Daniel Nestor's Legacy

By Peter Figura

Summer 2018

Daniel Nestor has much to smile about including being the first doubles player to win 1000 ATP matches.

The Future of Tennis is now available in hardcopy or ebook formats.

On the 100th Anniversary of Ontario Tennis we would be remiss if we didn’t include something on Daniel Nestor. Daniel has been an inspiration for so many young players in his long and successful professional career both in the ATP and as a Davis Cup team member and even earlier as a Junior and member of the triumphant Sunshine Cup team (Junior Davis Cup).

In what is probably going to be Daniel’s last on the ATP tour, Peter Figura wrote about Daniel in the recently published book The Future of Tennis, on which he collaborated with Philip Slayton, primarily as photographer.

An excerpt of the chapter on Daniel is included here. It is reproduced with the permission of the publisher:

Wimbledon champion Andy Murray was asked a couple of years ago how he felt about Nestor, the oldest active player on the tour, being part of locker room camaraderie, and he said, “Let’s just put things into perspective. I am 27 years old and he is playing his 26th Rogers Cup!”

Bob Bryan (Mike Bryan’s twin brother) described Nestor to the Toronto Globe and Mail in 2012 in simple words: “He is a legend. An incredible athlete, flexible, limber. He is still playing like he is 20. That serve that he has is timeless. That serve will probably carry him until he is 50.”

“This game [doubles] is a lot like marriage” Nestor told Walrus magazine in 2010. “It takes trust, communication, and balance, but first—you have to find someone you are compatible with.” But when you are over forty, competing with kids half your age, who are not only stronger but take pride in beating a legend, and do not like to be teased for losing a match to the “old guy,” it can be hard to find a partner. “No one wants to play with me anymore,” he said in 2016 when he was asked why he didn’t have a regular partner. He added: “The worst doubles team in the world right now— Nestor and anybody!” (Nestor often jokes about himself, displaying his down to Earth personality and sarcastic sense of humor.)

Daniel with partner Nenad Zimonjic. They won 27 titles together including 3 Grand Slam and 2 ATP year end championships.

But it wasn’t always like that. Once Nestor had steady partners. There was fellow Canadian Sebastien Lareau. After the Sydney Olympics in 2002, when Lareau retired, Nestor found the young Bahamian, Mark Knowles. “We were successful right from the start, but probably not as successful as we should have been,” says Nestor. After several years, Nestor started playing with Nenad Zimonjic from Serbia.

“Yeah, we started winning right from the start.” They won three Grand Slam titles in three years. Now, as his career comes to an end, Nestor has trouble finding a partner and winning a round or two in any tournament. But he keeps playing. “I am still playing well enough to be out there, and this is what I am good at.” Many consider him the most accomplished world athlete that Canada has ever produced, but he can walk anywhere and not worry about crowds surrounding him. As Andrew Clark wrote in Walrus, “Most Canadians have heard the name Daniel Nestor at one time or another. They just have trouble placing him. Musician? Architect? Iron Chef?” He is not complaining. “I’ve had a good career,” he says modestly of a career that has earned him almost $13 million in prize money. “I got an Order of Canada, a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame. What more I can ask for?”

Ten years after his launch pad win over Stephan Edberg, he faced another World No. 1 singles player, a brilliant player from Chile, Marcelo Rios. Nestor was now a doubles specialist and rarely played singles. But as the anchor of the 2011 Canadian Davis Cup team, he was thrown out to face Rios in a pivotal singles match. His countrymen cheered Nestor on to victory. As Eric Duhatschek wrote in the Globe and Mail, Rios was offered any possible excuse—the altitude, his level of fitness, the dark building, the very fast court—but all he could mumble, over and over again, was some dumbfounded variation of “but, I lost to a doubles player.” It came as a shock to all, but also as a testament to Nestor’s depth, grit, focus, and heart of a champion.”

Peter Figura has been a stalwart tennis enthusiast and volunteer with the OTA for more than twenty years. He was VP Marketing and Communications and an active member of the Board of the OTA in the 1990’s. Over the past 10 years he has contributed many articles, photos and interviews to Ontario tennis magazine. His interviews include many internationally renowned coaches and players - Brad Gilbert, Judy Murray, Casey Curtis and Adil Shamasdin to name a few. These interviews can be found in the Ontario Tennis magazine archives on www.tennisontario.com or the new magazine website www.ontennis.ca.

The Future of Tennis: A Photographic Celebration of the Men’s Tour by Philip Slayton with photographs by Peter Figura can be pre-ordered at amazon.ca and will be available in August 2018.