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Nestor: Andreescu's run 'the greatest moment in Canadian tennis history'

Canadian tennis legend Daniel Nestor says Bianca Andreescu's run at this year's U.S. Open is one for the record books. Not only is the 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont.

Canadian tennis legend Daniel Nestor says Bianca Andreescu's run at this year's U.S. Open is one for the record books.

Not only is the 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., taking on one of the world's greatest tennis stars, she's capping a "miraculous" year that's seen big victories despite injury, he explained.

"This is, I think, the greatest moment in Canadian tennis history," Nestor said Friday.

On Saturday, Andreescu will face American Serena Williams in the finals of the U.S. Open.

Williams, a former No. 1 currently ranked No. 8 in the world, is going for her 24th Grand Slam title. Andreescu is making her first Grand Slam finals appearance.

Nestor knows first hand what it's like to be a young player going up against a tennis great. In his first Davis Cup appearance in 1992, he upset then-No. 1 ranked Stefan Edberg of Sweden.

"But that was an immature kid just swinging for the fences and everything dropping that night," Nestor said. "(Andreescu) is a little different. She's already an established player and now she's shown herself and she's one of the best players in the world."

Andreescu's season has been marked by big matches, including one with Williams in the finals of last month's Rogers Cup in Toronto.

The teen was up 3-1 in the first set when Williams retired with back spasms.

Andreescu also took a title in Indian Wells, Calif., in March, and has climbed to No. 15 in the world rankings, despite being forced to take time off with a shoulder injury.

"She's obviously a really tough competitor. And her game, obviously she's the whole package. She's very talented and she's a great athlete and she's a top player in the world," said Nestor, who has 12 Grand Slam doubles titles to his name.

One thing that has helped the rising star lately, he added, is playing a large number of matches and experiencing a variety of situations on the court.

"In every match you play, something different always comes up and when you've played that many and won that many, you're just confident that no matter what happens, you're going to be ready for it and you can overcome it," Nestor said. "She's ready to deal with whatever's thrown at her."

When facing American Taylor Townsend in the tournament's fourth round on Monday, Andreescu came up against another unfamiliar situation — a crowd that heavily favoured her opponent.

After winning the match, the teen admitted that hearing all the cheers for the American wasn't easy.

Now that she's won in a difficult environment, Andreescu will be ready for whatever the crowd may bring on Saturday, Nestor said.

The 47-year-old said he simply got used to playing in front of hostile crowds over his decades-long career.

At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Nestor and his partner Sebastian Lareau beat Australians Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde to capture a gold medal.

Despite the circumstances, the Aussie tennis fans were "pretty respectful," Nestor said, adding that it was some Davis Cup crowds, especially in South America, that were hard to deal with.  

"We played through some really hostile situations," he said, adding that what's worse than a hostile crowd is a few hecklers yelling at you on the court.

"You just try to stay calm and focused. And you have to think that your opponent, even if they have the crowd, they also have those expectations on them, they have more pressure. You just have to just try to make life as difficult as you can for your opponent and not rush or anything."

While many expect the crowd on Saturday to heavily favour Williams, Nestor isn't so sure.

"I don't know if the crowd will be as one-sided as you think," he said "I mean, Serena has played a couple of U.S. Open finals where she hasn't really behaved that well so I think maybe the crowd might be ... less one-sided."

Even if New York tennis fans voraciously express their support for the American, Andreescu will be mentally prepared because she's "match tough" and up for the challenge, Nestor said.

"I think she just really needs to take her time between points and really focus on her game plan and what she has to do rather than winning or losing," he said.

The young athlete also knows that she has support from sports fans across Canada, Nestor added.

"If it wasn't for the Raptors winning the NBA title, I'd say it's the best sports story of the year and for a long time," he said.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press