Portugal’s Nuno Borges has enjoyed some rise in recent years. After clinching his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in 2021, the 26-year-old cracked the Top 100 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time in 2022.
On Thursday, the 26-year-old broke new ground again when he overcame Dusan Lajovic to earn his first ATP Masters 1000 match win at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
“I never imagined that I would be playing at tournaments like these even a few years ago. I am living the dream as a player,” Borges told ATPTour.com. “Rome is one of those tournaments you go and watch on TV, so to be here playing it’s really special. I have only started playing these big tournaments recently, so every match is like a final. Playing here on the big stage is incredible, I am just taking it all in.”
Borges took his first steps into tennis aged six at his local club in Maia. While he had a number of different coaches, the World No. 88’s father, Paolo, was a constant pillar of support.
Paolo was also a professional sportsman, having won national championships in volleyball. Borges believes his father’s experience in the sporting world was crucial for his early development in tennis.
“My father gave me the first few steps into sport, but I guess he always let me choose whatever sport I picked. I really liked individual sports when younger. Maybe because I’m an only child too. I liked to be the one in charge and to be the one to do it and be responsible for my own result. Even though tennis is not absolutely like that, it is a little,” Borges said.
“I would throw so many tantrums when young. I would be such a sore loser after matches. And I think my dad helped me a lot, knowing how it is to go through losing, winning, preparing.”
Aged 19, Borges opted to attend college in the United States while he weighed up his options. The Portuguese studied at Mississippi State University from 2016 to 2019 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, which left him feeling ready to tackle the pro tour with everything he had.
“I didn’t feel ready for the Tour at 19 and I guess I bought myself a couple years and postponed my pro career to get ready,” Borges said. “And then when I jumped into pro, I was sure I wanted to do it. Because of my college days, I still feel very young on the Tour today, even though I’m 26. I feel like maybe a guy who is 21 or 22. That is about what I feel, how I feel with living these experiences and playing these big events.”
Off court, Borges enjoys baking, completing puzzles and exploring cities, with Melbourne his favourite destination.
The four-time ATP Challenger Tour champion will have to put his hobbies to the back of his mind on Saturday, though, when he takes on World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round in Rome. It is the second time Borges will face a Top 5 opponent after he lost against Carlos Alcaraz in Barcelona last month.
The 26-year-old is looking to take the lessons that he learned from his match against the Spaniard when he plays Tsitsipas in the Italian capital.
“It will be another good learning experience,” Borges said. “I played Alcaraz and I guess it was similar. I knew I wasn’t the favourite and I tried to enjoy it, but I always go in to try to win. I mean, we’re all so competitive.
“I’m really enjoying this tournament and I’m for sure going to enjoy the challenge against Tsitsipas and hopefully I’ll play my best tennis because I am going to need it if I want to have any chance. I know I’m not the favourite, but I’ll also use that to bring out my best tennis. Play without pressure. I’m going to give it my all. I feel like I’m up to the challenge.”