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Nick Bollettieri offers insight on U.S. Open

BRADENTON - By the time Serena Williams and Jelena Jankovic took the court Sunday night for the U.S. Open women's tennis final, Nick Bollettieri and his wife Cindi had settled comfortably in front of the television at their 300-acre farm in Craftsbury, Vt., where they run a summer camp designed to combat childhood obesity.

"It was nice to get with the deer and the moose and the turkeys," said Bollettieri, the internationally acclaimed coach and tennis guru and founder of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton.

But Bollettieri was riveted by the on-court action between Williams and Jankovic, a long-time student at the academy and still-frequent visitor who had risen to the No. 1 ranking recently without winning a Grand Slam singles title.

Although she pushed the powerful Williams to the brink in the second set, Jankovic lost the match - and her No. 1 ranking - 6-4, 7-5 before a wildly appreciative crowd at New York's Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Bollettieri, who filed daily reports from the Open for CBS Sports' Web site while updating his own Web site, thinks Jankovic may have learned some valuable lessons for 2009 and beyond in her quest to hoist a Grand Slam trophy.

"Jelena is a lot like Muhammad Ali. She comes in and stings you, backs up, comes in and stings you and backs up again," Bollettieri said. "What she has to learn when you play Serena is that it is very difficult to beat her head-on just from the baseline.

"She had the opportunity to come in and didn't do it, and when you don't attack, it allows Serena to breathe a sigh of relief knowing you're not going to put more pressure on her."

Watching from his Vermont home, Bollettieri found the final every bit as exciting as Serena's 7-6 (6), 7-6 (7) quarterfinal victory against her sister, Venus Williams. Venus had beaten Serena in the Wimbledon women's final in July.

"When Serena and Venus are healthy, they still can beat anyone in the history of women's tennis," said Bollettieri, who returned to the academy Monday.

"All last week, Serena's attitude was calm, cool and collected. She never put her head down, never showed one negative sign if she was in trouble," Bollettieri said. "Jelena is very close, but in order to win a Grand Slam, she can not sit back and wait for Serena to give it to her. She has to take it to Serena.

"Her best offensive shot is the two-handed backhand down the line, but she needs more than that to win a Grand Slam."

Serena enlisted Bollettieri as a mental coach throughout the tournament. "I talked to her almost on a daily basis, giving her pep talks and telling her to stay calm and that she is the best athlete in the world," Bollettieri said.

A current academy student, 18-year-old Kei Nishikori of Japan, made it to the fourth round of the men's draw before losing against Juan Martin Del Potro in four sets, the first two decided by tiebreakers.

Bollettieri thinks it is only a matter of time before Nishikori challenges the top tier of men's players, although there is no telling when Roger Federer plans to relinquish his grip on the U.S. Open.

Federer claimed his fifth consecutive U.S. Open title with a clinical 6-2, 7-5, 6-2 victory against Andy Murray, who upset Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.

"When Murray played Nadal, his strategy was fantastic - he stayed behind the baseline, moved him around, hit some deep balls and frustrated him with a few short balls," Bollettieri said.

"When it came to the final, you could have given Murray free gas and it wouldn't have mattered. His legs were finished, his heart was finished and his soul was finished. Federer served well, sliced well and came up with some big forehands and Murray couldn't respond."

Bollettieri was successful on 82 percent of his predictions during the tournament. His Web site, www.nickbollettieri.com, contains numerous additional insights on the U.S. Open and the state of tennis.

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