x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Coach forgives Agassi

Nick Bollettieri, one of the world's most respected tennis coaches, took a positive approach to his former student Andre Agassi's recent admissions of drug use.

Andre Agassi, who was 1992 Wimbledon champion under Nick Bollettieri's tutelage, admitted to taking crystal meth in 1997.
Andre Agassi, who was 1992 Wimbledon champion under Nick Bollettieri's tutelage, admitted to taking crystal meth in 1997.

DUBAI // Nick Bollettieri, one of the world's most respected tennis coaches, took a positive approach to his former student Andre Agassi's recent admissions of drug use. Bollettieri, who has helped produce champions including Jim Courier, Monica Seles, Maria Sharapova and Martina Hingis, condemned Agassi's 1997 actions but said the American would be remembered as a long-term force for good. Eight-times grand slam winner, Agassi, who became the 1992 Wimbledon champion under Bollettieri's tutelage, admitted to taking crystal meth in 1997 in his autobiography Open.

"I'm taking a very positive approach to everything Andre said," said Bollettieri, who spoke to the former world No 1 last weekend. "Andre's life was very complex. He wanted to show each phase of his life in his book. Some people accepted it very positively, a lot of players did not, but overall I think the impact of the book in the long run will be positive." Bollettieri added that temptation existed in every sport and every walk of life.

"It's unrealistic to expect sports stars to be paragons of virtue," he said. "Now we have Tiger Woods in the limelight. Everybody must understand temptation has been the root of evil." Bollettieri, who is travelling to Iraq and Afghanistan with former player Anna Kournikova and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus to entertain US troops on Saturday, pointed to the school Agassi funds for inner-city children as an example of the retired player's philanthropy. "It's how you respond after you have made mistakes that matters," he said.

The 78-year-old, speaking at a coaching clinic in Repton School, also said British No 1 Andy Murray would have won a grand slam if he was from anywhere else other than the UK. He also drew a similarity in his temperament with that of Agassi's. "Andy is very much like Andre. You don't know what's coming next. "Andy has the ability to win grand slams and he probably would have by now if he didn't come from the UK. Whenever the UK has anybody close, the tabloids are tougher than any papers in the world."

stregoning@thenational.ae