Borges Booming On Challenger Tour

The Portuguese No. 1 is competing at this week's Phoenix Challenger
March 18, 2023
Nuno Borges in action Friday at the Phoenix Country Club.
Mary Grace Grabill
Nuno Borges in action Friday at the Phoenix Country Club. By Grant Thompson

Following a career-best season, Nuno Borges is building momentum and enjoying a hot start to 2023 on the ATP Challenger Tour. The 26-year-old, who won last month’s Monterrey Challenger, is aiming to continue his seven-match winning streak (Challenger level) at this week’s Arizona Tennis Classic.

Yet to drop a set this season on the Challenger Tour, Borges stated that he’s just reaping the fruits of his labour.

“Every time I step on court I feel like there’s more stuff that I try not to take for granted but it’s been there because of the work I’ve put in,” Borges said. “I feel a little faster on court, decision making is getting better at this level. I can say that yes that I am more confident [this year] because in the end these players are making me more uncomfortable and anytime you go up, it keeps getting more and more challenging. Confidence is very subjective and it really is a volatile thing, comes and goes like crazy, one match can change it all.”

ATP Challenger Tour 

On Friday, the Portuguese No. 1 defeated Roman Safiullin to book his ticket to the quarter-finals of the Arizona Tennis Classic, where he will next meet Australian Alexei Popyrin. Earlier in the week, Borges made a statement by earning his highest-ranked win: upsetting second seed and World No. 38 Diego Schwartzman.

“It felt great,” Borges said. “I think I surprised myself positively with how well I mentally stayed throughout the match through the ups and downs. I problem-solved very well. I served really well and I think that made a difference because in the rallies it’s very tough against him. Played really clean overall. It wasn’t perfect but I couldn’t ask for a better match.

“I’ve been in a really good moment. Throughout these few weeks, I’ve had a couple low moments but looking back, this year has been super positive.”

Borges turned pro after graduating from Mississippi State University, where he earned a kinesiology degree in 2019. The five-time ITA All American enjoyed a 31-match collegiate winning streak that came to a halt in his final match: the 2019 NCAA singles championship (l. Jubb).

Borges’ steady progress throughout the past eight months has helped lift him to a career-high 80 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The Maia native also earned his maiden Grand Slam main-draw victory at the 2022 US Open (d. Shelton), which led to his Top 100 debut.

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Despite his recent surge, Borges isn’t getting caught up in benchmarks or lofty goals for this season. The three-time Challenger Tour titlist is choosing to continue his hard work while being grateful for what he’s already accomplished. Borges isn’t attached to a particular ranking goal for this season.

“I don’t like to put a number on it,” Borges said. “Any tournament can put a whole change in your schedule. You win the next tournament and you put yourself a step higher and at a better tournament. I try to go one tournament at a time. I’ve already hit my goal honestly.

“If I had to set a goal, maybe 75 because it’s a little higher. If I didn’t go any higher this year, I think that’d be okay because it’s part of the process. It’s not always going to be about just going up, unless you’re Novak Djokovic. I’m not saying that I’m satisfied but I also need to be proud of my progress so far and enjoy playing these big tournaments because that’s what everyone who plays tennis hopes for. I need to be happy with those numbers but also want more and keep working.”

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