The first day at Roland Garros will feature plenty of excitng matches on the men’s side, including the debut of the man everyone is talking about right now: Carlos Alcaraz. While most eyes will understandably be on the Spaniard, there will be some other interesting matches going on, including the Grand Slam main draw debut of former American college star Nuno Borges.
The Portuguese is already 25 years old, but he started on the ATP Tour relatively late after playing in the American college circuit, where he was the SEC Player of the Year three times (2017, 2018, and 2019), but he’s been making steady progress and it’s only a matter of time until he reaches the top 100. This tournament was the first time he ever played a Grand Slam qualifying and he passed with flying colors, winning three three-set battles to make it into the main draw for the first time.
His first career Grand Slam opponent will be Karen Khachanov. Khachanov had a very promising 2018, culminated with a Masters 1000 title in Paris Bercy, but the truth is that he’s struggled a lot since. This clay season has been particularly difficult for him, with only four wins and five losses, the last of which in Lyon to Alex Molcan last week. When he’s inspired, Khachanov has one of the biggest games on the tour and can beat pretty much anyone, but those days have been very rare in recent years; much more common have been the days where he just sprays errors and loses to theoretically much weaker opponents.
Borges is not the favorite going into this match, but he certainly has a decent chance of an upset and the slow clay conditions should theoretically help him in this matchup. The big question mark will be how he handles the match from both a physical and mental point of view, in other words whether he’ll remain calm in his Grand Slam debut and how he deals with playing a best-of-five match for the first time.
Nuno Borges will surely play many more Grand Slam main draws in the future and eventually get a win but this is a great opportunity to start making his mark and establish himself as a regular at ATP level. It’s an even bigger opportunity because, if he gets through Khachanov, Hugo Delien or Dominic Thiem–who’s currently on a 10-match losing streak that includes Challengers–will be his next opponent in a very winnable second round matchup. Beating Khachanov, a difficult but achievable task, might just be the start of a great run for Borges in his first ever Grand Slam appearance.
Embed from Getty Images