Nick Bollettieri: Thanks, with all my heart, for letting me be part of Team Williams
If I never do anything further in tennis, you made my life so special in so many ways
Thursday 23 June 2011
Dear Serena and Venus,
"It is close to impossible to describe you, Serena. I was up early on Tuesday – there weren't many here when I came through the gates at Wimbledon – and I used the time to do some thinking. I thought and thought and came up with the following: "A can-do attitude makes the impossible possible."
I have no doubt that 99 per cent of all people would have accepted what you, Serena, have experienced and decided to settle with saying how lucky they are to be alive, now it's time to move on and adjust to a complete new way of life.
You told me that all you thought about as you faced that operation and the real fear that your life was in danger – let alone your future in tennis – was to play again the game that has been life to you. And you have fought and fought to get back. You just love this goddamn game.
Sitting on Centre Court and watching every single move of your first game against Aravane Rezai, I tried to imagine what you were thinking. With every serve, volley, backhand and forehand that crossed that net out there on such a great stage, it made me realise more than ever before how fortunate I have been to be more than a spectator on both of your careers' and to have been a very close part of the Williams team.
As the match progressed I glanced up at the coaches' box, wondering what Venus, Richard and the rest of the family were thinking too, back at this tournament that has become the Williams' second home. Before the match I spent some time with your father – a man I first met when you guys were 10 or 11 and arrived at my academy. We spoke of the years on the road together and I made it absolutely clear to Richard that he and Oracene, your mother, are responsible for the values and work ethics they instilled in both you guys. That is extremely important and both of you would not be here, on this world stage, if Mum and Dad were not by your side with words of positive enforcement and lots of love and hugs at all times.
I want the entire world to know that Richard Williams never, never, not once raised his voice when working with his daughters. Over these years, since even before you turned pro Venus at the age of 14, many, many people, from the tennis establishment, coaches, former players, the media, put Richard down, down, down, right down man, when he did not let you girls play tournament tennis over your formative years.
He's crazy they said, the way he trains you. You know what I say? If only some of the tennis parents we see around today, from the very top level down, were crazy like that. I wish, and sometimes I even pray, that our tennis parents would follow the Williams' philosophy.
There's a simple way of winning any argument in your favour, and in your daddy's favour; look up your record. Let's do that.
OK, there's 80 career titles between you, 20 Grand Slams, nine of them here on the grass of Wimbledon. That's not counting the doubles, there's another 12 Slams to add to the list.
And that's not all, not by a long stretch. Every single time you set foot on a court, you girls give your all, every last drop – exactly 100 per cent. You have defied the odds and are still the best. You give hope to other boys and girls.
I could keep writing about the Williams, go on and on and on, but will end with this: Serena, thank you for letting me be a small part of your life. You are truly my "Hall of Fame" and if I never do anything further in tennis you made my life so special in so many ways. Venus, you are also special to me. Tennis needs you girls. Hey guys, how about another Williams v Williams showdown in the final?"
All the best, Nick
Coaching report: Venus Williams v Kimiko Date-Krumm
Teenage kicks from two oldies
Can you believe these two – a combined age of 71 and they produce a match like that? Both of them played like teenagers. I can hardly credit what I saw under the roof on Centre Court yesterday afternoon. Kimiko Date-Krumm stands there on the baseline and the harder you serve, the more she likes it. What a girl! She played so well – she serves and volleys, she returns serve and volleys, hits a two-handed slice, hits a two-handed drop shot.
But hey – don't anybody dare say that Venus didn't play well and deserve to win. She played her heart out and dug deep. That's why it went to three sets – lesser players would have lost that match.
Date-Krumm's display showed one thing clear as a Florida day; you gotta be prepared to serve and volley. Why aren't more players doing it? Serve and volley, return serve and come in, go inside the court and hit half-volleys, that's the way.
She's an interesting character Date-Krumm. She serves not much above 90mph, which makes her no gunslinger, but it is real deep and accurate. Some of the shots she hit throughout the three sets – boy! She may be 40 but still has a future if she can keep playing like that.
The match may have been won by Venus but both players were winners and a tremendous asset to our game. It's not about age, is it? To these guys it's just a number, what they have is belief and I hope they keep on believing.
At the other end of the age scale...
I've told you guys before how excited I am about Heather Watson but yesterday was part of the learning curve for her. These are the sorts of games she has to learn to win. She still has plenty of time to do it of course and I hope she's not too disappointed.
Mathilde Johansson does one thing – one thing very well mind. She hits the crap out of the ball, flat and hard, bang, bang, bang. What Heather's got to learn is to mix it up against someone like that; throw in a little junk, try a chip, a slice – anything to throw a one-shot opponent off her rhythm. Overall she played quite a good game – the elbow injury certainly restricted her – but she can learn, sure she can learn.
Coaching tip of the day
There are some such as the great Roger Federer who have stuck with the traditional one-handed back-hand, but today most players prefer, and most are coached, to use two. For most players it offers more power and more control. The two-hander breaks down simply – the bottom hand is the support hand as it is the top hand that does all the work, providing that power and control.
Win a week at my academy
Want a week's tennis holiday at my IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida? Included in the prize is five days' top-class tuition. The prize can be for an adult wanting to shape up your game, or for a child who wants to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Andre Agassi, Monica Seles and Maria Sharapova, among other players who went from being kids under my tuition to No 1 in the world.
What you have to do is answer this question: it's a prediction today – what will the score be in the game between Elena Baltacha and Shuai Peng (and how long it will last as a tiebreak) and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The winner gets a signed hat or T-shirt. I'll be putting out a question every day and all the winners will go into the hat for the big prize to be drawn at the end of the fortnight: a week at the IMG Nick Bollettieri Academy. Yesterday's winner was Rachel O'Reilly.
Mr B's A-Zee
Gis for grit All the talent in all the world means nothing if a player does not have the determination to never give up. Look at that amazing match first up on Centre Court yesterday. That was true grit from both. Wow.
H could be for height but instead let's go for Henin. Justine may have lost her two finals here but as the sport gets bigger and bigger at 5ft 5in she shows there is still hope for the smaller player.
And why are 'southern' ways of speaking spreading north?
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