Tennis great Daniel Nestor at peace with decision to retire in September

Nestor has won Olympic gold, eight Grand Slams and more than 1,000 matches in his career to date. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Canadian tennis veteran Daniel Nestor has no regrets about his decision to retire later this season.

The 45-year-old from Toronto, who announced his retirement plans last year, has struggled in his final campaign on the ATP World Tour. Early exits have become the norm for the former top-ranked men’s doubles player, who’s planning to leave the competitive game in September.

“The main thing is my body is just not allowing me to play at the highest levels anymore,” Nestor said. “So that makes the decision much easier.”

Nestor, who turned pro in 1991, has won an incredible 91 titles on tour and had 10 different stints as a world No. 1. The 2000 Olympic men’s doubles champ has earned US$12.8 million in career prize money and won a whopping 1,062 doubles matches.

He won three titles in 2016 before starting his slide down the rankings. Currently ranked No. 104, Nestor has yet to make an appearance in a final this season.

Fatigue has been an issue at times. Heat and humidity bother him more than they used to as well.

In the past, Nestor was able to raise his level when needed. But in recent months, he has noticed his match fitness isn’t what it used to be.

“It’s not like I changed anything or stopped working or anything — it just happened,” Nestor told The Canadian Press from London. “I maybe wish I would have recognized it and maybe done something about it, maybe with a fitness coach or something. But I’m not sure (it would have mattered) because I really have done different things that have worked in the past and it’s not enough anymore.

“It’s just accepting that you can’t do all the things in the world I guess. At some point it’s not going to work anymore.”

His latest first-round exit came Tuesday with Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., at the Fever-Tree Championships. They dropped a 6-3, 7-5 decision to Henri Kontinen and John Peers.

Nestor’s main partners over his career were Mark Knowles, Nenad Zimonjic and Max Mirnyi. Nestor has used a different playing partner at almost every tournament this season, making it out of the first round on only five occasions.

While he has maintained his usual workouts and pre-match routines, Nestor has lost some zip on his serve and power from the baseline.

“I feel as though I can’t compete week in and week out at the highest levels anymore,” he said. “I can still play well obviously if it’s one match here and there. I think it would be difficult for me to win a tournament now.

“From a recovery standpoint, playing four out of five days or something like that would be difficult.”

Nestor’s best showing this season came in early May with a semifinal appearance at Istanbul with Jamie Cerretani. The Canadian hopes to gain a wild-card entry to play at Wimbledon next month with Jurgen Melzer.

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil will likely serve as Nestor’s partner for his 30th and final appearance at the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Nestor will be inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame and feted with a celebratory roast and gala at Roy Thomson Hall on the eve of the Aug. 6-12 tournament.

“It should be fun,” Nestor said. “I mean I never like being the centre of attention, but it’s something that I know comes with retirement so I have to be prepared for it.”

He’ll likely need wild-card entries for the other main hardcourt tournaments. Pending formal team selection, Nestor’s final competitive appearance should come at the Sept. 14-16 Davis Cup World Group playoff tie between Canada and the Netherlands at the Ricoh Coliseum.

“I do think that if I train and really get in shape to play one match — whether it’s two, three or four hours even — it’s not the end of the world because the next day I’m not going to have to play again,” Nestor said. “So it’s laying it all on the line for one day.”

If nominated, it will be the 53rd time that Nestor has represented Canada in a Davis Cup tie.

In 2009, Nestor became the first player — in singles or doubles — to win a title at all four Grand Slams and all nine ATP Masters 1000 events. In all, he has won 12 Grand Slam doubles titles and played in six Olympic Games.

His most recent title came in October 2016 at Antwerp with Edouard Roger-Vasselin.

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