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American Nick Bollettieri is the world's most famous tennis coach. Top class players, including idols such as Andre Agassi and Maria Sharapova, have been nurtured at his academy in Florida since 1978. We spoke with the coaching legend during the US Open in New York about Porsche Team Germany's players and the arduous route to the top.
Mr Bollettieri, Sabine Lisicki trains with you in Bradenton. What did you say to her after her first round defeat at the US Open?
"I didn't see her after the match. When she comes to the academy to practise then I'll tell her she has to improve her serve. It's something I'm always telling her. She's a great player, one that keeps fighting and never gives up. But without a really good serve, she will struggle. And physically, she simply has to get even better."
What do you think about the new German "FrÃ¤uleinwunder" in women's tennis?
"I'm sure it's only the start. Kids and youngsters playing tennis need role models they can look up to. The role models are now there, players like Angelique Kerber, Andrea Petkovic and also Sabine Lisicki. It's why I'm convinced that, with the right coaching, there'll be a number of promising players emerging over the next few years."
Who in your opinion is the best German player?
"At the moment, it's definitely Angelique Kerber. She's got everything. On a good day she can beat anybody. She knows it and that's important. Her recent wins have made her enormously confident. She goes out on court and plays her game, no matter who's on the other side of the net. It's exactly the thing that makes great players so strong. When she learns to win the important points in the decisive situations then she'll also be able to win the really big matches and, for sure, a Grand Slam at some stage."
How difficult do you reckon it will be for Andrea Petkovic to return to her previous level after being out of the game for such a long time?
"She's had serious injuries in the past and has always come back. Whether and how quickly she can return to the Top 10 after the long break also depends upon how much she wants it herself and how she deals with it mentally that everything may well take quite a while to fit into place. She reflects a lot about herself and the game, sometimes, or so I've been told, maybe too much. She has to blank it out when she goes on court. For a while, she'll probably lose matches she wouldn't have lost a year ago. Not an easy situation for such an ambitious player."
"I don't know her that well. To me she appears to blow hot and cold. One can lose to a qualifier from time to time but it shouldn't happen at a Grand Slam. Sometimes I get the impression she's not tough enough on herself"
Do young players perhaps become contented too quickly these days, as they can also earn a lot of money without having to hurt themselves every day?
"It's not how I see it. Those wanting to earn a lot of money have to hurt themselves. Those not in the world's Top 50 don't earn any money, they have trouble making ends meet. The times when a Steffi Graf or Boris Becker and AndrÃ© Agassi were winning a lot of money at the age of 17 are over. Today everything takes far longer."
How difficult is it for up-and-coming players to get to the very top?
"It's a hard road. But staying at the top is even tougher. It's a long hard struggle. When you're at the top then everybody wants to beat you. They're lurking waiting for you show any weaknesses. You have to improve every day because they're also improving every day. Only then can you succeed."
And what's the most important thing?
"On court you have to be like a beast. It's only possible if you are fit and confident. When you're fit then you're more concentrated. You make fewer mistakes and are therefore more successful. Fitness and confidence are so important, like a good forehand."
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