The Bollettieris wanted a private home in West Bradenton, not a trophy house.

The Bollettieris wanted a private home in West Bradenton, not a trophy house.

Nick Bollettieri

Nick Bollettieri

Nick Bollettieri is tennis. He defines the drive, determination and discipline that it takes to be a champion. He’s the sport’s greatest coach, and the empire he built at IMG—turning 40 acres of tomato fields in Bradenton into the most successful sports training facility in the world—has made him a legend.

So here is the big surprise. At his own home, there is no tennis court.

How come?

“Because I didn’t want an eighth divorce,” he bellows.

A comfy living room overlooks Palma Sola Bay

A comfy living room overlooks Palma Sola Bay

Nick loves his house and it shows. A tour led by him is a whirlwind of motion, interspersed by moments of philosophy and introspection. He first enthuses over the living area. “Look at that!” he commands, gesturing toward a pretty remarkable view of Palma Sola Bay. “It’s unique!”

The room itself is open concept in plan, with a large seating area with a comfortable sectional. The adjoining kitchen has every amenity, and the dining area seats 10, with plenty of room for the boys and their friends. Nearby is an office. Nick has written several books and travels extensively (or he did, before the pandemic), giving motivational talks to everybody from the New York Yankees to West Point cadets to inner-city kids.

The house he shares with Cindi—his eighth wife, yes, but she has stood the test of time (17 years) and, fortunately, has a sense of humor—is a trophy house without the trophies. You would expect the walls to be hung with plaques and awards. But instead, it’s very much a private family home for the Bollettieris and their two sons, Giovanni and Giacomo, whom the couple adopted from Ethiopia.

Nick will turn 90 in July, which he finds as hard to believe as anyone else. His stomach is flat. He has a 30-inch waist and weighs 145 pounds, and he has the stamina of a teenager. He still gets up at 5:30 each morning and works out in the exercise room on the ground floor. Does he still play tennis for fun? “No!” Another bellow. “I play golf for fun.”

Still, one senses that his favorite room is the peaceful blue-and-white master bedroom; his famous smile lights up as he enters. Here the view is even more remarkable, particularly from the terrace where he still works on his trademark tan. The vast green lawn runs down to a forest of manicured mangroves, then continues south over Palma Sola Bay to Bradenton, the town that Nick made one of the tennis capitals of the world.

A sunny terrace where Nick Bollettieri can work on his famous tan.

A sunny terrace where Nick Bollettieri can work on his famous tan.

The ghosts of the world’s greatest tennis players seem just out of sight. Nick helped create so many of them: Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova.  But on the stairway down to the playroom on the ground level, Nick points out a wall full of photos. Most of them are of him and his kids. Aside from the boys, he has five other children, all busy with lives of their own. His grandson Hudson has even become a celebrity in his own right. Through Hudson’s famously handsome father, supermodel Brad Kroenig (married to Nick’s daughter, Nicole), Hudson became the godson and muse of Karl Lagerfeld and, rumor has it, inherited a hefty part of the fashion designer’s $200 million fortune.

But the picture Nick is most drawn to is of him and Serena Williams. He pauses to look at it. He says not a word, but when his finger touches the photo, there’s a sigh of awe and admiration.

Nick and Cindi are downsizing and have put their home on the market. Whoever buys it will get a piece of history—tennis history, Bradenton history and the history of a true American original.

Share
Show Comments