At 42, Daniel Nestor is still doubles trouble

At 42, Daniel Nestor is still doubles trouble
Daniel Nestor hit an overhead smash in front of double partner Leander Paes during a double match against Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez in the quarterfinals of the Aegon Championships on June 18. (Clive Brunskill / Getty Images)

He came into the room for the interview under his own power. No cane. No walker. It was an amazing athletic performance.

But then, Daniel Nestor is an amazing world-class doubles player, who, at age 42 and 10 months, is still competing with the best, youngest and strongest on the pro tennis tour.


An hour or so earlier, he had served for the match in a first-rounder at Wimbledon against a Serbian team, Dusan Lajovic and Viktor Troicki, ages 24 and 28. This was crucial because it was shockingly hot in London, nearly 100 degrees, and Wimbledon is the last tennis tournament that still contests men's doubles over five sets, with no tiebreaker in a fifth.

Nestor's partner, Leander Paes of India, the tour's other doubles Methuselah, at age 42 and 2 weeks, had uncharacteristically dumped an angled backhand overhead wide. Now, wanting nothing more than to get out of the wilting sun, Nestor was suddenly serving at 15-40. One misstep and the match would tromp on further, like a march through a desert, and Nestor might very well find himself continuing to induce lower temperatures in his body with his ever-present bag of ice on his neck during breaks.

Instead, Nestor coaxed the score back to his advantage and then hooked one of his lefty serves into the deep corner of the ad box — this is why doubles players on all levels hate left-handers — and the return fell wide.

The straight-set, first-round victory went to the 11th-seeded Geritol Gents, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5. They had lived another day and positioned themselves for another doubles title at Wimbledon. Nestor has two, Paes one.

As slick as he is on the tennis court, Nestor can move nicely through an interview too. Asked what the key to the match was, he didn't even blink.

"Cloud cover," he said.

A bit later, he was asked how long it had been in any interview since he had not been asked why he hadn't retired by now.

"The first half of this one," he said.

To those millions who pay slightly less attention to pro tennis doubles than they do to their neighbor's canasta game, this is who Nestor is:

He is a born Serb (Belgrade, 1972), who moved to Canada with his family when he was 4 and was playing pro tennis as a teenager. When he was 19, a skinny kid with the same looping serve and tendency to get to the net, he beat Stefan Edberg in a Davis Cup singles match in Canada. At that point, Edberg had already won three of his Grand Slam titles.

The Canadian television announcers calling the match said it might be the "biggest upset in Davis Cup history." They hadn't stressed that Edberg had just lost the 1992 Australian Open final (to Jim Courier), had immediately flown to Canada and was playing five days later, probably with lead in his legs.

Still, it was a big enough moment for Edberg to make a congratulatory videotape for a Canadian ceremony honoring the 20th anniversary of that match.

That was three years ago.

Nestor plays on.


The tour lists his home base as Nassau, in the Bahamas, but that is more about taxes than reality. He lives in Toronto, but as long as you are gone one day more than six months each year, Canada lets you off the hook. It isn't hard for a pro tennis player to be away from home six months and one day a year. Try that in the U.S. and the IRS comes with handcuffs.

Nestor has reached No. 1 in doubles and has won seven Grand Slam men's doubles titles. He has also won 87 tour doubles titles, with nine different partners, and an Olympic gold medal in 2000 in Sydney, with Sebastien Lareau.

There's a trivia question for your next party: Which Olympic gold medalist from Sydney, in something other than shooting and equestrian, is still out there trying?

Indeed, the Olympics appear to be the driving force behind Nestor's current carrying on.

"I'm kind of shooting for the 2016 Olympics as the likely end for me," he said. "That depends on whether Vasek wants to play with me or with Raonic."

Vasek Pospisil is the defending Wimbledon doubles champion (with American Jack Sock) and Milos Raonic is among the top singles players in the world. He is seeded seventh here.

Nestor has won around $12 million in his career, mostly in doubles, and won $702,000 last year. He said he chose to hook up with Paes because "I like somebody who plays traditional doubles."

He meant playing the net, rather than the new approach — with enhanced rackets and strings and slower surfaces — of standing at the baseline and whaling away, much like today's singles.

Nestor said he doesn't feel any older, except when he looks over the net at the other team.

"I'd hate to guess what they're thinking," he said, "They're nice about not saying anything to my face."

There are some advantages of age, however. Nestor said he had been put in Wimbledon's No. 1 locker room, which is a really big deal. Just because you win doubles titles here doesn't guarantee that, but he was assigned there, where he can rub elbows with Roger Federer and the other big guys.

That's where he was headed when the interview ended. And it was inspiring to watch. He didn't need to push up from the table. His limbs didn't squeak. It was so obvious.

Daniel Nestor is his sport's senior citizen hunk.

Twitter: @DwyreLATimes