If there is one man who knows Canada and Colombia’s rivalry better than anyone, that man is Daniel Nestor. The men’s doubles Career Grand Slam winner has featured in more than half of the overall meetings between the two nations, winning three of his five ties with a personal 5-3 match record.
Twenty years ago, a 21-year-old Nestor made his first mark on the rivalry in a second rubber singles match against Mauricio Hadad. Two sets to the good and locked in a third set tiebreak, Nestor could not find a way over the line as Hadad fought back to win the third and rode the momentum through to a 62 final set.
Just 24 hours later, Nestor would find himself on the same court as his newfound rival once again. The result would be the same. Hadad and his partner Miguel Tobon would compound Nestor’s misery with another five set success to hand Colombia a 2-1 lead heading into the final day; that defeat is still the only occasion Nestor has lost a doubles rubber to Colombian opposition.
After Sebastien Lareau had levelled proceedings at 2-2, Nestor captured a crucial first victory over Colombian opposition. Gaining revenge for the previous day, the left-hander secured the tie courtesy of a straight set triumph over Tobon. To this day, the 1994 tie marks the only occasion either team has failed to make home advantage count.
Just a year later, once again in the semifinals of American Group II, Canada met a Colombian side spearheaded by the familiar duo of Hadad and Tobon. This time around, the challenge would not be as strong. After singles wins for both Lareau and Connell, Nestor teamed up with the latter to seal the victory and exorcise the demons of twelve months past. Canada would close the tie out for 5-0.
The west Colombian city of Cali would be the next host of this match-up in 1999 with a Canadian mini-streak on the line. Tobon and Hadad, with a point to prove, would once again emerge as a thorn in the side of Canada. In front of their adoring fans, both men held their own in singles to form a 3-1 winning margin with Nestor’s doubles heroics a mere interlude before Colombian success.
Changing of the guard
By the time Canada and Colombia met again, in 2007, Nestor and teammate Frederic Niemeyer were the only men left standing from the intercontinental mini-series of the 1990’s. A new band of 1980’s born talent had emerged for the Latin Americans. Gone were the feisty duo of Hadad and Tobon and in their place stood the energetic trio of Alejandro Falla, Santiago Giraldo and Carlos Salamanca.
Just as had been the case 12 years prior, Canada took full advantage of their home surroundings with a third 5-0 thrashing in four meetings north of the American border. Colombia was not the only nation to have undergone transition during the rivalry’s eight year hiatus.
Frank Dancevic got the Canadian ball rolling in Calgary with a simple 62 64 63 dispatching of Giraldo and by the time fellow newcomer Peter Polansky got the chance to post a straight set scoreline of his own, the tie was over. The old guard of Niemeyer and Nestor had wrapped up an emphatic win with the former producing a magnificent display in singles before teaming up with the Toronto resident to establish an untouchable 3-0 lead.
Canada’s blend of youth and experience had inflicted the heaviest defeat for either team in the history of the match-up which dates back to 1973. The Colombians left Calgary without a set and would spend three years waiting for their chance at revenge in the most recent meeting hosted in Bogota four years ago.
Defending its territory with the same grit it found beneath its own feet, Colombia brought the all-time gap to within one tie at 4-5 highlighted by two impressive performances from their youngest player; Santiago Giraldo. Toughened by experience and the memories of calamity in Calgary, the class of 2007 showed their mettle with an outstanding showing over the three days.
Nestor, after partnering five different players for a 4-1 record in doubles, knows he will most likely have to adapt to a new set-up once again in Halifax if he is to continue his impressive record and earn the all-important second day point in what will be the tenth instalment of this intriguing duel.
“We are fortunate to have guys who can play singles and doubles and obviously whoever I played with was more than capable in those instances and I think it will be the same this time around whether it is Vasek [Pospisil] or [Frank] Dancevic depending on what happens on Friday,” Nestor said.
With Alejandro Cortes’ three-set win over Glenn Michibata in 1982 proving to be the only imperfection for Canada in an outstanding 18-1 rubber record on home ground, the newest breed will know the odds are stacked in their favour to prevail in what will be the first World Group meeting between these two old, yet unexpected, adversaries.
A Wimbledon semifinal appearance and a US Open Open Series win for Canada’s main man Milos Raonic is great news for Canada and to make matters that much better; he is not alone.
Vasek Pospisil has had an unbelievable summer. The Vernon-born 24-year-old combined with American Jack Sock to stun the Bryan Brothers and lift the doubles title at Wimbledon and later made history with Raonic last month when they battled it out in the first ever all-Canadian ATP World Tour final in Washington.
Fully confident in his own team but more than aware of the threat that Colombia possess, eight-time Grand Slam champion Nestor believes fans are in for a great display over the three days this month, “I think this will be quite interesting because our team is obviously the best it has ever been and for them, it’s probably the best it has ever been for them too. They have two top singles players and a very good doubles team so it’ll be a very entertaining weekend.”
With more on the line than in any of their previous meetings and old adversary Mauricio Hadad returning to the rivalry as captain, Nestor is taking nothing for granted, “They are playing great and that is going to make the tie interesting. Doubles is a 50/50 match, you know I think we are favourite in singles but when people represent their countries they play their best tennis so it is going to be tough. It will be a very close tie.”