It was barely just days out from the first ball puffing up off the red clay of Roland Garros when David Macpherson got the unexpected call out.
Brothers Mike and Bob Bryan – 16-time Grand Slam winners, 116 and 114 career men’s double titles each and 2008 Olympic gold medalists – asked for their old coach’s reassuring words of advice ahead of tackling one more French Open campaign.
Macpherson was only too pleased to answer the urgent SOS, flying in from his new Washington DC home to Paris in the nick of time to work with the ageing 39-year-old tennis icons.
“We are working as a team together in Paris one more time, so it’s sort of like a reunion tour,” Macpherson explains from Paris.
“It’s that we have a special rapport and I have so many great memories and also success over the years.
“We just always have pulled together as a team and they’d love to end their careers with a few more majors – so that’s the goal right now for their last year or two that they’ll play.”
But for the Bryans, it just wasn’t to be.
Not at the French.
The third-seeded identical twins were knocked out in the round of 32 to Australian Sam Groth and Swede Robert Lindstedt.
But the preferred grass of Wimbledon is just around the corner. Then there is the US Open, a grand slam the Bryans have won five times at Flushing Meadow.
Only the Australian Open do they have a better record.
That has come on the back of the influence from the Launceston-raised coach and his success in doubles that carried 16 more titles than any during singles play.
“The kids growing up want to all be great singles players with where all the money’s at,” Macpherson says.
“But the reality is that tennis around the world, there’s more doubles than singles around if you’re talking about tennis clubs and playing at later in life.
“It’s a great game and it’ll always be my great love.”
Macpherson started his junior career to much fanfare, almost coinciding with another Launceston talent Simon Youl.
But after Youl spent three years at the newly-formed AIS in Canberra, the younger Macpherson was instead invited to Tony Roche’s Junior Academy in Sydney
Soon after the left-hander reached the 1983 US Open junior doubles final before 16 months later he and Brett Custer won the 1985 Australian junior doubles.
The career took off, good judges casting him a doubles specialist by the age of 17.
But it was 1992 when Macpherson teamed with American Steven DeVries hit the pinnacle, the pair taking out six ATP doubles crowns in the same calendar year.
Macpherson’s long career ended in 2003, retiring after 18 years on the circuit.
The coaching thing – and the enduring partnership with the Bryans – well, that almost happened by chance.
“I had a few months after that where I somehow linked up to Mary Pierce...it didn’t last long, but I did learn a lot about coaching psychology, as opposed to the player’s mind,” he says.
“Then in 2005, I first had coached the Bryan brothers and that was a super fit and a much better fit for me, and 11 years later, I’ve had so many great experiences with the Bryans.”
Wait, Mary Pierce, did he say? That’s right.
The Canadian-born 1995 Australian Open champion from Quebec, who would turn her back on banned American dad Jim, for her mother’s native France.
“It was a case that I just retired – this approach happened at the end of 2002 – and she had changed coaches quite a bit,” he says.
“She was just looking for someone else and knew I was a good player on the circuit. She was really looking at giving someone a try – it was very experimental, as I was more of a player then than a coach.
“But it was a good transition period for me to go from thinking as a player to thinking as a coach.
“Those three months sort of set my coaching course.”
Macpherson has now slowly stepped away from the professional circuits.
The Bryans’ tuition in Paris and dipping his toe in coaching big-serving John Isner on call comes between US collegiate commitments.
“I finally decided to accept a college position to spend a little bit more time in a program and travel a little bit less, which I now enjoy,” he says.
The 49-year-old was appointed head coach at George Washington just last September.
“I’m really enjoying it – I’m loving life in DC,” Macpherson admits.
“I’m really happy there. I enjoy coaching a team, we’re in a great relationship, so I’m really happy with my life there, but enjoying the tour when I do get out.”
Macpherson believes – aside from age and growing children – now is the best time to coach at the development level of the game.
Without a moment of hesitation, he quips: “I’m a 100 percent” better coach.
“You learn from one year around,” Macpherson says.
“You learn from your players, you learn from other coaches. Your knowledge as part of your experience just grows and grows.
“You should be a better player as you grow older; you should be a better coach as you grow older.
“You learn from your mistakes and you learn from your success. I definitely feel that way to keep evolving.”
But the biggest learning curve still remains his cold, old homegrown courts.
“I remember dad dragging me out to Westbury indoor courts when didn’t want to practice and encouraging me to keep going and working hard,” Macpherson said.
“Ended up shaping my life … a great life in tennis. Funny how it’s worked out.”