Re: Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles
Nestor and Knowles make final on eve of split
Despite success, pair will part after Wimbledon
Joe O'connor, National Post
Published: Friday, June 08, 2007
Breakups can be messy. Somebody almost always gets hurt. But making the decision to break up, and then setting an exact date as to when the split will take effect, appears to be a brilliant tennis strategy.
Canadian doubles ace Daniel Nestor recently informed longtime partner Mark Knowles that he would be dumping him for a younger man -- Nenad Zimonjic --after Wimbledon.
Yesterday, at the French Open, the soon-to-be split-up pair stomped Radek Stepanek and Mahesh Bhupathi in the semi-finals, 6-3, 6-4, to advance to tomorrow's Grand Slam championship match.
Nestor and Knowles have not dropped a set en route to the final at Roland Garros, a title they played for in 1998 and 2002, but have yet to win.
"Mark was a little upset with the decision to break up, and it came from my side," Nestor explained yesterday. "And any time you are questioned, you want to prove yourself.
"And I think Mark has been playing great, and I think he wants to show everybody how good he can be."
The long and mostly happy tennis marriage between Nestor and Knowles began in 1994. They captured the first event they entered together in Bogota, Colombia and have won 36 titles since, including the 2002 Australian Open and the 2004 U.S. Open. Nestor and Knowles have no titles to show for 2007, but they have already appeared in four semifinals and three finals. Tomorrow is their fourth, with the sixth seeds facing the No. 9 pair, Lukas Dlouhy and Pavel Vizner.
But what looks to be a successful year to an outsider is a sub-par season in Nestor's mind, a clear sign that he and Knowles are getting too old to compete in a young man's game.
Nestor is 34. He has a bad elbow. Knowles is one year older. It was age, and a sense that maybe things were beginning to get a little stale between them, that led Nestor to sue for divorce.
"Our results here kind of contradict what I was saying," Nestor says. "That maybe we were getting older and might need, each of us, a younger, more athletic and more powerful partner."
Nestor describes his Bahamian partner as a "very good friend," although he admits that since the breakup became public Knowles has been a little distant.
"Right now, things are kind of uncomfortable," said Nestor. "But hopefully, in time, our friendship will be the same as it always was. And we still talk and all that -- it is not like we are going to come to blows. It is just a little more professional. Before it was maybe a little more chummy on the court."
Nestor declined to name names, but he said several successful doubles pairings almost come to blows, that they hardly speak at all, and don't particularly like one another. A doubles team is a business relationship, and business partners are seldom buddies.
"Mark and I have been fortunate to have a good relationship on and off the court," Nestor said. "Obviously, now, it has changed a little bit. But I don't see it being an issue down the road."
Their road as a doubles team will end later this month, or early next, on the manicured lawns at Wimbledon. Or will it?
"The plan was to split up," Nestor said. "But if we keep up the success in the next few weeks, [staying together] will be in the back of my mind. As of now, after Wimbledon, it is final: we are splitting up. But I can't say what a year from now is going to look like."
© National Post 2007
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