Alexander Shevchenko and Nuno Borges have been enjoying a sizzling start to the season on the ATP Challenger Tour. Now, they will put their hot streaks on the line when they clash in Sunday’s championship match at the 2023 Phoenix Challenger.
Because of rain earlier this week, Saturday’s action at the Arizona Tennis Classic featured quarter-final matches in the morning and the semi-finals after suitable rest. Shevchenko, who advanced through qualifying, won back-to-back three setters, including against top seed Matteo Berrettini, to advance to his second Challenger final of the season. Borges, 26, extended his Challenger-level winning streak to nine.
The 22-year-old Shevchenko started the day by ousting World No. 23 Berrettini 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. A few hours later, Shevchenko returned to Centre Court and rallied from a set down to defeat Quentin Halys 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-3.
“It’s been an absolute unreal day,” Shevchenko said. “First starting against Matteo and then winning in tough three sets is absolutely something ridiculous. I never imagined I could do it and now I did. I’m shocked about it.”
Against the Frenchman Halys, Shevchenko was down 0-2 in the final set and fended off two break points to avoid going down a double break. The Arizona crowd quickly got behind the qualifier to help bring him across the finish line. Despite cramping late in the deciding set, Shevchenko rallied to continue his dream week.
Earlier this year, Shevchenko claimed his second Challenger Tour title when he triumphed at the Tenerife Challenger-1. Boasting a 9-3 Challenger-level season record, Shevchenko stated that he’s seeing his hard work beginning to pay off.
“I got a lot of matches last year and I was just a rookie on the Challenger Tour,” Shevchenko said. “This year I started how I expected and I knew as time goes on, I’m going to be better and better and it’s showing up right now.”
A jam-packed crowd enjoys Saturday’s action at the Challenger 175 event in Phoenix. Credit: Mary Grace Grabill
Shevchenko is coached by Gunter Bresnik, who has worked with prominent players such as Boris Becker, Patrick McEnroe, Dominic Thiem, and Gael Monfils.
Should Shevchenko defeat Borges to claim the Phoenix Challenger 175 title, he will crack the Top 100 for the first time.
“I expect a tough battle,” Shevchenko said. “I need to recover as fast as possible because I am cramping. But Nuno is a really good player, inside the Top 100, and he’s had really good wins here.”
Portuguese No. 1 Borges defeated Australian Alexei Popyrin in a three-set quarter-final before taking out Jan-Lennard Struff in the final four. The former Mississippi State University standout needed just one hour, seven minutes to down German qualifier Struff 6-4, 6-2.
“Great day out there for me, surprised myself honestly” Borges said. “I knew it was going to be a long and tough day. But I played great, especially in the semi-finals. I’m really proud of myself and can’t wait for the final.”
Borges, who is at a career-high 78 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings, claimed last month’s Monterrey Challenger and is riding a nine-match winning streak at the Challenger level.
“The start of the year has been quite amazing,” Borges said. “The last few weeks have been really positive. Started in Mexico and I’ve been on a streak you could say. I’ve been enjoying being on tour and playing these tournaments and nice places.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s final, Borges knows that his work will be cut out for him.
“Shevchenko has been on a roll, I’ve seen him around a lot but we haven’t played each other,” Borges said. “I’m expecting big things from him and I’m hoping I’m up for the challenge. It’s been a great tournament for him and for me. Let’s enjoy the final and do our best.”
In Phoenix doubles action, Australian Open finalists Hugo Nys and Jan Zielinski advanced to the final after defeating Roberto Carballes Baena and Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-2.
Nys and Zielinski will next meet American duo Nathaniel Lammons and Jackson Withrow, who downed Julian Cash and Henry Patten 6-7(7), 6-4, 10-4 in Saturday’s semi-final.
All to play for in Arizona 🌵🏆🇺🇸
Shevchenko 🆚 @nunoborges97 incoming!#ATPChallenger | @aztennisclassic pic.twitter.com/8mqVmTQkdY
— ATP Challenger Tour (@ATPChallenger) March 19, 2023