Backing the backhand down the line

On his visit to India for the Road to Wimbledon action, Andy Murray's coach Jamie Delgado spells out the basic etiquettes of coaching.

Andy Murray of Great Britain in a practice session with coach Jamie Delgado.   -  GETTY IMAGES

For someone associated with Andy Murray, one of the best players in the current era with two Olympic gold medals in singles, three Grand Slam crowns in Wimbledon and US Open, apart from six Grand Slam finals at the Australian Open and French Open, coach Jamie Delgado was ever so friendly with the under-14 girls in clearing their doubts, during his brief stay in the capital.

The fact that he stayed grounded despite the high profile job was very much evident when the 41-year-old Delgado happily recalled his numerous visits to India. He was very subtle in hinting that he was still on the job, by saying that he was, “waiting for Andy to return to the game from rehabilitation’’.

British coach Jamie Delgado at the Road to Wimbledon U-14 tennis event at the Gymkhana Club in New Delhi on Wednesday.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

 

He was quick to recall the Satellite circuit in 1996, which featured Mahesh Bhupathi apart from the then top-100 player in the world, Mark Petchey of Britain, and Laurence Tieleman of Italy.

When one mentions that the circuit was dominated by an Italian, Delgado recalls the name of "Filippo Messori’’, as if it was yesterday.

The Challengers, played a few years later, is fresh in his mind. Delgado remembers that Leander Paes had won the titles in both Lucknow and Chandigarh, beating him in one of the finals in two tie-breaks.

“There is a tendency to train a lot these days. At least back home in Britain. Leander and Mahesh played a lot of tournaments. They were not training that much. You learn a lot in matches; get used to the situations and learn to deal with them. You learn to lose. To come back and play better the next time. It was a lot of fun, playing tennis around the world. I am not sure about the situation nowadays,” says Delgado, while watching the Road to Wimbledon action at the Gymkhana Club.

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When a girl approaches him to seek his observation, Delgado connects swiftly to her wavelength and asks a couple of questions before giving his key points to better her game.

“Even if it is Andy, you have got to engage the player before providing the inputs’’, he says, quite candid about his coaching methods.

Making the player think and analyse is half the job done, and Delgado has mastered it. He is encouraging, cheerful, looks eye-to-eye, by removing his sunglasses, and conveys his points in a simple manner to ensure easy absorption.

Delgado holds his head with both hands when the conversation moves to the current plight of the players in the lower echelons of the game.

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Quick to admit that he is not familiar with all the new rules, Delgado expresses shock that how any sport can discourage players from competing. He just cannot digest the removal of ATP and WTA points from the lower tournaments as much as the shrinking of the qualifying draws from 128 to 24, and the ridiculous low number of 4 in Challengers.

Delgado is of the firm belief that the good aspects of the game have to be brought back to ensure a healthy growth as otherwise there would not be a big pool, generating high quality players from around the world.

"I do a lot of things. I go back to London, and will be visiting Hong Kong in April, as part of Road to Wimbledon. I am engaged with LTA, and I also do some commentary’’, says Delgado, before he is whiskedaway for a television interview for Road to Wimbledon.

In the intensely competitive world, Delgado has managed to strike the balance to keep the fun element alive in his coaching.

Jamie Delgado greets a young tennis player at the event.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

 

He has played Wimbledon for 23 consecutive years. And the last time he did so in 2014, he in partnership with Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, recovered from the brink of defeat to beat Divij Sharan and his Taipei partner Yen Hsun Lu, 2-6, 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-3, 6-2.

He reached 121 in singles and 57 in doubles, but numbers do not render justice to Delgado the tough competitor.