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Fox on the Box: Legendary coach changing the dynamics in his old wives’ tale

THE grunts and groans of SW19 will stay silent this year, coronavirus having put Wimbledon out of action. Disappointing though this is, it doesn’t mean the next couple of weeks will be devoid of Sue Barker, rain and dashed British hopes.

The BBC, understandably keen to cling on to the one big annual sporting event it still gets first dibs at, will take us on a nostalgic journey of tournaments past, the greatest games, finest finals, the laughs, the tears and Andy Murray.

From next Monday, Clare Balding will host Wimbledon Rewind [BBC Two, 1.30pm] featuring great games of the past before Sue presents Best of the Championships [BBC Two, 8pm] where she will sit two metres adrift of Tim Henman and Boris Becker to remember a time when the only thing that stopped play at the All England Club was Adolf Hitler or a sudden downpour.

You can also fill the tennis void by viewing Love Means Zero [Sky on Demand] which focuses on one of the sport’s more controversial characters, Nick Bollettieri.

A man who wouldn’t look or sound out of place in a Martin Scorsese movie, Bollettieri is the tough-talking coach who, despite admitting he knew little about the game (‘the dynamics of the stroke, centripetal force? S*** I don’t know anything about that,’), developed the idea of opening a tennis academy.

Despite his unorthodox and at times tough-to-watch approach, Nick’s list of former students is impressive, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles, the Williams sisters. ‘About 180 grand slams between them, baby,’ claims Bollettieri. He says baby a lot.

The film mostly focuses on his relationship with Agassi but asked why his star pupil refused to be interviewed he claims not to know. ‘Nick doesn’t look back,’ he says. ‘If you asked me the name of my eight wives, I couldn’t do it.’

The pair’s acrimonious fall-out came after Bollettieri terminated his contract with Agassi by letter soon his 1992 Wimbledon triumph.

He went on to coach the Las Vegan’s rival, Becker. ‘He needed a success story with another guy,’ says Becker. ‘I was that guy.’

It can feel more like a mob movie then a tennis tale but Jason Kohn’s fine film is the perfect warm-up to a fortnight of looking back.

@foxonthebox