Re­tire­ment agrees with Nestor

Cana­dian dou­bles leg­end ‘ very happy’ stay­ing at home

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS - Gre­gory Strong

TORONTO — For 30- odd sea­sons, this was the time of year when Daniel Nestor would likely be on a plane or a ten­nis court pre­par­ing for the Aus­tralian Open.

Those days are over now and that’s just fine with the Cana­dian dou­bles leg­end, who’s en­joy­ing re­tire­ment in his home­town of Toronto.

Nestor won a whop­ping 91 ca­reer dou­bles ti­tles on the ATP Tour over his ca­reer and was a main­stay on the Cana­dian Davis Cup team. He’s had a first- hand look at the growth of the sport in this coun­try.

“We’ve never had this many top play­ers,” Nestor said. “We did have depth in the late 80s and early 90s for a while there, but it’s great to see that we have all these play­ers. Not only that they’re do­ing well but they’re prob­a­bly in­spir­ing the next gen­er­a­tion to do well and that’s ex­cit­ing for sure.”

Mi­los Raonic and De­nis Shapo­valov are ranked in the top 30 on the ATP Tour and Felix Auger- Alias­sime is a top Nex­tGen tal­ent. Eu­ge­nie Bouchard, Bianca An­dreescu and dou­bles star Gabriela Dabrowski are the Cana­dian play­ers to watch on the WTA Tour.

Nestor helped keep the Cana­dian light shin­ing dur­ing some rather lean years on the do­mes­tic scene. His run of strong dou­bles play con­tin­ued into his early 40s and he fi­nally called it quits last Sep­tem­ber.

“I feel like I got ev­ery­thing I could out of me,” he said.

Now 46, Nestor is en­joy­ing the in­crease in qual­ity fam­ily time at home. He stays in good shape, still plays ex­hi­bi­tion matches and often helps out at do­mes­tic events.

Nestor usu­ally gets on court a cou­ple times a week and will often hit balls with his el­dest daugh­ter Tiana, who turned 11 last month.

“It’s fa­ther- daugh­ter bond­ing. I’m a lit­tle bit of a dis­ci­plinar­ian so she prob­a­bly doesn’t like that part of it,” Nestor said with a laugh. “But she’s still show­ing up every time we book a court, so that’s good.”

The up­com­ing sea­son- open­ing Grand Slam brings back plenty of mem­o­ries for Nestor, who won the Aus­tralian Open in 2002 with Mark Knowles.

Nestor was just 17 when he made his de­but in Mel­bourne in 1990. He planned to play in the ju­nior tour­na­ment but his rank­ing points al­lowed him to get into the men’s qual­i­fier against Amer­i­can Michael Robert­son.

“I played this guy and I was up 6- 1, 5- 2 in the first round of the Aussie Open qual­i­fy­ing and I ended up los­ing,” Nestor said. “But I just re­mem­ber the court was so hot that I could feel the heat through my shoes. My feet were ac­tu­ally kind of burn­ing dur­ing the match. I’d never felt that be­fore.

“But it didn’t re­ally bother me then, I was a kid.”

Nestor sprained his an­kle a few days later in a warmup match for the ju­nior draw.

“I re­mem­ber get­ting wheeled in to the locker room and be­ing em­bar­rassed be­cause I was this ju­nior and all these top play­ers were in there,” he re­called. “It was the first time I’d ever re­ally been ex­posed to that. So they treated me and then I had to fly home back to Canada on crutches.”

Nestor man­aged to make it into the sin­gles main draw two years later, fall­ing in the first round to Italy’s Ste­fano Pescosolido.

“That was the first time I qual­i­fied for a Grand Slam,” he said. “And then three weeks later I played Ed­berg.”

That Ste­fan Ed­berg match put Nestor on the map. He stunned the then- world No. 1 from Swe­den in a five- set Davis Cup thriller in Van­cou­ver.

Nestor reached the Aus­tralian Open dou­bles quar­ter­fi­nals two years later with Se­bastien Lareau. They teamed up again in 2000 to win gold at the Syd­ney Olympics, knock­ing off Aus­tralian favourites Todd Wood­bridge and Mark Wood­forde in the fi­nal.

The Cana­dian es­sen­tially be­came a full- time dou­bles player in 2002, win­ning six ti­tles that sea­son with Knowles. The long­time world No. 1 also teamed with Ne­nad Zi­mon­jic and Max Mirnyi later in his ca­reer.

Nestor’s rank­ing be­gan to fade in 2017. He strug­gled last sea­son play­ing with dif­fer­ent part­ners at al­most every tour­na­ment.

“The last year I wasn’t win­ning as much,” Nestor said. “I don’t miss that. The feel­ing of try­ing to win a match or two rather than try­ing to win a tour­na­ment, which I was more ac­cus­tomed to ear­lier in my ca­reer.”

The Cana­dian fin­ished with an eye- pop­ping 1,062 dou­bles wins on the ATP Tour. He capped his ca­reer last sum­mer by rep­re­sent­ing Canada in Davis Cup play for the 53rd time.

Nestor was the first player — in sin­gles or dou­bles — to win a ti­tle at all four Grand Slams and all nine Masters 1000 events. He won 12 Grand Slam dou­bles ti­tles over his ca­reer, earned US$ 12.8 mil­lion in prize money and played in six Olympic Games.

He said he still ex­changes the oc­ca­sional text with some of the play­ers and keeps an eye on how the Cana­di­ans are do­ing. But for the first time in a long while, Nestor is far re­moved from the Tour scene.

“I’m very happy stay­ing in one spot,” he said.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS files

For 30- odd sea­sons, this was the time of year when Daniel Nestor would likely be on a plane or a ten­nis court pre­par­ing for the Aus­tralian Open. Those days are over now and that’s just fine with the Cana­dian dou­bles leg­end, who’s en­joy­ing re­tire­ment in his home­town of Toronto.

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