Andy Murray's coach believes the UK Pro Series is permanently transforming the British tennis landscape, writes Will Jennings.
Murray’s coach since 2016, Birmingham's Jamie Delgado was a chief protagonist behind the origins of the tournament during its embryonic stages and has since worked on player liaison at the venue in Weybridge.
The unique competition, held at St. George’s Hill Lawn Tennis Club, was the brainchild of both Delgado and sports media agency River Media Partners and has this week culminated in 24 of Britain’s leading players duelling it out at Classic Week.
Ex-player Delgado is acutely aware of the difficulties young British players face and reckons the ‘invaluable’ format is blazing a trail for competition in the UK.
Coach Jamie Delgado has been through the wringer with the former world No.1https://t.co/JkoQ2XP77Y— The National (@ScotNational) August 12, 2020
“I was really excited and it’s gone really well. The team has been great - we wanted people in the team who were really nice people and it’s been really good fun,” Delgado, 43, said.
“The amount of matches played is unique - from the age of ten, as soon as you get knocked out of an event you’ve got a minimum of a week to wait and that means you don’t get into a rhythm and it can get a bit stop-start.
“That’s invaluable, and when players do start to play tournaments there’s no doubt this will stand them in good stead.
“Matches are really hard to come by - the fact you’re playing every day regardless of winning or losing, and have to pick yourself up and go again, means you don’t have time here.
“You can stew over defeats at tournaments and it can get you down, but that doesn’t happen here.
“You get into the process of the match more as you know you’re playing the next day regardless if you win or lose. You still have an opportunity to play more matches and win more money.
“From a British tennis perspective, me and the LTA are very pro-matches, as there’ve been a lack of matches played by juniors in recent years, but in this format you’re definitely getting that.”
Classic Week is the reward for players who qualify in one of five individual preceding weeks at the Surrey venue, with action getting underway on July 6 and running all the way through until Finals Weekend on August 15th and 16th.
And a star-studded array of talent has descended on Classic Week, including Liam Broady, Ryan Peniston and James Ward in the men’s draw and Jodie Burrage, Naomi Broady and Harriet Dart in the women’s.
What makes the tournament so unique is the regular source of income for players. River Media Partners have devised an innovative way of paying them to help ease the financial strain of lockdown, with several lower-ranked players also often struggling for regular streams of income in normal times.
Players are paid to play daily, round robin matches throughout the six overall weeks, with a lucrative total $500,000 prize fund up for grabs at the culmination of the UK Pro Classic.
The economic burden of tennis can be acute for younger players so Delgado is thrilled to see British talent being rightfully rewarded in Weybridge.
“It’s been amazing - a lot of the players who earn at the highest level, it is tough to make a living,” he added
“I’ve really enjoyed that side of it - watching people who aren’t used to making money at events come here and get rewarded.
“It doesn’t matter what standard you are and what ranking you are - you put a lot of work in to get to that level.
“It’s been nice to see them make money from it because they don’t from the regular events that they play, when they’re travelling around. It can be really hard.”
12 of the UK’s top women and men have qualified through the UK Pro Series for the UK Pro Classic - www.ukproseries.com. The competition will be available for free on LIVENow, Eurosport Player and will have national free to air coverage via FreeSports