Australian Open: Nuno Borges Is Living A Dream Come True

Nuno Borges (photo: Australian Open video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 21, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

When 69th-ranked Nuno Borges upset No. 13 seed Grigor Dimitrov in four dramatic sets, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (6), Saturday at the Australian Open, it lifted the Portuguese star into the second week of a major for the first time in his young career.

“Just really proud of myself. I’m really happy, I can’t even describe it,” Borges, 26, told the ATP Tour website. “It’s a dream come true just being in these tournaments and belonging, feeling like I belong in these tournaments and competing with the best.”

Against Dimitrov, Borges hit 44 winners, including 21 aces, won 78 percent of his first-serve points, saved 11 of 12 break points while converting four of seven break-point chances, and outpointed his opponent 138-130. Although the Bulgarian struck 47 winners, he also committed 46 unforced errors.

“Tennis gives you confidence with wins,” Borges said in his on-court interview after beating Dimitrov, “but it doesn’t really last long. You’ve got to move on and be ready for the next one. You’ve got to test yourself every time. Every time you have to prove yourself on court.”

The 6-foot-1 native of Maia is the first player from Portugal to reach the fourth round at the Australian Open. En route, Borges earlier took down No. 23 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round. By reaching the third round, Borges scored back-to-back victories at tour-level for the first time in his career. In fact, the twin wins over Davidovich Fokina and Dimitrov were his first-ever Top 40 triumphs.

Looking back, Borges told “I was really just an average kid until I was 16, playing tennis, doing it for fun. I was always very competitive. I still do have a problem with accepting losses, and losing in card games or video games. Oh, it pisses me off so much.

“Tennis was my path of always being able to compete, which I love. I love winning, I love being able to overcome the obstacles and proving myself once again. I think this is what I play for.”

After beating Dimitrov, which advanced him to play World No. 3 and third seed Daniil Medvedev of a Russia on Monday, Borges said: “I still can’t believe it, what a match. I never expected to be here in the second week of the Australian Open, who would have thought!”

Gauff advances to first Australian Open quarterfinal

World No. 4 Coco Gauff of the United States dropped just three games in her 63-minute 6-1, 6-2 fourth-round victory over No. 69 Magdalena Frech of Poland on Rod Laver Arena Sunday afternoon.

The 19-year-old Gauff’s 11th straight major win going back to the start of her US Open title run last summer advanced her to her first Australian Open quarterfinal. She is a perfect 9-0 to start her 2024 season, which includes a successful defense of her Auckland title. Through her four wins in Melbourne, Gauff has not dropped a set.

“I want to see the Iron Claw tonight,” Gauff quipped in her on-court interview with Jelena Dokic before saluting Australian Hall of Famer Rod Laver, who was in attendance. “It was an honor to play in front of you!”

Gauff hit 21 winners, broke Frech’s serve five times, faced no break points on her serve and outpointed her opponent 54-32. Frech was making her first fourth-round appearance in a major.

Next, Gauff will face another unseeded player, Marta Kostyk, in the quarterfinal round. The 37th-ranked Ukrainian eased past 170th-ranked qualifier Maria Timofeeva of Russia, 6-2, 6-1, in an hour and 16 minutes on Kia Arena.

Defending champion Sabalenka wins 11th straight in Melbourne

Defending champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus needed just 70 minutes to beat American Amanda Anisimova, 6-3 6-2, behind a solid first serve — dropping just four points — and a steady return game for her 11 straight Melbourne victory.

Sabalenka outpointed Anisimova 59-39 to advance to the quarterfinal round against No. 9 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, who rallied to defeat 16-year-old upstart Mirra Andreeva of Russia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Around Melbourne Park

Hall of Fame great Rod Laver was front and center in the arena that bears his name to watch Coco Gauff’s win over Magdalena Frech.

Sunday’s Australian Open results

Monday’s Australian order of play

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“Yeah, for sure, the first record we made is seven Ukrainians in the main draw, which was amazing, as well. Then, yeah, three of us making second week, it’s great.

“I think we are, like, pushing each other. It’s really nice that we are playing great tennis. Of course, I wish like all seven players played in the fourth round. Still great effort from everyone to make it through.

“Really exciting, as well. Also, my foundation is now taking care of the Fed Cup, it’s unbelievable to have such a great team. 

“It’s going to be a challenge for our captain now to pick who is going to be playing. It’s nice to have that much choice of great players in a good form. It’s going to be exciting for Billie Jean King Cup.

Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, during her post-match news conference Saturday, on being one of three Ukrainian women — along with Marta Kostyk and Dayana Yastremska — to advance to the third week of play in Melbourne.