Photo: Mauricio Paiz

It often seems as though a Davis Cup team is four or five players and a captain, since they’re the ones who appear on the courts and promotional posters and at press conferences. But it takes more than players to make up a squad. Indeed, an entire army works behind the scenes. The BMW Canadian Davis Cup team counts on a coach (Frédéric Fontang), strength and conditioning coach (Nicolas Perrotte), physician (Nicolas Sauvé), physiotherapist (Taran Ohsen), massage therapist (Jeff Ludovic), manager (Alain Beaupré) and stringer (Yvon Gilbert). And for the inaugural Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals a new staff member has joined the team, as Daniel Nestor will take on the role of doubles coach.

In our Behind the Scenes series, you’ll get to know some of the people in the shadows and learn more about the supporting roles they play. You will see that their sole mission is to use their expertise to make sure the athletes are at the top of their game when the weekend gets underway.

In 2018, after a successful 25-year career, Daniel Nestor retired. The doubles specialist, eight-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic gold medalist in Sydney, won an impressive total of 91 doubles titles throughout his career and was known for his incredible longevity on tour.

Born in Serbia and raised in Toronto, the former player was always proud to represent Canada and holds a number of Davis Cup records. In fact, it was this competition that put him on the map, in 1992, when he beat then World No. 1, Stefan Edberg of Sweden. Over 21 years later, in 2013, he was also one of the key members of the Canadian team that reached their best result in history by making it to the Davis Cup semi-finals. His last career match was actually at Davis Cup when he teamed-up with compatriot Vasek Pospisil in September 2018.

Just under a year later, Nestor is returning to the Canadian team, but this time as the doubles coach.

“I’m just here to help as much as I can. Davis Cup has been part of my life for many years. It’s exciting to be part of the team again. I was happy to receive the invitation and I’m looking forward to the start of the event.”

Captain Frank Dancevic is very happy to be able to count on Nestor’s expertise in a competition that will be fierce. Canada will take on Italy and the United States in the round robin. The ties will feature two singles matches and one doubles match played as a best of three sets. There is therefore a strong chance that the doubles plays a decisive role in the event.

“I think that with this new format, doubles become even more important. When I look at our group, it is very likely that most of the ties will be decided by the doubles match. For that reason, we are fortunate to have Vasek who has played well in doubles over the years and Denis who has been playing well lately. In the end, no matter what the pairing is, I think our team has some depth, even though we suffered the loss of Milos in the last few days because of an injury.”

Nestor was still playing in tour when the Davis Cup reform was announced. The former World No. 1 in doubles sees these changes as positive for both players and fans.

“I think it’s great for the players. I know it’s a little bit tougher for some federations who had success hosting Davis Cup ties in their country year after year, but from a player standpoint and for the fans, I think it’s pretty exciting to have all the best players in one city playing for their country. I also think that the fact that each tie will be the best of three matches in a two of three sets format will make it even more exciting as of the first point.”

After the first few days of practices, it is evident that the Canadian players are enjoying the conditions in Madrid where there is a bit of altitude, which accelerates the game, and on an indoor hard court surface that is already quite fast. However, Canada will play against two other countries who are also very comfortable playing on quick surfaces.

“It’s a very tough group with the United States and Italy and I think the winner of this group can actually go pretty deep in the tournament. Even just a few days before the start of the event, it’s hard to make a bold prediction. In soccer, when you have that strong of a group, you call it the group of death. I think Group F is one those groups that you could qualify as a ‘Group of Death.’”