Coaching Icon Reno Manne possible return to British Tennis with London Academy

April 16, 2018

Reno Manne has coached 6 world #1 players in his remarkable coaching career. An original student and then coach at the famous the famous Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Florida.

 

He is arguably a coach that has defined and developed much of the success Bollettieri has been credited for. 

 

Known as the Hard Man Of Tennis, an ex Captain in the British SAS, Reno Manne deserves his reputation as a phenomenal tennis coach in player development. 

 

In speaking with British tennis legend Tim Henman he had this to say.

 

"He is in my opinion one of the worlds best coaches, he defiantly earns his title as the hard man of tennis. He coached me for the first time in 2003 for an 8 week period. I brought him in to assist Paul Annacone my full time coach at that time. As soon as Reno Manne walked into the room you felt his presence, he was the boss and everyone knew it."

 

Manne was recently linked with a move to coach British number 2 Dan Evans. Evans then tested positive for cocaine, got suspended and Manne walked away from the deal.

 

However Tennis ChitChat has been informed of a possible move to bring the Scotsman back to the UK. 

 

A London based Academy is in the pipeline with construction pending planning permission. An approach has been made to Manne in an effort to bring him back to British shores to head his own Academy. Efforts have been made to get him to the UK in the past without success but talks with this project have been productive thus far.

   

5 years ago British number one Laura Robson traveled to Florida to work with Reno Manne.

 

He trained her for a two week period, only to then reject a full time contract offer to work with Laura, citing that she was late on court every day, she was lazy and lacked discipline. 

 

Manne is known for his strict discipline regimes with players. He has worked with 6 world #1 players in his career. Known as the hard man of tennis the Scotsman has a remarkable record and success rate within tennis player development.  

 

Bringing Manne back to the UK to undertake a major player development project must be a mouth watering prospect for many a British tennis lover. 

 

However he is known for his dislike of the British LTA, any program undertaken would almost certainly not be in cooperation with the LTA which many see as a positive rather than a negative. 

 

 Reno Manne during a TV interview this summer with The Koz  (Tennis Channel)

He was one of the worlds most talented junior players of his time. He later became a coach of high status. His reluctance at times to except his status or ability as a talented coach is all to familiar of the characteristics of his genius as a coach.

 

His hard man approach has frustrated many a tennis federation, with his characteristic, all to familiar, direct say what he feels communication.

 

He was a product of the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Aademy as a junior. He still to this day has a close relationship to Bollettieri, Bolletteir's success as a coach was partly due to Manne's ability to work with his top players.

At the age of 17 he was the Scottish #1 in both juniors and seniors. At the age of 18 he won the Ford Scottish Open after receiving a wild card into the tournament.

In the final he beat the then Worlds #7 and Wimbledon Champion Pat Cash in straight sets in front of a home Scottish crowd. He became a Scottish tennis sensation overnight in winning the tournament in what was then an incredible achievement for a Scottish 18 year old.

 

 

Remarkably shortly after this Manne then enlisted into the British Military, shocking all who knew him within tennis. His potential as a professional tennis player didn't faze his desire to follow his brother's footsteps into the military. He spent several years in the British military making it into the elite British SAS were he became a Captain.

 

Manne and his brother were in the same SAS unit in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1990 during an assignment. Gregory Manne was killed during an exchange of gun fire whilst the unit was on a patrol. He was shot and killed three feet away from his brother.

 

Manne took the loss extremely hard, sources close to him say he never fully mentally recovered from the loss. He isolated himself for lengths at a time. He reportedly spent a 5 month period on a mountain in Norway during winter, completely isolating himself from the world.  

 

Reno Manne known as the Hard Man of Tennis was a former Captain in the elite British SAS. 

Living on the edge

 

His youthful love for living on the edge with cars, jets skis and other sports caused him several bad injuries.

 

His love for racing Jet Skis in the 90's had him injured and out of tennis for many a month.
Manne crashed a Jet Ski at high speed whilst racing in 1991 in Florida, leaving him with a fractured skull, broken jaw, broken arm, broken ribs and unconscious. He fought his way back to recovery and back on the tennis court again.

He won an endless list of junior tennis tournaments as well as doing incredible coaching work for the Scottish Tennis Federation at a very young age. As a young pro he had the vision and dedication to help the development of tennis from a coaching level. Inspired by a coach he worked with as a junior in Edinburgh, Scotland, John Patterson.

 

It was obvious from a young age that he had a remarkable talent for coaching. He had an ability to motivate players and fellow coaches. He built a reputation for himself as young coach with incredible energy and drive. He was dedicated, hard working and extremely effective in working with talented players.

 

 

Golden age of tennis

Reno Manne coached full time at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton where he had been a student for many years before. He had a very successful period at the Academy as a coach from 1990 to 1994 during the Golden Age of Tennis at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy. It was  known then as The NBTA. It was during this time that he built a formidable reputation for himself with students and players alike.  

He worked with Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras whom he had been fellow students with at the NBTA. He had a close re pore with both Sampras and Agassi. Together with Gabriel Jarimillio and Nick Bolletteiri he worked often with Agassi on court.

 

Reno Manne and Pete Sampras at the NBTA    (Norwegian Press)

The relationship with Agassi came to dividend later, as it is was alleged that Reno Manne helped turn Agassi's career around by motivating him to quit drugs, getting his focus back to tennis. Manne worked effortlessly in guiding the wayward Agassi away from drugs back on the road to tennis again.

 

A detail Andre Agassi unfortunately forgot to mention in his autobiography. A detail his critics invariably have been quick to point out.

Reno Manne reacted strongly to the way Agassi portrayed Nick Bollettieri in his autobiography, which was released in 2009.

 

Manne was reportedly very disappointed in the way Agassi seemed to disrespect Bollettieri in the book. He made his point to Agassi by ripping up and returning the signed copy of the book Agassi had personally signed and sent to him.

 

Manne accused Agassi of being disloyal in the way he disrespected Nick Bollettieri in the book. Manne was angered and upset by Agassi's betrayal of Nick Bolletteiri. It wasn't until late 2011 that Andre Agassi and Reno Manne finally shook hands again, putting the episode behind them. 

 

However during this years US Open whilst Manne was live on stage during a show together with Nick Bollettieri, Manne once again openly criticized Andre Agassi, describing his book as  "A pathetic excuse for a book ". Bolletteir was seen trying to refrain Reno Manne as Manne let the audience know in good style his feelings on the book. 

Manne has also worked closely with Kournikova, Seles, Courier, Sharapova, Borg as well as several other top players.

 

Reno Manne and Nick Bollettieri did 5 live shows at this years US Open in New York

Las Vegas

In 1993-94 the father of Andre Agassi (Mike Agassi) was often in and out of the IMG Bollettieri Academy due to his position at that time with Donnay. When he first saw Reno Manne on the court teaching, he became an instant fan.

 

He was openly complementary of the young Reno Manne, describing him in an article in the Manatee Herald, as the best young coaching talent to emerge from the Academy. Mike Agassi was often seen following  Manne around the Academy, watching his teaching methods. 

Later that same year Manne spent an eventful 4 month period in Las Vegas, home of Andre Agassi.


He worked often with Andre, Mike often seen court side watching Manne's coaching methods. Manne also worked with Las Vegas based Nathan Baxter, son of Billy Baxter the poker legend. Manne did remarkable work with both players and was greatly rewarded by both fathers. It was rumored he received a million dollar payment bonus from the wealthy Billy Baxter for his services.

During Billy Baxter's induction to the Poker Hall of fame, he paid tribute to Reno Manne, describing him as one of the most inspirational people he had ever had the pleasure to know. He thanked him publicly for turning his sons wayward life around.

 

He described him as one of the greatest coaches to teach the game of tennis. Mike Agassi later paid a public tribute to the young Reno Manne, describing him as a "Fantastic teacher of the game of tennis, a young coaching genius".

Pete Sampras often called on the services of Reno Manne. Based for a time at the NBTA, he appointed the late Tim Gullikson as his full time coach.

Reno Manne highly respected by both Sampras and Gullikson worked and traveled often with the two. Tim Gullikson had a lot of affection and regard for Manne, the two were good friends, often talking for hours on end about the sport they both loved. Gullikson regarded Reno's ability to motivate players as priceless.

 

He was constantly impressed by Reno Manne's energy levels on the court, which in turn motivated himself and other coaches alike.

 

Reno Manne at IMG Academies were he grew up as a junior student

Good Player

At that time Reno Manne still young, had the ability at times when his game was on, to beat any player in the world on the practice courts, something which made him even more of an interesting if not fascinating figure. 

In talking to Pete Sampras in Sydney, Australia some years ago, we got on the subject of Reno Manne. He talked about how Reno could have been top 10 in the world but for his knee injuries, which hounded the Scotsman in his early career. Sampras said, "he was fantastic on the court back then, not only as a player but as a coach."

