2008 Australian Open semifinalist Daniela Hantuchova paid a tribute to iconic tennis coach Nick Bollettieri as she will never forget the day when the legendary coach decided to take her under his wing. On Monday, the IMG Academy confirmed that Bollettieri passed away at the age of 91.
Hantuchova, 39, started her career in 1999 and retired in 2017. But years before turning pro, Hantuchova was taken under Bollettieri's wing. Hantuchova, a former Slovak tennis star, recalled how it felt to be coached by Bollettieri.
Hantuchova recalls being coached by Bollettieri: The day that changed my life
"I will never forget the day when Nick asked my parents if they would be ok with it, that he becomes my coach. I was 12 and my life literally changed right then.
Realizing that the pioneer of the coaching world and one of the greatest people in the history of tennis had trust in my game and believed in me more than I would ever believe, shocked me. The next thing that shocked me was, that from that day, Nick made me come to the gym with him to work out every morning at 4:20 am (not 5.20!!!), just to see how much I actually really wanted it.
Those 40 extra minutes before the academy officially opened up at 5 am made me realize, that if we want to achieve anything extra in life, we need to put that extra effort in," Hantuchova wrote in her Instagram post. During her career, Hantuchova captured seven titles, made a Grand Slam semifinal and was ranked as high as No 5 in the world.
Now, Hantuchova is grateful to Bollettieri for helping her achieve her tennis dreams. "Dear Nick, the way you thought me, how intentions are what really matters on the court and in life, that actions speak louder than words and to have the discipline and commitment into all we do, is what I try to live by every single day.
You did not just talk about it but you were the example how to do it, being the first and last person to come and leave the academy. THANK YOU NICK for everything and words will never be able to describe how much I'm grateful for all that you have done not only for me but for the world of tennis and to all of us, who were lucky enough to be called your students," Hantuchova said.