it!” exclaimed Bollettieri. “Obesity is an epidemic in our country. Children need help and guidance to build character and beat off the devils of drugs, alcohol and violence.READ MORE: Driver Charged After 15-Year-Old Girl Struck, Killed By School Bus In Brooklyn Hit-And-Run
“My dear friend many years ago helped me get started in my summer camps,” explained Bollettieri. “The greatest coach ever in the NFL, Mr. Vince Lombardi, would say that ‘my Green Bay Packers never lost. They just ran out of time.’ So parents, when your kids come home from school, don’t grade them just by their scores, but by their efforts.”
Considering all the student-athletes he’s coached throughout the years, dating back to when he built the first tennis academy in the world, Bollettieri shared several bullet points that often find their way as topics for his motivational speeches:
• “Stay together as a family, find the time to spend time with your children.”
• “Select your friends wisely.”
• “Education is the foundation of everything.”
• “Take care of your body.”
• “Help others.”
If you ever have the opportunity to catch up with Bollettieri and have a chat, don’t pass it up. He’s full of wisdom and enjoys being one of the sport’s most passionate ambassadors.
Carry on, Nick. You’re the best.MORE NEWS: Mother Of 19-Year-Old Killed At East Harlem Burger King Seeks Tough Sentence For Alleged Shooter
Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori