Tennis coaching legend Rick Macci traces his success back to his childhood in Greenville


By Drew Terhall

GREENVILLE — It’s tough to talk about the history of tennis without mentioning Rick Macci. The Greenville native is best known as Venus and Serena Williams’ childhood coach.

That is just one of the many Macci’s accomplishments. He has coached five players ranked number one in the world, eight Olympic gold medalists, had 12 players ranked in the top 10 in the world, 52 Grand Slam Singles titles, 86 Grand Slam titles in Singles, Doubles and Mixed along with 328 USTA Junior National Titles since 1985 and counting. He was also named the USPTA Coach of the Year seven times.

He was inducted into the United States Professional Tennis Association Florida Hall of Fame and is the youngest ever USPTA Hall of Fame inductee when he was inducted in 2017. Locally, he is in the Greenville Athletic Hall of Fame in tennis and basketball.

His tennis journey all started in Greenville living at 300 E Harmon Drive near the park. He first started out playing many different sports before picking up a tennis racket. He golfed at the Greenville Country Club and played basketball, baseball, football and hockey. He even won a Punt, Pass, Kick competition at Harmon Field. His older sister, Toni, was a swimmer on the high school team.

His father, Santi Macci, owned the Wayne Theater. Santi passed away when Macci was 10 years old. After that, Macci switched out his time at the country club for time at Greenville City Park Courts on court number one.

“At 10 years old, my father passed away. We no longer could afford to join the country club. At 12 years old, I grabbed a tennis racket and went down to the six courts. Back in the day, late 60s, the courts were all chipped up asphalt, the nets were steel and there was no wind screens. Not a lot of people played. Tennis was just kind of getting going back then,” Macci said. “I hit against the wall and I really liked it. The ball always came back. There was no arguing. The wall always brought it back and I fell in love with the game. That would embark a journey that’s almost mind boggling.”

Macci spent his days either practicing on his tennis skills or getting the local kids together to play any sport. He said there would be days he would head out to the courts in the morning and practice, go back home for some lunch, practice for another three hours, go back home for dinner and head back out to end his day at the tennis court.

He always stayed active. Macci said he like to organize things and turned the courts into a gathering space. No matter the time of year, Macci was always getting his friends together to play some sport.

“I was always the organizer. I was always the one calling all the kids up on Saturday morning getting them to play football and basketball. Waking everybody up on a Saturday and the parents would always get mad at me,” Macci said. “I was always the guy, kind of the leader, putting things together. It didn’t matter if it was zero degrees out or 100 degrees, that was always kind of my DNA.”

Macci still found time to teach himself the game of tennis, even after joining the tennis and boys basketball team in high school. He said there were times after basketball practice he would shovel a path with his tennis racket and hit ground strokes against the wall as his mom, Norma Macci, parked behind him with the car lights shining on him.

The tennis courts started to get more and more busy as Macci continued to get better and make a name for himself. He reached the State Tournament his senior year and was the number one player in the Ohio Valley by the time he was 18 years old.

The Dayton Daily News even gave him the nickname, “The Greenville Gunner”, early in his career. He played in tournaments at Triangle Park and was one of the top players in the Dayton area.

The self-taught tennis player had many scholarship opportunities in tennis and basketball after college. He didn’t accept those offers. Macci said he went to Wright State for two years and played in prize money tournaments and continued to work on his game.

With no tennis lessons under his belt Macci competed in pro tournaments, including a Dayton Pro Qualifying tournament. In 1979, he spent a year in New Jersey and competed in tournaments there. He played his way into being the number one ranked player in the state.

Macci credits his drive to analyze and his competitive nature for helping him thrive in tennis. He said growing up with a single parent, his midwest qualities and doing things on his own at a young age helped him reach this level of success. That, along with his high energy, fueled his competitive nature.

“I always had this gift to analyze and never be satisfied until I figured it out. I would even go to the Wayne Theater or the State Theater back in the day and no one would sit with me. Five minutes into the movie, I’m telling them how it’s going to end. So I’m there eating popcorn alone and they’re somewhere else. I always had that in me, a very high energy,” Macci said.

Those qualities also helped him discover his true passion, helping others.

Macci said he discovered early on he loved to help others. One of his first jobs was working at Bob Schul’s Sports Complex in Troy in the early 1970s. He was an assistant pro there. Macci had the opportunity to practice while getting his first crack at teaching.

Macci had a knack for coaching. He said he found he just had the natural ability to communicate, educate, motivate and stimulate. His boss at the time gave him high praise just weeks after starting.

“Tom Fridell, who was the director, he said this after two weeks of being there. He told me, I never forgot this to this day, he goes, ‘If you stay in this, I see qualities in you that you could be one of the best teachers in the world someday’,” Macci said. “Here I am like 21 years old and my mind wasn’t even there. He just saw things in me.”

From that point, Macci started his path towards becoming the decorated tennis coach he is today. He said he loved coaching and helping others and tennis was the platform.

While competing in New Jersey, he learned how to run a tennis club and everything that comes with it. Macci said he knew he would have to go to California or Florida to continue on this path.

That opportunity came in 1980 when he was hired as the director of tennis at Grenelefe Golf and Tennis Resort in Haines City, Florida. That’s where the Rick Macci Tennis Academy started.

He taught tennis to people of all ages while at the resort. On of his first students at the resort was Tommy Ho in 1985. Ho was nine years old at the time. Shortly after, he began to coach Jennifer Capriati.

Both players set records in the junior circuit. Ho won the National Boys 18 championship at the age of 15, the youngest to ever do it. Capriati won the Girls 18 championship at the age of 12, the youngest to ever do it. Both records still stand today.

With their success, word started to get around about Macci and his coaching ability.

“From that, it solidified this guy from small town Greenville just knew how to motivate and extract greatness. From that, people wanted me to do an academy,” Macci said.

In 1992, he moved the academy to Delray Beach and it became a hot spot for up and coming tennis players. Young players can live at the academy while they train and work on their game with Macci.

Macci said two years after the academy opened, took on a big risk that ended up being the best decision of his life. Richard Williams made a call over to Macci and had him come to Compton to see his daughters Venus and Serena play.

After seeing them on the court, Macci took on the financial responsibility and got the Williams family out to the academy. Macci said Serena and Venus became like his daughters and Richard became his best friend.

His role in Serena’s and Venus’ development was immortalized in the movie “King Richard”. Jon Bernthal portrayed Macci in the film about the start of the sister’s tennis career and Richard Williams’ role in helping them get their start.

Macci said the movie is almost 100% accurate. The only inaccuracy he noted was he didn’t have as bushy of a mustache as the one Bernthal wore in the movie.

After coaching the Williams sisters, Macci went on to coach many more successful pros. People have described his list of past players as a “Who’s who” of tennis. He has coached players like Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova, Anastasia Myskina, Sofia Kenin, Mary Pierce and Christian Ruud.

No matter how much time has passed or with each recent accomplishment, Macci always circles back to this journey’s start in Greenville. He said he had the best friends and the best childhood growing up in Greenville and is still that same guy from Greenville. Those qualities he gained through his childhood helped him achieve these goals.

“It’s been an amazing situation. But at the end of the day, because I’ve done hundreds and thousands of podcasts and interviews, people always want to how it started. It’s all about Greenville. It’s always been a big part of me. I’ve never lost my identity,” Macci said. “Just always rather helping others than even myself. That’s been the cornerstone.”

Macci now lives in Boca Raton, Florida and has three daughters Ginger, Lisa and Farrah.

At 69 years old, he still attacks each day with the same passion he had when he was just starting on this journey at 22 years old. Macci said he starts his day by waking up at 2 a.m. each day because waking up a 1 a.m. is a bit too early for him.

He eats four yogurts, drinks three waters and has a lot of vitamins before going out for his daily half-mile run. After petting his cat to keep it happy in his office, he opens up the Rick Macci Tennis Center in Boca Raton. Just like during his childhood, he lives a half a mile away from the public park.

As the park opens at 5 a.m. each morning, Macci usually starts giving lessons at 5:30 a.m. Macci said he still teaches 50 hours a week.

He works with people of all ages still. He could be working with five year old kids still learning the game and then work with the number one 80-year old player in the country. Macci also works with over 30 players on the pro tour. He will also give Zoom lessons, analyze videos people send to him of their stroke and certifies coaches.

His most recent project is eight-year old Vlada Hranchar, a girl who escaped from Ukraine back in February 2022. A tennis prodigy while in Ukraine, Hranchar has over 200,000 followers on Instagram and is taught and managed by Macci. He said his focus each session is on the student that’s on the other side of the net that hour, minute or second.

Macci was never the type of person to have a chip on his shoulder. Macci didn’t have the same background or the same luxuries as some other tennis professionals had. He started his tennis career by hitting a ball against a wall and teaching himself the game.

It’s his competitive nature that drives him each day to look forward and never look back.

“I didn’t win Wimbledon. I didn’t come from a lot of money. I had to do it brick by brick. I had to take the stairs, not the escalator. I’m not that type of person, but maybe inside because I’ve always been so competitive and I’ve always wanted to be the best. Whoever thinks is the greatest or the best, I just know that I’ve done a lot and there’s a lot more I want to do. People say, ‘You’re the goat’ or ‘You’re the best coach ever’. I don’t look at it like that. I’m just trying to get better every day,” Macci said.

Outside of coaching, Macci is a motivational speaker that has spoken at many events over the years. He hosts a podcast with motivational speaker David Meltzer called, Game Set Life. Macci has written a book on tennis and two motivational books. Macci also teamed up with Harvard-trained Neuromuscular Neurologist Dr. Nivedita Uberoi Jerath to write “Billion Dollar Mind”.

Macci also has his fingerprints all over tennis media. Before any big event or Grand Slam, Macci will make appearances on Fox News, NBC News, Good Morning America and many more news shows.

Many different tennis media outlets will do stories on tweets Macci sends out. If Macci tweets out a tennis opinion or shares a story, it will more than likely be picked up by any sports media outlet.

Despite doing many different things in his career, Macci is a motivator at heart. He wants people to believe they can achieve anything in life.

“You can be and do whatever you want. I’m really more of a life coach than a tennis coach. I don’t change strokes, I change lives. I get people to believe and achieve and have courage and confidence before they even think about it. I just get them to think big and be big. The mental part, how to look at things differently. That’s why I’ve had all these kids, five number ones and over 50 Grand Slam championships in singles and doubles. That’s the window dressing. I just love helping anybody, anytime and anywhere,” Macci said.

While not definite, Macci is working on a document series with Serena and Venus Williams on the trail and tribulations of tennis and what the journey looks like to becoming a professional. Macci said the project will probably start or be out in 2025.

For more information on Rick Macci and on the academy, visit

Contact Daily Advocate sports editor Drew Terhall at [email protected].

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