The thunder, lightning and lashing rain had sent everyone running for cover and at every turn, dripping Parisians huddled under umbrellas. With the forecast predicting much more of the same for the coming week, small animals were seen marching, two-by-two, towards an ark parked on the Seine. It was just another chaotic day at the French Open.
The men’s draw looked lopsided after the withdrawal of Roger Federer with a back injury and it was left in tatters after Rafael Nadal pulled out with a wrist problem on Friday. Top seed Novak Djokovic is not looking his usual confident self while the No.2, Andy Murray, has stuttered and stumbled through the first week. If the weather is playing havoc with the scheduling, the players are playing fast and loose with the form book. Mayhem reigns – and rains – in Paris.
Throughout it all, a quiet man sits with his arms folded, fielding questions. Jamie Delgado, an unflappable soul who has made a career out of going about his business far removed from the spotlight, is now in the hot seat. He is Andy Murray’s coach, the man in charge now that Amelie Mauresmo has left the team and the man who must keep the Scot’s French Open challenge on track after a harum-scarum start to the tournament.
Unlike Murray’s last two mentors – Mauresmo and Ivan Lendl – Delgado does not have a glittering grand slam career behind him. But what he lacked in major trophies he more than made up for in longevity and two years ago, he played at Wimbledon for the 23rd time to set a new record for the men’s tour. Tennis, then, is his life and there is not much he has not seen. And nothing rattles him.
“I don’t think I’m a guy who’s shouting and bawling and throwing teacups around,” Delgado said, “but I do think I understand the game well and players’ strengths and weaknesses, how to practise and make people have a confident attitude. I don’t think I complicate things and I don’t overstress things when they’re going badly. I’d like to think I can keep things calm.”
Even when Murray was struggling in the first couple of rounds against Radek Stepanek and Mathias Bourgue, Delgado did not panic. He knew his boss had not had as much time as he would have liked to prepare having won the Rome title and got to Paris later than usual so he was not quite on song as the event began. And, anyway, Murray won both matches. He played much better against Ivo Karlovic on Friday and today faces another tall, big server in John Isner.
“I think he hadn’t come into this tournament in such good form,” Delgado said. “That affected the preparation of last week. He’d had a long stretch of play so there were a couple of days off at the beginning of the week which affected the practice at the end of the week. So I wouldn’t say he started the first match with the sharpness we would have liked.”
When Murray arrived in Paris, the focus of attention was on his coaching situation as Mauresmo had only left her post a matter of days before – and that focus fell on Delgado. He had joined Murray’s gang as an assistant coach towards the end of the Australian Open in January and is still, officially, only employed in an assistant capacity. But if the big job was offered to him, he would jump at the chance. “If he asked me to do it, I would be more than willing,” he said. “Of course I would. It’s not something I’ve talked that much to him about. It’s his decision at the end of the day. But if he was to say: ‘Jamie do you want to do it full on?’ Yes of course I would.
But if Murray decided he wanted another high-profile figure sitting in the courtside box, that would not faze Delgado either.
Another big name joining the team would not make a huge difference to Delgado’s life. “If someone came in I would work with that person; I would probably be doing most of the job anyway,” Delgado said.
For the moment, though, Delgado is in charge and he will, weather permitting, be responsible for guiding Murray to what he hopes will be his sixth consecutive win over Isner.
It may be mayhem and chaos in the rest of Roland Garros but it is business as usual for Delgado – which is just the way that he and Murray like it.