TORONTO — After 25 years of playing in the Davis Cup, it's virtually impossible for Daniel Nestor's Canadian teammates to imagine playing in the international competition without him.
The 46-year-old Torontonian will play his final Davis Cup match on Saturday afternoon, teaming up with Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil on the hard court at Toronto's Coca-Cola's Coliseum against Matwe Middelkoop and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands. Nestor has been a fixture for Canada over a quarter century, setting an example on and off the court.
"I thought my career would end before his," quipped 27-year-old Milos Raonic on the court after his singles victory over Thiemo de Bakker on Friday night.
Raonic, currently ranked 20th in singles competition on the ATP Tour, is the most successful Canadian to play singles tennis, having reached No. 3 in the world rankings in November of 2016. But when it comes to the Davis Cup, Canada's locker-room is Nestor's domain.
"He's very different from the way he is on the court," said Raonic. "He clowns around in the locker-room and it lets guys feel comfortable and show their personalities in the locker-room rather than feel intimidated.
"He's done that for everybody on the team, for all the young guys that have transitioned on to the team."
Nestor's skill in doubles competition has made him invaluable to Canada, almost guaranteeing them a win on the second day of the three-day, five-match Davis Cup draws. He's won eight Grand Slam doubles titles over his lengthy ATP Tour career with a variety of partners and peaked in 2002 as the top doubles player in the world.
He's worked with a handful of Canadian players in his 25 years on the Davis Cup squad.
"He eases everybody into the team very early on," said Raonic, who also turns to Nestor for advice on the ATP Tour. "When I was young Daniel was not playing the singles anymore but he was the presence in the locker-room, he was the guy who had numerous Grand Slam titles at that point."
Pospisil, 28, has teamed with Nestor in doubles competition on the ATP Tour, the Olympics, and at Davis Cups. He's honoured to be Nestor's final Davis Cup partner.
"It's very special for me," said Pospisil. "I've had so much respect for Daniel over the years and he was someone that I looked up to when I was young. Even coming into the Davis Cup the first few times it was one of my goals to play with Daniel. I remember the first couple of ties when I didn't get to play I was so mad, so disappointed.
"Obviously we've come a long way since then. Now we're really good friends. It means a lot to be the last one that partners him in his amazing career."
In the final year of his pro career, Nestor has slipped to No. 135 in the doubles rankings. Pospisil has been focusing on his singles career so his doubles ranking has slumped to 1,253, but he peaked at No. 4 in 2015.
Follow @jchidleyhill on Twitter
John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press