A debate about what Canadian men’s tennis player has enjoyed the most distinguished career would first require a debate about what exactly to count. The easy answer to the question would be Milos Raonic, the current World No. 6, following his run to the Wimbledon final earlier this summer. However, if doubles accomplishments are factored in at all then Daniel Nestor’s name certainly would enter the debate. Nestor, with 8 Grand Slam titles in doubles, is still in the mix for a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. If he gets one you have to wonder if it will send him closer to retirement.
For many, winning an Olympic medal might not sound like a time to retire. If you’re on top of your game then what’s the point of hanging things up? However, there are plenty of athletes that do retire after a late-career accomplishment. Pete Sampras, for example, won the 2002 US Open and never played another match. Flavia Pennetta, on the women’s side, won the 2015 US Open, and she announced her retirement plans in short order.
Age certainly had something to do with their retirements and, on that note, Canada’s Daniel Nestor is ancient. I saw Nestor, who is now 43, walking with bags at the Canadian Masters and I remember thinking that he would be retired soon. However, that was at the 2010 Canadian Masters, so I guess my projection was just a little bit off.
Nestor’s singles days have been over for a decade now, practically to the day. He played his last singles match at ATP Toronto in 2006, a first-round loss to Tomas Berdych. However, despite never getting into the Top 50, there were some highlights over the course of his singles career, including a run to the fourth round of Wimbledon 1999 (l. to Sampras). The Canadian certainly beat some great players during his singles career, including players that held the No. 1 ranking in Patrick Rafter (x3), Thomas Muster, Andre Agassi (via retirement), and Stefan Edberg. In regard to the latter, Edberg was actually ranked No. 1 at the time of their match.
In Rio, Nestor and Pospisil have an approaching semifinal match against a pair of Spaniards: Marc Lopez and Rafael Nadal. The two Spaniards have partnered to win a handful of tournaments in the past, including two titles in Indian Wells (2010/12). On the opposite side of the draw, a Romanian team remains alive as does a formidable American team composed of Jack Sock and Steve Johnson. Nestor and Pospisil are in the mix for certain, but winning the gold medal for men’s doubles will still require a very strong push.
But even if Nestor’s legs aren’t capable of that push then, when he does retire, he still won’t be ending his career without the highest honor in sports. The Canadian put a check-mark beside a gold-medal career goal way back at Sydney 2000. Partnered with Sebastien Lareau, he and Nestor ruined Todd Woodbridge’s and Mark Woodforde’s swan song. Those doubles players had a storied career for Australia in the 1990s, one that they wanted to conclude with Olympic gold at Sydney 2000. Those plans went by the side as Nestor and Lareau claimed gold for Canada, a feat that’s pretty rare for that country in the summer edition of the Olympic games.
If Nestor and Pospisil win their next match, then that will guarantee them at least a silver medal. Should they fall to Lopez and Nadal, then they could still win the bronze. It’s been almost four years since Nestor was ranked No. 1 in doubles and it was also 2012 when he won his last Grand Slam. He’s still a factor on the circuit. However, an Olympic medal will probably be as good as it gets for him from here on out. If he’s the type that wants to go out on a high note, then one or two more wins in Rio just might lead to a surprise announcement sooner or later.