Nestor, Pospisil break Italy after four and half hours

Canada's Vasek Pospisil talks with teammate Daniel Nestor (R) while playing against Italy's Daniele...

Canada's Vasek Pospisil talks with teammate Daniel Nestor (R) while playing against Italy's Daniele Bracciali and Fabio Fognini during the second round of the Davis Cup doubles tennis tournament in Vancouver April 6, 2013. (REUTERS/Ben Nelms)

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:11 PM ET

As if Daniel Nestor's tennis resume wasn't distinguished enough, he added another important page to it Saturday.

Or for that matter, several pages. Heck, give it an entire chapter.

The 40-year-old Canadian's career so far speaks for itself — a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Games, eight Grand Slam men's doubles titles, four ATP World Tour finals and at one time ranked the top doubles player in the world. He has 80 men's doubles titles — fourth all-time — and has won and played the most ever ATP doubles matches at 884 and 1230.

But through it all, overall Davis Cup success has eluded the world No. 6-ranked doubles player.

That could very well change for Nestor this year now as Canada grabbed a coveted 2-1 lead Saturday at the World Group quarterfinal tie in Vancouver. And the aging left-hander from Toronto certainly played a major part in making that happen in a memorable, nail-biting marathon doubles win against Italy.

Granted, it was a match that went much longer than the Canadians would have wanted it to — four hours and 28 minutes to be exact — but by the end of it, the resilient pair of Nestor and Vasek Pospisil held off a comeback charge by the Italians. And with that, they secured the epic doubles match victory 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 15-13 over Fabio Fognini and Daniele Bracciali in front of a raucous crowd at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

For a while there, it was looking to be a Canadian doubles meltdown reminiscent to that against Spain in the first round. In their doubles match against the Spaniards, Nestor and Pospisil were up two sets to one before winning just five games in the final two sets to drop the middle rubber. But Canada managed to come out of that tie with a 3-2 win, advancing to their first-ever quarterfinal.

This time around, with the two nations tied at one win apiece entering Day 2, the Canadians jumped out to a two-set lead before the Italians stormed back to tie it. Then the dramatic final set happened. And it took until the 27th game for Canada to finally break Italy and then win in on their service game right after.

A day earlier, the squads picked up a singles match victory each with Italy's Andreas Seppi defeating Pospisil in five sets while Canada's top-ranked player Milos Raonic dropped Fognini in straight sets.

Now, the pressure is on the Italians heading into the final day of the best-of-five tie as Canada looks to advance even further in their history-making run — in part again, thanks to Nestor.

Of course, match success hasn't exactly been an issue for him at the tournament — although the five-time Olympian did lose his last three Davis Cup doubles outings heading into this weekend's event.

Having played 21 years and 43 ties with Canada, Nestor has a 29-7 doubles record at the Davis Cup (well ahead of Grant Connell's second-best 15-6.)

But he had never reached this stage. For that matter, Canada had never been in the World Group quarterfinals. And now, they're one win away from reaching the semis against either Serbia or the U.S. — who also had a marathon doubles match of their own Saturday.

Sunday's matchups will see Raonic face Seppi in the third singles rubber while the tie will close out with Fognini facing Pospisil — although Jesse Levine may make his debut for Canada in replacement of the fatigued youngster.

According to Sportsnet, Nestor was close to not even competing after suffering a right calf muscle injury last month in Miami. But despite a noticeable limp this week at practice, he played through it — with the Canadians going five of 14 on break point opportunities

His partner, the much-younger 22-year-old Pospisil, was playing just his sixth doubles match since joining Canada in 2008. The Vancouver native won his first three appearances — first partnered with Raonic before joining Nestor — but has dropped the last two alongside the veteran.

Saturday, the Canadian duo got off to a strong start, picking up six aces and breaking Bracciali's serve in the opening set to win it 6-3. They then won another break point, this time on Fognini's serve, in the fifth game of the second set and held off an Italian break point to take a two-set-to-love lead.

The Canadians ran into trouble in the third set, despite getting the early break. Italy broke back twice, both on Pospisil's serve, to gain some traction with a 6-3 win. Then Italy looked to take over, breaking three times to Canada's one in the fourth set and forcing a deciding set.

The two sides held their serves — although both had multiples opportunities to break the other pair — in a thrilling fifth set until Canada's break, and it finally ended with some superb serving from the rejuvenated Canadian side. They finished with 28 aces to Italy's nine.

Note: Paolo Lorenzi was originally scheduled to partner with Bracciali, ranked 25th in doubles, but was replaced by the 31st-ranked singles player, who has now lost both his matches in Vancouver.


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