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Tennis icon headlines island charity event

By Staff | Oct 29, 2014

Tennis legend Nick Bollettieri and a couple of coaches from his Bradenton academy will roll into town Nov. 1 for a morning benefit at Beachview Tennis Club. Sanctuary tennis director Christie Bradley (top left), FISH of Sanibel executive director Maggi Feiner, Beachview director of tennis/owner Toni Halski, Dan Schuyler (bottom left), and Karen Bell, co-owner Lily & Co. Lily the company mascot is pictured with Bell.

Tennis legend Nick Bollettieri and a couple of coaches from his Bradenton academy will roll into town Nov. 1 for a morning benefit.

Aside from spectator and player fees and donor proceeds going to FISH of Sanibel, the other winners of the event will be the 40 players of a round-robin of mixed doubles at the Beachview Tennis Club. Another 40 guests are purchasing tickets to attend the four-hour event. Bollettieri and his coaches will instruct players rotating between courts. Bollettieri is an icon and pioneer in tennis, a founder of the Bradenton academy where many tennis legends gained traction. He is noted for drill-sergeant instruction, his booming New York brogue, a character of outsized proportions with a colorful history in and out of the sport. He has married eight times, trained superstars, and commands huge appearance fees — that he will waive in Sanibel.

An afternoon book signing/meet and greet with Bollettieri are scheduled for the Lily & Co. jewelers from 2-5 p.m. Nov. 1. The Lily & Co. event will offer a raffle for a tennis bracelet and other goodies. It is open to the public. Bollettieri’s books will be available for purchase.

Players at the Beachview event will receive tips from the Bradenton instructional team, with those playing the center court receiving lessons from Bolletieri himself. He will be wired for sound to add extra zest to his instruction. Bollettieri has a reputation for holding few punches. A handful of tickets remain for the 40 spectator seats, said Dan Schuyler, a sponsor and organizer of the Bolletieri fundraiser. Tickets for the 40 players were sold in a couple of days.

Schuyler said to expect fun and serious tips from Bollettieri and his team.

“There’s an energy (about Nick),” said Schuyler, who has trained at the IMG Academy that had been the Nick Bolletieri Tennis Academy until 1987. “Anyone involved in an experience like this is very fortunate. It’ll be fun.”

Schuyler has played tennis for two years. For him, it was an effort to shed weight. He tried golf and health clubs but didn’t find the edge he needed to lose some 50 pounds, he said. So, he turned to tennis. A birthday gift for a week to Bollettieri’s Bradenton resort was just the ticket, Schuyler said, who shakes his head in recalling the brutal training over seven days.

But Schuyler in his stay also befriended the iconic tennis instructor, who has mentored superstars in his long career, players like Andre Agassi, Monica Seles, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. Bollettieri offered to bring a team of instructors and oversee the half-day clinic in Sanibel, understanding that proceeds would benefit an island charity. FISH of Sanibel serves seniors and the underprivileged. Bollettieri even waived a standard appearance fee of about $10,000.

“The idea is to help the everyday player, sure,” said Bollettieri, who will sign copies of his new book — “Changing the Game” at the Lily event, “but it’s more about helping the community, to the things that are important to Dan. I’m delighted to do it.”

Because Bollettieri is considered a guru in this sport, the half-day tennis benefit is “an opportunity that does not present itself ever,” said Toni Halski, director of tennis and owner of the Beachview facility that features five courts and hosts the instructional event. “Certainly a rare treat.”

For details about the Bollettieri tennis clinic and the afternoon book signing, call 472-2888.