THE CANADIAN PRESS
BRISBANE, Australia — He’s already Canada’s most decorated tennis player with six Grand Slam doubles titles and an Olympic gold medal among his accomplishments.
But at age 38, Daniel Nestor shows no signs of slowing down.
"I feel like I keep doing certain things better, understanding things more and finding out more things about myself," the Toronto left-hander said this week as he prepares for his first tournament of the season. "For sure I’m a late bloomer."
Nestor’s impressive career earned him another accolade this week when he was appointed to the Order of Canada, joining many other top Canadian athletes.
"It’s a great accomplishment," said Nestor. "There’s so many names — any hockey player that you see on there is a fantastic athlete, guys that I grew up watching and idolizing. So, to be part of that list is amazing."
Nestor specifically cited star golfer Mike Weir, who received the Order of Canada in 2009.
"He’s done so much for golf in Canada," said Nestor. "Winning the Masters is comparable to winning Wimbledon in singles."
Over a 20-year professional career, Nestor has won all four Grand Slam doubles tournaments, including Wimbledon in 2008 and 2009 with Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia, and has been No. 1 in the ATP doubles rankings a for a total of 87 weeks. His Olympic gold came in Sydney in 2000 with Sebastien Lareau of Montreal
Nestor’s 71 career doubles titles places him fifth on the all-time list behind Todd Woodbridge of Australia, who has 83.
On Friday, the 39-year-old Woodbridge expressed surprise and admiration that Nestor is still so competitive. Woodbridge, who won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles, including nine at Wimbledon, retired at age 34.
"It’s a lot of hard work, competing and not giving up," said Nestor, currently co-ranked No. 3 in doubles. "I think you get more appreciated the older you get.
"I know if I would have retired five or six years ago, I would have been long forgotten and wouldn’t have achieved a lot of what I did. So I’m happy I continued and it’s nice to still be recognized for what I do."
He says he would like to continue to play through the 2012 season. He’ll open the 2011 campaign at the Brisbane International with new partner Max Mirnyi of Belarus. Nestor and Zimonjic went their separate ways at the end of last season.
Nestor admits he wasn’t too familiar with the Order of Canada when Tennis Canada first put his name forward.
"Tennis Canada nominated me a few years ago and I did some research into it and realized it’s one of the biggest honours you can have as a Canadian," said Nestor. "I’ve seen the list of the people and it’s pretty special."
Nestor was four when he emigrated to Canada from Serbia in the former Yugoslavia with his parents, Anna and Ray and older brother Alex.
He attributes a lot of his success to his parents.
"They have a very similar mentality to mine, coming to Canada as immigrants and really appreciating the opportunities the country has given us," he said.
"My parents are proud to be Canadian, as I am," Nestor added. "They had a lot to do with my success and sacrificed a lot over the years."