Now that the playing days of 46-year-old Daniel Nestor are behind him, the 12-time Grand Slam doubles champion is aiming to impact the game in a different way.
Having retired in 2018, the two-time Wimbledon doubles champion ran both junior and senior amateur clinics Saturday (18 May) alongside former International Tennis Federation (ITF) singles player Jesse Witten as part of the fourth Cayman Cup festivities.
“I enjoy being out with the kids and helping them through some of my experiences, having played so many years played,” Nestor told Cayman 27.
Nestor, who was courted to participate by Tournament Director Karl Hale of Tennis Canada, says he can relate to local players who aim to overcome the obstacles of succeeding in a sport like tennis out of a small talent pool like the Cayman Islands. After turning pro in 1991, Nestor won his first doubles major 11 years later alongside partner Mark Knowles at the 2002 Australian Open. He would go on to become the only ITF player to win 1000 matches, winning 91 men’s doubles matches with 11 different partners.
“Coming in day in and day out, and understanding there will be setbacks, and making sure you deal with them in a positive way and not giving up,” Nestor said as he described his key to success. “I think tennis is a long journey especially for me. I was a little immature as child, and that’s one of the reasons I played so long. I was little bit of a late bloomer. I think it’s just learning values of hard work and discipline.”
Hale said Nestor was a welcome addition in the tournament’s latest efforts to expand in 2019.
“Having a tennis legend like Daniel adds a lot of credibility of our event, and it’s continuing to grow,” said Hale. “We have some ideas of how to grow this event into a more sports racket festival event, and promote the Cayman Islands.”
Local players like Callum Theaker are seeing results with that same attitude. The 18-year-old recently secured a scholarship with the University of North Carolina Greensboro. Theaker welcomes visits from those like Nestor as an opportunity to build relationships.
“He can guide me, tell me what his experiences were and I can use it,” said Theaker. “I can ask him ‘what did you do?’ or ‘what can I do?’ He’s really just someone that can guide me like a role model.”
As for Cayman’s younger players still finding their stroke? Nestor says practice will make perfect.
“At this age, it’s all about repetition,” said Nestor. “It’s a repetition sport, and not a sport where you can start when you’re 15-years-old and excel at generally at the highest level. Hitting a lot of balls, fine-tuning strokes and then going into more competitive aspects of the game.”