My Beginnings

Nick Bolletteiri

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The 4th of July when I was three years old—almost 4. The year was 1935.

I was born in 1931 in my grandmother's house in a village about 30 minutes outside of New York City that was called North Pelham at the time. It was a natural birth, but I've been told that it wasn't an easy delivery. Guess I started out as a bit of a challenge, and I'm damn sure I'll go out the same way.

My sister Rita told me that I was born early in the morning, and I think my natural habit of being an early riser is due to that delivery time. To this day, I am up at 5:45 a.m. I do my stretching and 50 sit-ups, work out with light weights at the gym or my "office" at IMG Academy. It used to be an old metal desk next to one of the courts at the indoor tennis center, but my staff recently surprised me with a new one. I then begin my duties at 7. I don't eat breakfast, but I always seem to have energy to burn.

My grandmother's two-story house was large enough to accommodate both of our families. The DeFillipos, on my mother's side, lived on the ground floor and we, the Bollettieris-my father, mother, older sister, younger brother and I--lived upstairs. It was tight quarters on the top floor. We all shared three bedrooms--my brother and I doubled up--and there was one small bathroom. Imagine five people maneuvering around each other in the morning before school and work. By today's standards, it would seem impossible, but back then, families managed.

The DeFillipo house was situated on a large, two-acre lot, and every inch was covered with flowers, grapevines, a vegetable garden, a chicken house and fig trees. I was responsible for collecting eggs from the chicken coop each morning. Grandpa would make his homemade wine the old-fashioned way-in our basement. The entire family crushed the grapes by jumping up and down on them in bare feet.

Because of my diminutive size and because I was the youngest, I was allowed a little leeway growing up. No one ever told me to be quiet, and my friends will tell you I haven't stopped talking to this day. We were one big happy family, both upstairs and downstairs, but make no mistake-the entire house, from the wine cellar to the attic, was ruled by Grandma DeFiIlipo.

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