Photo: Jean Nichols
Team Canada presented by Sobeys is set to face Sweden to open the 2021 Davis Cup Finals this Thursday, November 25 beginning at 10:00 a.m. ET. This will be only the second time in the history of the international competition that the two countries will meet.
The first time?
It all goes back to January 1992 when Canada hosted the Scandinavian country at the Vancouver Agrodome in a World Group first round tie. The Canadian team led by Captain Pierre Lamarche was fortunate to have two members of the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame within its ranks: Grant Connell (Regina, SK) and Glenn Michibata (Toronto, ON). However, it was a promising newcomer named to the squad for the first time who ultimately stole the show during the tie: Ontario native and undisputed king of Canadian doubles, Daniel Nestor (Toronto).
For this first round tie, Nestor, then ranked no. 238 in the world, was Canada’s No. 2 singles player after Connell who sat at no. 76 in the rankings. On the other side of the net, the Swedes had a number of stars in their lineup, including world no. 15 Magnus Gustafsson, who had broken into the Top 10 a few months earlier, and World No. 1 Stefan Edberg – already a five-time Grand Slam champion.
Despite being heavy underdogs, Canada got off to a surprisingly good start. Connell, who was up against Gustafsson, won a hard-fought tiebreak before defeating the Swede 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 which meant that an improbable Nestor victory over Edberg would give Canada a comfortable 2-0 lead after the first day of competition..
Could lightning really strike twice?
That didn’t seem to be the case after the opening frame. After dropping the set 6-4, it looked like the teenager was going to put up a good fight before finally coming up short.
But Nestor had other ideas.
He rallied to win the second set 6-3 and held off a strong Edberg comeback (6-1 in the third frame) to win the fourth 6-3 and force a deciding fifth set. Showing the kind of determination that Canadian tennis fans would come to know and love for the next 26 years, he jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the fifth, putting himself in a strong position to pull off the unthinkable.
However, it wasn’t until the tenth game that the Ontario native guided a clever backhand down the line, out of reach of his rival and sealed the outcome of a match that no one saw coming. Asked about the game a few days ago, Nestor still remembers it fondly.
Despite Canada going 2-0 up in the tie thanks to Nestor’s historic victory, the team would go on to lose 3-2 to Sweden. However, the young Canadian’s incredible performance will live long in the memories of Canadian tennis fans as one of the country’s great sporting upsets.
Nearly 30 years after that feat and with a second battle between Canada and Sweden on the horizon this week, no one can deny that the tennis world has changed drastically and is no longer quite the same. However, if there is one thing that has remained the same since Nestor’s unexpected victory and something that Vasek Pospisil, Brayden Schnur, Steven Diez, and Peter Polansky should remember as the Finals begin, it is this:
Anything is possible.