Nestor Masters doubles

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

Daniel Nestor and Mark Knowles hope they've saved their best for last at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup.

The world's No.-1 ranked doubles team, winners of five events in 2004, need not worry about losing that top status, starting Sunday in Houston. But they don't intend to rest on their racquets, either.

"We've never won this event and if you're No. 1, you have to prove it," said the 32-year-old born Nestor yesterday on a conference call. "We're one of the best teams, but to be one of the greatest, we have to win more grand slams."

The Toronto-born Nestor and his Bahamian partner go into Houston finely tuned, whereas their first-round opponents, Belgians Xavier Malisse and Olivier Rochus, had barely played together when they upset the field to win the French Open.

"We don't know what to expect from them," Nestor said. "They're a dangerous team."

The Houston event is a round-robin format, so Nestor and Knowles will get a second chance if Sunday's match does not end favourably.

Nestor did not dispute the observation that he and Knowles often nag each other like an old married couple. But after close to 10 years together, they are a better tandem for it.

In Nestor's view they were "mediocre" early in the year, but caught fire in August after winning an event in Cincinnati.

They had tried their luck with other partners, most notably Nestor with fellow Canuck Sebastien Lareau in a gold medal-winning performance at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

"Lareau wanted to play more singles and he wasn't as focused on doubles," Nestor said. "I had left shoulder surgery (missing four months of the season) and was focused more on doubles. Mark and I missed each other."

They re-united in 2001, though Knowles remains the more well-known elite athlete in his country than Nestor is in Canada.

"It's hard," Nestor said. "If I played with another Canadian, I might get more notoriety."

Nestor is 37th on the Association of Tennis Professionals money list with $576,610 US in winnings this season.


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