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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

Canada's dynamic duo goes for the kill

 SYDNEY -- How Canadian is this?

 Even though they're playing their best tennis right now, the greatest men's doubles team this country has ever produced will separate after the Olympics because the French-speaking guy wants to have a go at it on his own.

 Sebastian Lareau of Boucherville, Que., who wants to make a name for himself in singles, Daniel Nestor and Willowdale, Ont., will play their last game as a full-time doubles team tomorrow.

 It might not seem like the right time to go out.

 But it's certainly the right way.

 They'll play for the Olympic gold medal. On Centre Court. Against a hostile crowd and the top-ranked Australian Woodies -- Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde -- the best men's doubles team that ever walked the Earth.

 How's that for going out right?

 Hours before the Canadian men's basketball team won the greatest game in this country's history, Lareau and Nestor made tennis history by advancing to the Olympic final with a blunt 6-1, 6-2 win in a mere 53 minutes over South Africa's David Adams and John-Laffnie De Jager.

 If a tennis match could resemble a steamroller, this was the one.

 The Canadians broke the South Africans' serve at will and never lost theirs.

 "They played exceptional tennis, they were way too good," said Adams, shaking his head. "They played two levels higher than the last time we saw them this summer (in Toronto). "It didn't matter what we did out there, they had an answer.

 "It didn't matter that one was right-handed (Lareau) and the other was left (Nestor). If they were both right-handed or left-handed, and still hit the ball like they did at 180 m.p.h., they still would've won."

 It's the best the 27-year-old Lareau and 28-year-old Nestor have felt as a team since banding together a year ago. Nestor missed some time in January after surgery to repair his left shoulder, but everything seems to be in working order heading into the final.

 They're both healthy and hungry for another win.

 "I think, in the past, we had the tendency to hold back, play the percentages and not be aggressive," said Nestor, "but I think the main reason for our recent success is that we don't wait for the other team to do something first.

 "We go for the kill."

 And if they keep that same attitude against the Woodies, David Adams has no qualms about his prediction.

 "It's always a daunting task to play the best doubles team ever," he said, "but if those two play like they did against us in the final against the Woodies, they're going to win the gold."

 They will obviously not be the fan favourites, but that's nothing new, especially for Nestor.

 He's already been booed and heckled on Centre Court when he played Aussie Pat Rafter.

 Didn't matter. Nestor won.

 "Yeah, I think that experience will help here a little bit, but we've been in this situation before," said Nestor. "I don't think the crowd will be a factor."

 Only difference now is Nestor, who earlier in the tournament ripped Pete Sampras for not showing up at these Olympics, had a great track record against Rafter.

 Against the Woodies, the Canadians have won only once - at a tournament in Shanghai.

 They lost a heartbreaker to the Aussies in the quarter-final round of Wimbledown.

 "We know we've got our work cut out for us," said Nestor, "but I really like the way we are playing."

 They have been dominant.

 No one has taken more than five games against them yet.

 And after this one tomorrow, they're done with each other.

 "We've come this far," said Nestor, "we're not satisfied with the silver. We've come to win."

 NOTE: Former Manitoba Premier Gary Filmon and his wife Janice, apparently talismans of good luck, attended both the tennis match and the basketball game yesterday. They arrived here Saturday on behalf of Toronto's 2008 Olympic Games bid and are staying for a week.