 

He told of the passion Reno Manne had in coaching players. "There was no one quite like him, and still isn't" Sampras said. "He is a very special coach that understands how to make players wanna train harder, a true motivator". Sampras explained how Reno Manne's energy levels really lifted the level at the Bollettieri Tennis Academy at that time. Students loved him, the respect and regard people still have for him in tennis is a credit to him. 

 


Bjorn Borg

In November 1993 Bjorn Borg walked through the famous gates of the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy at the age of 35.

 

He planned a comeback and was soon working with Jose Lambert, another legend of the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy. It was not long however before the young Reno Manne and Bjorn Borg crossed paths,, and a friendship developed.

 

Borg was well aware of Reno Manne's presence at the Academy and aware of his reputation. He was impressed by Manne, working with him on court often. Manne traveled for a period with Borg, to this day the two are still friends.

 

 

Reno Manne and Bjorn Borg in 1993  (British Press: The Guardian )

Dennis Van Der Meer

In 1996 Dennis Van Der Meer tried effortlessly to obtain the services of Reno Manne at his Hilton Head Academy in South Carolina. Manne by that time had walked away from the NBTA in 1994 due to irreconcilable differences with the Academy's then vice president Greg Breunich.

 

Manne has always been reluctant to speak about the situation due to his strong loyalty to Nick Bollettieri and the Academy itself. Rumors indicated however Manne's dislike for Breunick's behavior and treatment of staff at the NBTA,which resulted in Manne leaving. Some reports were of a heated argument which took place when Breunick was allegedly verbally abusing tennis staff. Manne stepped in defending the staff members and a physical scuffle allegedly took place between Manne and Brunich.

Van Der Meer sought after Reno Manne for some time well aware of his reputation on the court. 

It was not until 1996 that Gavin Cox the then director of tennis at the Van Der Meer Academy managed to get the two together for talks. Reno Manne met Dennis Van Der Meer in Berlin, Germany in 1996. They talked for three days while Dennis was conducting a clinic in Berlin. They allegedly reached an agreement with Manne being offered a contract by Van Der Meer.

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However some weeks later Reno Manne rejected the offer, stating he could never teach at another Academy as his loyalty always would be with the NBTA and his friend Nick Bollettieri. Van Der Meer not known for taking no for an answer tried again in 1997, reportedly offering Manne a more lucrative contract, which again was turned down.

 

However reports indicated that Manne was unsure whether he wanted to continue with tennis. He had been playing professional soccer for a period, a sport he also excelled in,having played for Scotland Schoolboys as a 15 year old.

Manne was also was high school captain of his high school soccer team that went on to become National and British Champions. He was sought after by top Scottish and English Clubs as a boy but decided instead for a career in tennis. Reno Manne still holds the British high school record of 58 goals in one season in 1984. That record still stands to this day.

 

        

Controversy

Reno Manne's reluctance to except himself, or to except his profile within tennis has at times been regarded as a waste of talent. However his inability to respect tennis federations has often led him down the path of controversy.

 

Known in his youth for being the hard man of tennis, never afraid to say what he felt to whoever he felt, often lead him down the path of trouble.

 

As a junior he refused to train at the Davis Lloyd Tennis Center in London, stating publicly that he refused to train with LTA yuppies.

 

When taking his part one LTA teaching certificate in Jersey (Channel Islands), he refused to be certified by the LTA after passing the coaching course.

 

He was only 18 years old at that time but publicly stated that the instructors giving the course were not suitable to be teaching tennis, never mind certifying people to become instructors. His honest outspoken often eccentric behavior is typical of his passion for tennis.

However he seemed to mastermind his own distancing from the LTA. There was an extreme dislike from Manne towards the LTA. Those feelings for some reason are still strong to this day. They are most likely harvested from his experiences as a junior player growing up in Scotland. 

Whilst attending a French Tennis Federation tennis seminar in Paris as a 20 year old in 1988, he bizarrely stood up and angrily proclaimed "Tennis is not owned by rich snobs remember that"! He then walked out gesturing rudely, flipping the finger to the President of the French Federation on his way out of the room, he was never to be seen again at that seminar.

 

Tim Henman and I talked at length about this side of Manne's character.

 

"You have to understand where he is coming from", Henman said. "He is a strong believer in supporting the underdog, he hates the concept of tennis being about privilege and wealth. He's developed kids form poor backgrounds and gained them college scholarship on his own dime, no other coach has done what he has done. He's in it for tennis not himself, I couldn't respect anyone more." 

 

Manne working with Norwegian Federation players at IMG in 2012

Reno Manne was and still is very direct and open about his criticism of the British LTA ,accusing them of having cultivated tennis into a snob sport in the UK. 

