For the past 25 years, Team Canada’s Davis Cup team centered around Daniel Nestor. On Saturday, this era officially came to an end as the 46-year-old Nestor retired from competitive tennis after one final Davis Cup match in front of his hometown of Toronto. The 12 time Grand Slam doubles champion and Olympic Gold Medalist has been the heart and soul of Canadian tennis for so many years, single handily carrying the sport in a country that for the longest time, did not seem to care for it at all.
Daniel Nestor is a Canadian Legend
Nestor played in over 50 Davis Cup ties for Canada over his career, more than double of any other Canadian. In many of these ties, Canada fielded exceptionally poor teams with virtually no chance of even reaching the World Group stage, comprised of the top 16 countries in the world, let alone winning. Despite this, Nestor continued to represent his country at every opportunity he had, slowly growing the popularity of the sport in his home country match by match.
In 2004, Nestor and Team Canada, including current Canadian Davis Cup coach Frank Dancevic, broke through and reached the World Group at the Davis Cup. Canada was swiftly eliminated 4-1 by the Netherlands, with Nestor picking up Canada’s sole win in doubles.
Nestor Initiated The Golden Age
As Daniel Nestor continued to win Grand Slams year after year, more exposure to and coverage of tennis in Canada began to ensue, ultimately reaching an unprecedented level in 2011 as new a Canadian tennis star emerged. Milos Raonic, possessing one of the most dominant serves on tour, quickly became Canada’s top singles player of all-time, reaching a career-high ranking of number three in the world following a run to the Wimbledon Final in 2016.
After Raonic broke onto the scene, Canadian tennis seemingly began to enter its golden age as the floodgates burst wide open with talent pouring in from every direction. Vasek Pospisil emerged as a real contender in 2013, winning the Wimbledon doubles crown the following year. Denis Shapovalov stunned the tennis world in 2017 by defeating world number one Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup, jump-starting his meteoric rise up the rankings ladder. Felix Auger-Aliassime played in his first Grand Slam in 2018 and appears poised to make significant leaps forward in 2019.
This rise of tennis in Canada is not just limited to the men’s side either. Genie Bouchard was a force to be reckoned with in 2014, reaching at least the semi-final in three of the four Grand Slams that year. Gabriela Dabrowski has won two Grand Slam mixed titles in the last two years while Carol Zhao, Francoise Abanda and Bianca Andreescu are all hoping to breakthrough in a significant way on the WTA in 2019.
Canadian Tennis is at a New Frontier
Canadian tennis has reached incredible new heights, with the future appearing as bright as ever as Canada is loaded with young talent ready to make their mark on the game. This level of success would have perhaps appeared to be unfathomable at the onset of Nestor’s career.
Fourteen years after being the lone bright spot in a Davis Cup tie against the Netherlands, the roles were completely reversed for Nestor this past weekend in the final match of his career. There was no last hurrah for Nestor, as he and doubles partner Vasek Pospisil suffered a four-set loss at the hands of the Dutch team.
Fortunately, for Nestor, this Canadian Davis Cup team was perhaps their strongest ever fielded. Raonic won two singles matches and Shapovalov the other, coming back from two sets down for a thrilling victory, to secure the 3-1 win for Canada. This victory means Canada will remain in the World Group stage again in 2019 for the eighth consecutive year – a tremendous achievement for Canadian tennis, further cementing their status as one of the top tennis nations in the world.
After having to solely carry Canadian tennis on his shoulders for so many years, it was perhaps most appropriate that when the time finally came that Nestor was unable to deliver for his country, the teammates he so greatly helped usher into the sport were there to pick him up and place him onto their shoulders. A truly fitting end for one of the leading pioneers in Canadian tennis.
- Brendan brings The Slice from Ontario, Canada. Follow him @brendandecker