Daniel Nestor, sweat-draped with the cream-and-crimson jersey glistening like a second skin, fires in a searing serve and barges into the net. The vim on the serve catches Mahesh Bhupathi wrong-footed. His last-ditch retrieval is casually met at the net; with a lithe twitch of the racquet, he flips a slicing cross-court to which Bhupathi’s best answer is a blank gape. “Match point”, screeched Nestor. An official intervenes, and reminds them the centre-court match would begin in five minutes. Quips and handshakes follow, with perceptible fatigue on Bhupathi’s face. Nestor, 40, looked hardly fatigued by the two-hour dig-in under the sun that scorched harshly than it usually does in January. To the you-have-seen-it-all query, he retorts, wiping his brow, “I haven’t seen India.”
Like the follow-up of a lobbed volley, he promptly readied for his repartee, understandably, on retirement. “I’m still enjoying the game. In my younger days, I lost a few years due to injury. But now for the last few years, I have been able to keep myself fit and obviously having a lot of fun. I don’t know. It depends, but I think I can play for two more years and let’s see how it goes after it.”
Having racked up every piece of metal the doubles circuit could afford — forging resolute partnerships with Mark Knowles, Nenad Zimonjic and Max Mirnyi — he would team up with Mahesh Bhupathi in the forthcoming season.
“With Knowles, it just happened. We got off well from the start and we understood each other’s game well. With Zimonjic, I knew something was coming. He was rated highly right from his early days. He was serving big and that made us a good combination. Max was similar to Zimonjic. But last year, we struggled and Max had a problem with his arm,” he recollected.
Duelled with and against some of the finest of his generation, he rates the Bryan brothers (Bob and Mike) and the Woodies (Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde) the highest. “You can’t compare pairs and generations. They all had different styles and approaches. Of course, the Woodies and Bryans are right up there. Mahesh and Leander would have been a great pair (had they stuck together), definitely they could have achieved more than what they would have with other partners,” he opined.
Though treading the twilight of his career—having won more matches and trophies than any in the game’s history — he craves for more. “I like to win more Grand Slams and the Davis Cup. Of my trophies, the Gold medal (2000 Sydney Olympics) and Wimbledon (2008 and 09) were special,” he rated. If his hunger for trophies remains as undiminished, he could add a few more to his whopping tally of 800 career victories.