KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – The revolving door in the deuce court next to Canadian doubles legend Daniel Nestor continues. But in searching for a last-minute partner for the Miami Open, he came up a winner.
Nestor and American Brian Baker, given a free pass into the quarter-finals after No. 2 seeds Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert gave them a walkover, ran that lucky break right into the semis Wednesday after a 6-3, 5-7, 10-3 win over the unseeded team of Philipp Petzschner and Alexander Peya.
Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like, on a steamy day in Miami that had Nestor going to the ice bag on numerous occasions to try to cool down.
“Brian is obviously a great singles player and been playing really well in doubles the last year, now that he’s focusing more on doubles. So it was a smart choice,” Nestor said. “He’s a great all-court player, hits big from the back, returns great, serves well and is aggressive at the net.”
The two had never played together, or even against each other; Baker generally plays the ad-court side with other partners but switched to the deuce side to accommodate Nestor, for whom the ad side is carved in stone.
The 44-year-old had been set to play with Petzschner in 2017 – only to ditch him in the late going when a former partner, Édouard Roger-Vasselin, became available.
“We’re three months in. If it had been in Brisbane (in January) it would have been awkward. But that’s how it is,” Nestor said. “If someone doesn’t want to play with me any more, that’s part of the business too.”
Funny about that; Roger-Vasselin has been dealing with a knee issue for more than a month and after the two got a brutal draw at Indian Wells and lost to Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares, Roger-Vasselin pulled the plug on Miami and went home.
The two agreed that they’re better off when they play a tournament here and there, rather than be a regular pair week in and week out.
“I don’t think we’re going to be playing. He’s not been healthy and he’s not sure if he wants to continue playing (with me). He’s going to keep playing, he just doesn’t know who he’s going to play with,” said Nestor, whose new partner will be big-serving Frenchman Fabrice Martin.
“Fabrice and I might struggle to get into Monte Carlo or those tournaments so if those opportunities come up, I can still playing with (Edouard) – if he doesn’t have another partner. That kind of thing,” Nestor said. The 30-year-old Martin, who has played with Austria’s Oliver Marach in recent weeks, is ranked No. 38.
Nestor and Baker will play the No. 6 seeds, Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil, in the semi-finals Thursday while the other Miami Open semi will be an all-American affair pitting Bob and Mike Bryan against Jack Sock and Nick Monroe.