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Sharapova pays touching tribute to late former coach

Nick Bollettieri died aged 91 in Florida last week

Five-time Grand Slam winner Maria Sharapova has paid tribute to a former coach, Nick Bollettieri, who passed away aged 91 in Florida at the weekend.

Bollettieri had suffered from ill health in recent years but left a legacy as only the fourth Hall of Fame coach who produced at least 10 players that reached world number one status.

Sharapova was one of them and took to Twitter to pay her respects to Bollettieri, whose death was confirmed by his manager Steve Shulla to the Associated Press.

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Sharing a picture of herself with Bollettieri, whose IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, she joined as a seven-year-old after moving from Russia, Sharapova recalled: “You turned on the gymnasium lights at 5AM with the brightest (& whitest!) smile.

“You opened the door to your home, the grounds on which you gave us the freedom to pour our hearts and sweat on. 

“The scoreboard never dictated your commitment to show up for us. Boy is that rare!

“I am a lucky girl to have shared so many remarkable moments with you. Thank you for everything, Nick!!” Sharapova signed off.

Sharapova was encouraged to meet Bollettieri aged six after she attended a tennis clinic run by Martina Navratilova in Moscow. Navratilova advised Sharapova’s parents that they should take her to Bollettieri’s academy, and the family made great sacrifices to move to the United States.

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Sharapova’s father Yuri Sharapov borrowed money so that he and his daughter could travel to America in 1994. They arrived with savings of just $700, and without being able to speak a word of English. 

Yuri took various low-paying jobs to pay for Sharapova’s tennis lessons until she could be signed by IMG in 1995. The academy agreed to pay annual fees of $35,000 for Sharapova to learn tennis there from the age of nine onwards, while Sharapova’s mother was unable to join them in the US for two years due to visa issues.

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Rising to fame in the sport in November 2000 when she won a girls 16 division tournament aged 13, Sharapova turned professional aged 14 the following year and became the first Russian to win Wimbledon as a 17-year-old in 2004. 

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Other legendary tennis players that Bollettieri guided included Andre Agassi, the Williams sisters, Boris Becker, and Sharapova’s compatriot Anna Kournikova.

Bollettieri was fondly remembered by those who crossed his path in tennis, with Shulla explaining that “when he became sick, he got so many wonderful messages from former students and players and coaches. 

“Many came to visit him. He got videos from others … It was wonderful. He touched so many lives and he had a great send-off,” Shulla added.

https://ift.tt/HvZ1hLj 07, 2022 at 08:17PM
from RT – Daily news

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