Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the legendary career of Daniel Nestor.
Over the weekend, the emblem of Tennis Canada retired.
That’s right, Daniel Nestor has decided to bring his legendary career to a close. At 46 years old and after 29 years spent on the ATP World Tour, the Canadian played his final match over the weekend, losing a Davis Cup doubles tie against the Netherlands by the score of 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and 6-4.
After the match, the man was understandably dismayed. “It didn’t end the way I wanted to. But it was very special to end my career in Toronto. I was very thrilled when I first found out that this tie was going to be played here,” he said. “I was really looking forward to this match, it was an important one for me. I prepared well for it but my level is just not good enough anymore.”
That’s right: the greatest player in Canadian tennis history called himself out as being not good enough to compete anymore.
You’ll forgive him for speaking in the heat of the moment and today, Nestor can likely take solace in a laundry list of accomplishments that would make just about anyone blush:
-91 career titles, including 8 Grand Slams and at least one in 23 seasons in a row;
-One Olympic gold medal;
-Wins in 38 countries and with 43 different playing partners;
-One of only six players with at least 1,000 career wins on the ATP.
Daniel Nestor’s legendary career comes to an end. He accomplished pretty much everything in the sport. Most importantly, he made Davis Cup a priority throughout his entire career. More than 50 Davis Cup ties. Hall of Fame is a sure thing. Congrats, amigo ?
— Tennis Connected (@TennisConnected) September 15, 2018
In recent years, Nestor had mostly become a mainstay of Canada Davis Cup doubles, and if you’re looking for all that the native of Toronto has accomplished at the event over time, well we have such a list as well: most Davis Cup wins (48), doubles wins (34), ties played (52) and years played (25) in Canadian history.
We would call it the end of an era if Nestor’s career had only lasted an era but that’s not doing justice to the man. He turned pro all the way back in 1991, part of the generation of Tennis Canada that gave us players like Sebastien Lareau and Sebastien LeBlanc. The two Sebastiens would be followed by the generation that gave Canada Frédéric Niemeyer and Frank Dancevic, the latter turning pro in 2003 right around the time when Nestor was at the peak of his powers as the very best doubles player in the world.
Sad to see him go but honored to play w/ @danielnestor for so many years. Will miss him. Thanks for the memories, my friend??#NestorForever pic.twitter.com/eC3lcjYxLS
— Vasek Pospisil (@VasekPospisil) September 16, 2018
Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic would follow in everyone’s footsteps at the turn of the decade, and Nestor managed to play with them as well. He wasn’t the player he used to be ten years earlier when he won a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games, but he was still pretty great.
By then, surely Nestor was done or thereabout: he had been playing tennis professionally for 20 years on the tour and had won more or less every single thing he could have ever hoped to win. What else could he do?
Well apparently he wanted to be there for the new younger Canadian generation, because play on is what Nestor did—for long enough to get a good glimpse at the new group of players, one headlined by Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime and one that’s likely to bring the sport to the greatest heights it’s reached in the country.
Back in Toronto over the weekend for the Davis Cup, Nestor’s doubles partner had nothing but kind words for the man. “It was an honor for me to be on the court with him. I really wanted to win this match for him,” Pospisil said, “but they played well and we were a bit unfortunate at times. It’s been a fun ride playing with Daniel all these years. He became one of my best friends on tour, so I will really miss him.”
It’s Pospisil who said the above, but really it could be any one of us Canadians. Goodbye, Mr. Tennis Canada. You’ll be sorely missed, Daniel, but you’re surely earned the send-off.