Nick Bollettieri: 'You are not fit and you no longer control the court'

An open letter to Serena Williams: 'In three months you could be ready to kick the world's butt'
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The Independent Online

Dear Serena,

A number of thoughts crossed my mind as I watched you, one of the two greatest female athletes in the history of sport, and the defending champion at the Australian Open, get eliminated early from the tournament yesterday by Daniela Hantuchova.

My mind raced back to all the times that I worked with you and Venus - the other greatest female athlete - and recalled how determined you always were, how talented, how fit. You had the world at your feet. You won the Serena Slam. You came to work with me before the Slam tournaments. What great times we had. I cannot overemphasise how much I thought of you, and think of you. My admiration is undimmed.

But I can't help but believe something is lost, and I don't mean your record against Daniela, who had never even taken a set from you before.

Sure, other observers pointed out that you fought to the bitter end, going for your shots.

But you are not physically fit, and you no longer control the centre of the court. Why? For the first, I don't know. For the second, because you've been playing at least three feet behind the baseline - forcing yourself to cover more territory, and giving opponents time to reach most of your balls.

You used to force others to train physically, to hit the ball. At your best, you stood close to the baseline and at times inside it. You hit the ball sooner. You utilised the power of the opponent's return against them. You controlled play. You caught the opponent off balance.

You hit early, and hard, and came to the net a lot more.

Can you come back? A will to win and a determination to fight is no longer enough to get through a Grand Slam. I was asked to be Boris Becker's coach in 1996 - his ranking had slipped to No 16; he was out of shape. I asked him what he was willing to do. He said: "Whatever I have to do." I accepted and he did get back on top.

If you would be willing to answer in the same way Becker did, I would once again work with you. I believe in you. In three months, you would be ready not only to challenge the world, but to kick its butt. What do you say?

Yours,

Nick Bollettieri

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