With an Olympic gold medal and eight Grand Slam titles in men’s doubles tennis, Toronto’s Daniel Nestor has claimed the sport’s highest honours.
But for the 41-year old, teaming up with Vancouver’s Vasek Posipsil to put Canada on the verge of a first ever berth in a Davis Cup final is right up there among the greatest moments in his career.
Nestor and Pospisil hung on for a 6-7 (6), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5), 10-8 victory over Serbia’s Nenad Zimonjic and Illja Bozoljac on Saturday.
“It’s just as good as a gold medal or Wimbledon for sure,” said Nestor, who is usually reserved in media interviews but walked into the post-match press conference with a big smile on his face.
“It’s emotional because this is a team atmosphere and we’re all in this together and we’re having a great year. We love the camaraderie and that’s what’s special.”
Canada has a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five tie heading into the final two singles matches on Sunday.
It was a match Canada couldn’t afford to lose with both Milos Raonic and Pospisil heading into Sunday’s reverse singles matches as underdogs playing against Novak Djokovic and Janko Tipsarevic, respectively.
Pospisil admitted that he panicked in getting quickly dispatched in straight sets by Djokovic on Friday. But Saturday’s match was different.
“I was a lot more calm today,” said the 23-year old Pospisil. “I wanted to bounce back strong and I was happy to play the way I did today and now I’ll try to keep that confidence and momentum for (Sunday) and try to play it sharp as well.”
In the marathon fifth set, Pospisil got the opportunity to serve for the match after Zimonjic double-faulted before volleying into the net on consecutive points to give Canada the only break.
Bozoljac’s booming serve caused the Canadians problems all day.
“When all four players are playing well it’s going to come down to a few points here and there,” said Pospisil. “Obviously the fifth set it’s going to come down to a few lucky shots and a few good points and we were fortunate that we took the opportunity when we had it.”
The several hundred red-clad Canadian supporters had been louder than their Serbian counterparts and were rewarded when Nestor volleyed a return down to seal the victory.
After hitting the winning shot, Nestor celebrated with Pospisil before getting mobbed at the Canadian bench.
“The people that come to travel here and come to sacrifice their time and support us is amazing,” said Nestor, who first rose to prominence as a 19-year-old in 1992 when he beat then world No. 1 Stefan Edberg in a Davis Cup singles match in Vancouver.
“We really appreciate it and we’ve never had support like this on the road before so they’re very deserving and helpful of our victories.”
Canada forced the fifth set after a frantic tiebreaker in the fourth that saw the teams trade mini-breaks. Zimonjic gave Canada two set-point opportunities when his volley into the net put Canada up 6-4. Pospisil won it on the next point with an ace.
Pospisil had trouble getting his first serves in to start the match but Canada still won the first three points of the opening game. But Serbia fought back to break.
It took a few games for Pospisil to get comfortable on serve but Nestor looked sharp right from the start, which prevented Canada from going down further. As Pospisil found his serve, Canada eventually broke back in the eighth game to tie the first set 4-4.
Canada picked up a mini-break to go up 4-3 in the tiebreak but Serbia came back with two mini-breaks of their own and won the set when Nestor put a shot into the net.
Sunday opens with a battle of the top-ranked players, as world No. 1 Djokovic takes on top-Canadian and world No. 11 Raonic, while No. 41 Pospisil takes on 23rd-ranked Tipsarevic in the second match.