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Bollettieri belongs in the Hall

Monica Seles will be entering the International Tennis Hall of Fame this summer, joining the current 207 members, a group that includes Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Virginia Wade, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase and Steffi Graf.

It is a Hall of Fame that also includes names like May Sutton Bundy, Maud Berger Wallach, Louise Clapp Brough, Constantine Mako and Bertha Townsend Toulmin, a membership that runs from Russ Adams to Beals Wright, a list that comprises the famous and obscure.

Members have been added since 1955, yet there has been no room for a man who helped revolutionize the way champions are made, a man who has touched tennis and its players like few others.

How in the name of tennis academies has Nick Bollettieri been overlooked? How can there be a legitimate Hall of Fame without some suntan lotion and sun glasses belonging to Bollettieri.

Seles says she has no idea and believes the Hall needs Bollettieri as a member to be complete. Andre Agassi, who will certainly make the Hall as soon as he is eligible, said Bollettieri deserves the honor. Jim Courier concurs.

Those are just three of the 10 players Bollettieri has personally worked with who have gone on to be ranked No. 1 in the world in singles, three of the 20 Bollettieri protégés who have reached a ranking in the top 10.

Yet the No. 1 tennis coach in the game, and the builder of a facility that became the mold for academies around the world, waits for his name to be called.

Dick Vitale, who does not shy away from saying how he feels on any subject, calls it absurd, mind-boggling. Bollettieri, and his academy, is the reason Vitale relocated to the area. His daughters both attended the academy and went on to play at Notre Dame.

College tennis is filled with academy alum. Pro tennis is replete with former Bollettieri students. The world has copied the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy model.

The bottom line is that few people in the history of tennis have had a hand in what the game has become today as Bollettieri.

Seles, Courier, Pete Sampras and Boris Becker, players Bollettieri has touched, are in the Hall of Fame. The list will grow quickly as the past generation leaves the game in favor of younger players who have traced their path through their footsteps at the academy.

Bollettieri should be there, in the Hall, to greet them when they arrive.

Whether it is oversight, jealousy, or petty differences, the panel that makes up the voters who elect contributors to the game should right the wrong. They should do it this year.

To be elected as a contributor, a nominee needs to receive at least 75 percent of the panel's votes and have the highest percentage of affirmative votes.

A coach, an entrepreneur, a writer, a motivational speaker, a community activist, Bollettieri has affected the sport like few others.

He has had his differences with some along the way, but he has always embraced, and promoted, the sport.

At the age of 77, he maintains the passion that has propelled him to the top of his profession. It is time he is recognized for the Hall of Famer that he is.

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