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’We can tell the ITF what players really think’

Jamie Delgado
Jamie Delgado

For Jamie Delgado, announced today as the ITF’s new player relations consultant, the tennis tour has been his life for nearly three decades.

As a junior he excelled, capped by his win at the 1991 Under-14 Orange Bowl. He claimed 19 ATP Challenger titles – three in singles and 16 in doubles – over the course of his 19 years as a professional, with peak ATP Tour rankings of No. 121 in singles and No.57 in doubles.

By the end of his playing days in 2014, he had already begun his transition to coaching, serving as player-coach alongside Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, helping the serve-volleyer surge from No.368 to back inside the world’s top 50 in the space of two years.

After that came a new role as part of Andy Murray’s coaching team, working alongside Amelie Mauresmo and Ivan Lendl before assuming the role of head coach in recent times. Since joining Murray on the road in 2016, the Scot has claimed a second Wimbledon title, a second Olympic gold medal and the year-end world No. 1 ranking. More recently, plans for Murray’s comeback from a second major hip surgery are talked of in cautiously optimistic tones.

Now, Delgado is assuming a new role in tennis. As an ITF player relations consultant, the Briton follows in the footsteps of his friend Andre Sa of Brazil and joins Australia’s Rennae Stubbs, working to strengthen ties between the federation and the players, coaches, agents, tours and tournament organisers.

“Everybody on tour has questions and opinions,” Delgado said when considering the role, which he will fulfil alongside his coaching commitments. “It could be about the ITF World Tennis Tour, or the new Davis Cup format, Fed Cup or Olympics for example.

“There are always questions in terms of the logistics – qualifying points, match formats, dates of events. Then there are things that players have strong opinions about: whether they would like things done differently, or fresh suggestions. I’ll be there to listen and talk to them about that, getting first-hand opinions from the players, and feeding it back to the ITF.”

With over two decades spent as a player and coach – between 1992 and 2014, he featured at Wimbledon for 23 years running – Delgado is ideally placed to voice the concerns of the tennis tour. With his contacts, his presence at events and his own experience of life in the sport, he’s looking forward to providing stronger links between the court and the boardroom.

“There have been a few people I’ve spoken to about the role, who have said, “Oh great!” because they feel they haven’t had that link,” Delgado said. “They know me well, and they feel like they could get in touch with me at any time or see me at a tournament and pull me aside for five minutes.

“In years gone, by the tennis authorities haven’t had that link. Maybe they were hearing that players’ opinions were X, when actually they were Y. The ITF may have been getting misinformation about what the players were actually thinking.

“So by bringing in myself, Andre previously, and Rennae Stubbs who does this for the women’s game, we can tell the ITF what they really think.”

Enhancing relations with players is a priority of ITF President David Haggerty in line with the ITF2024 strategic roadmap. As well as Delgado and Stubbs’ roles, France’s Mary Pierce and Australia’s Mark Woodforde have served as athlete members on the ITF Board of Directors since 2015 and are also co-chairs of the ITF Athletes Commission, all working to improve the federation’s communication channels and, ultimately, their experience on tour.

Speaking about the advice he received from his predecessor in the role, Sa, Delgado said: “He’s a really good guy, a great appointment, and a good friend of mine. I think he did really well in a tricky year, with so many changes going on.

“Andre said that there will be times when players can be quite heated – they are really passionate about what they think. That can be tricky at times. Given there have been a lot of changes, there are some people who disagree with how it’s been done, or with the whole thing.

“You’re on the receiving end of that sometimes, which can be quite tough. But he enjoyed it – he said it was great. He gets on with everyone as well, which helps so much.”

At its heart, however, Delgado knows the success of the role relies on those most integral qualities: trust and respect.

“Players don’t mind waiting to find something out – what they don’t like is getting information that’s wrong,” Delgado said. “The ITF feel that trust and communication is so important. My credibility, and the credibility of the ITF, relies on it.”

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