 

He lives most of the year back again in Bradenton, Florida. He has for periods in the past hidden himself away from the tennis world. He is in constant demand from players all over the world. His reputation and regard are as about as well known as the difficultly players have in contacting the man. 

He is well known for making himself hard to find, a behavior which has baffled many people in the tennis world and the ITF. I find this totally charming about the man, typical of his hard down to Earth Scottish character.

 

It seems that he is oblivious to the impression he has on people, or is it his total reluctance to involve himself with various tennis federations due to his very strong opinion that federations only cater for the rich and privileged kids. He is very opinionated on that subject.

 

He has openly stated many times that he won't work with tennis federations that only prioritize children from privileged backgrounds. He has said often that if a kid has a tennis talent, he or she should be judged on that talent alone and not by how much money their parents have.

 

In all honesty, from my time spent with Reno Manne, I only acquired feelings of total respect. He's a larger than life character that draws you in, you feel his energy around you as soon as he walks into a room. He has a positive vibe that lifts and fulfills you before he even says a word. A truly unique man.   

 

 

Vera Zvonareva

I spoke recently with Russian top ten player in the world, Vera Zvonareva. She described how she had heard of Reno Manne from several sources. She was delighted to have finally met him at IMG in December of 2010.

 

She trained with him for several days over the Christmas period. She was very impressed by him,saying "we both got on very well together, he is so humble and down to Earth."

 

Zvonareva describing how she would definitely recommend him. He has a larger than life persona about him which she found motivating. Taking to her I could see her eyes light up whilst talking about him. Such is the motivation he instills in players.

She described him as being very modest about his ability to coach and motivate players. She said  "He is very charismatic, he made me laugh a lot with his humor."  On the court he lives up to his reputation for sure". If I had the chance to have him as my coach I would jump at the chance for sure". " He is so motivating , you just feed of his positiveness and energy."

 

Reno Manne and the then worlds #7 Vera Zvonareva

Sir Ben Kingsley

 

Reno Manne and Sir Ben Kingsley have been good friends for many years. Kingsley often travels to Longboat Key, Florida  spending time training and hanging out with Manne. The two have been close friends for years, they are often together during Kingsley's visits to the Sunshine State.

 

Kingsley has for a long time been a strong advocate for Manne to return to the UK and work with British tennis player development. Kingsley has described Manne as one of the most interesting people he knows. 

 

Reno Manne and Sir Ben Kingsley have been close friends for years

All in all I have to say that in all my years of tennis journalism, I still find Reno Manne a fascinating character of this wonderful game. He has been called the Tennis Whisperer amongst other names I have heard people call him. His reputation and the tales of his coaching ability never seize to fascinate me.

The one I have heard most frequently is how he took a 14 year old Norwegian boy whom had only started to play tennis. The boy came form a poor Norwegian family that could not afford tennis lessons. Reno boldly announced to the club that he would privately coach the boy (Tom Erik Lokken), then aged 14.

 

He announced that within a year and a half this boy would become U-16 Norwegian National Champion. The club board laughed at him as did The Norwegian Tennis Federation. Coaches around the country laughed at such a statement, they would soon be eating their words.

True to Manne's word the boy became U-16 National Champion and in the following year became U-18 National Champion. A remarkable story and a remarkable coach. No doubt the name of Reno Manne will be whispered along the corridors of tennis for many a year to come.

 

For me a tennis lover, I think Reno Manne is the most gifted tennis coach I have ever seen. He believes in how tennis should be, his has consistently turned his back to federations that cater only to money. Known as the hard man of tennis he is so very similar to another famous Scot who also grew up in the same part of Edinburgh, Sean Connery.

 

Their behavior so similar at times that it can only be respected for what it is. Reno Manne to me is what tennis should be, he's a man I understand and respect for everything he stands for in tennis.

 

He has his flaws and his Demons that haunt him. The loss of his brother all those years ago has tormented him for years. He has drifted in and out of tennis loosing his way not knowing were to find his footing. All self made issues, there has been no shortage of offers.

 

The recent loss of his mother and close friends within a short period of time hit him hard again.

 

He has turned down numerous offers again and again to travel with players including Andy Murray. He has stated he is not interested in travelling again on the road. Others have criticized him claiming Manne is making excuses because he has had his day. 

 

Loss is a part of life that we all at one time experience in our life. Manne belongs in tennis, yes he's fragile like any of us, he's also a genius that tennis needs to look after. A man who has coached with integrity and honesty, he doesn't chase the dollars, he chases Mavericks and has developed Champions like no other.

 

Reno Manne and his coach, mentor and beloved friend Nick Bolletteiri during the good old days of the NBTA

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