Looking strictly at their birth certificates, Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil may very well be the original odd couple of Canadian tennis.
The 40-year-old Nestor and the 22-year-old Pospisil will likely be Canada’s doubles pairing at the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie against Spain this weekend at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
They’ve played together numerous times, beginning at a 2011 Davis Cup Americas semifinal against Ecuador, and the 2012 London Olympics.
“First time I played with him, I’ll be honest I was pretty nervous,” said Pospisil of Nestor, who has won 80-career doubles titles, including Grand Slams and Olympic gold.
“There’s a lot of pressure, especially when he’s so dominant in the sport and to go there and play with somebody that’s accomplished so much. So you really have to focus on yourself, which isn’t easy to do.
“The more you play with him the easier that gets. It’s still not easy but for me, I’ve played with him several times now so it’s not that bad.”
Age and experience are the obvious differences.
And their individual mannerisms on the court only add to the unique pairing.
During Wednesday’s marathon practice at UBC, Nestor was the more vocal, animated, and visibly intense of the two.
Pospisil was usually quiet, rarely displaying the same emotion as his partner.
That changes when it’s match time.
Nestor has had several partners throughout his distinguished career. Some partnerships, like the one he had with Mark Knowles, have been fruitful.
Nestor seems to have found a good one in Pospisil, who the veteran referred to as a “natural doubles player.”
The key to developing a competitive bond on the court goes beyond one’s talent with a racket.
“Personality. That’s why I think … if your personalities match, (it’s) more often then not how you make a good doubles team,” said Pospisil, who added “you either click or you don’t.”
“I bring a lot of energy and I try to fire him up. I think maybe he needs some of that. And then I need maybe somebody to calm me down sometimes because I can get pretty intense.”
This is where the value of Nestor’s experience comes in, especially on home court in front of the local fans and a national audience.
“I think Vasek’s one of those guys that can be a little bit too emotional at times,” said Nestor.
“He’s very competitive and he expects a lot from himself, so if he’s not playing well all the time I think he’s getting upset. Just try to use my experience to calm him down at times.”
The Canadian team has never made it out of the first round of the World Group, and comes into this Davis Cup event as the underdog against top-ranked Spain, which is minus its top three players – Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro.
Spain’s doubles team, barring some breaking development, will most likely be Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers, who together won four ATP doubles titles and appeared in four doubles finals last year.
They also lost three straight Davis Cup doubles matches last year, including the final doubles match against Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek of the champion Czech Republic.
“We have a great chance. Obviously they’re not sending their best team,” said Nestor.
“They have a very good doubles team but the singles players aren’t their best and we have to take advantage of that.
This is the best opportunity that we’ve had to a win a World Group match, so basically we have to seize the moment.”