News & Features
Max Mirnyi - A Tall Tale of Success
by Nick Bollettieri
, 4 August 2008
Max Mirnyi has been training at the Academy for seventeen years, and he's left a footprint here at least the size of our 300 acres. The 6'5" Belarusian has been such a fixture here at the Academy for so long that he is considered family. Young players all look up to him (literally and figuratively) when he shows up to practice. Veteran players, coaches, staff, all respect and admire his talents and his character. But, I can remember when Max wasn't so tall or recognizable.
Max was born in Minsk, Belarus, a landlocked country bordering Russia to the north that was nearly devoured by World War II - a quarter of its population was wiped out, as well as half of its economic resources. Growing up in a country where tennis wasn't even televised, Max's father, Nikolai, made the unusual decision to start hitting tennis balls with his six-year-old son. In 1991, on what little money he had, Nikolai and his talented twelve-year-old son made the long journey across the Atlantic to Brooklyn so Max could pursue a professional career in tennis.
As is the case for so many; one opportunity created another. Max trained for ten months in Brooklyn, then Nikolai heard about the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, and the two made the 1,000 mile plus trip south to the Gulf coast of Florida. A friend asked if I had a few minutes I could spare to take a look at a young boy from Belarus. I set them up with a time for the next day. As Nikolai tells the story neither he nor Max slept much the night before as so much was riding on Max's performance the next day. I saw Max play and after fifteen minutes I offered him a full scholarship to the Academy. Max was thirteen.
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