North Medford’s Tanner Borg will go for a record third straight state title in doubles this weekend at the Class 6A tournament. - Jamie Lusch

Borg downplays shot at historic run

Tanner Borg has a pretty good idea of the state history he could make once this week is complete, but the North Medford senior isn't all that interested in talking about it.

He has too much respect for his competition and enough of a background in sports to know you never count your chickens before they hatch.

That's why when Borg takes the tennis court today with doubles partner Austin Schoenlein, his plans will be very simple and his attention will only be on the task at hand.

It's going to be up to everyone else to ponder whether Borg can pull off what no one has done before and win his third state championship in doubles as the Class 6A boys tennis state tournament kicks off today in Portland.

"It does make me a little bit anxious, but I really, really don't want to think about it right now," says Borg. "I'm just going up this week to play one match at a time. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

"I've already talked with Austin and we're not going to take anyone for granted," he adds. "We just want to focus on what we want to do and let everything take care of itself."

That mentality served Borg and then-partner David Longmire well the past two seasons, so there's no reason to alter it now. That duo also advanced to the state quarterfinals when Borg was a freshman but now that Longmire has graduated, it's up to Schoenlein to help keep the streak alive.

Hal Borg, Tanner's father and the North Medford boys tennis coach, says the transition in partners has been seamless.

"Tanner has had a special relationship with David Longmire and Austin since they were in pre-kindergarten," says Hal Borg. "They've all grown up together and been close friends so it was just a natural transition from David moving on and then Austin coming in to take his place."

The success rate has certainly been the same, with the Borg-Schoenlein tandem sporting an undefeated record and No. 1 seed heading into today's play. Still, there are certain nuances that make this rendition of North's top doubles team a little different than the one before.

"It actually was a pretty big difference switching from David to Austin just because they have kind of different games," says the 18-year-old. "What helped was that we're good friends so it was easy to make that connection really quick."

In Tanner Borg's estimation, Longmire played a more high-percentage game, attacking opponents with safe plays and a steady serve. Be it from his run last year at No. 1 singles or his natural tendency, Schoenlein is a little more aggressive and often goes for the big serve or first volley more than his predecessor.

Each path has led to the same destination and has melded well with the younger Borg's skill set.

"He has always loved serve-and-volley tennis and that's kind of a throwback in tennis," says Hal Borg of his son. "The kids these days stay back and hit the ball really hard but he's always loved coming to the net. It's his personality and his natural style of play, so he just naturally is a good doubles player."

Another key to the senior's success has involved his temperament on the court.

"In all the sports that he's ever played, Tanner just seems to have a natural calmness to him," says coach Borg. "He has always performed well under pressure. As a matter of fact, the tighter the situation the better he plays, and I think his partners have always fed off that. He has an amazing ability to focus in on the tight points."

Tanner Borg says he enjoys playing singles, too, but really gravitated toward doubles as he got older because of the faster pace of the game. That pace has always seemed to suit him thanks to his excellent hand-eye coordination and all-around feel for the game.

"I think his biggest gift is his hands," says coach Borg. "We talk about that in tennis a lot because it's so important to have a quick reaction time and he's gifted with really quick, soft hands. He can take a ball hit 100 miles per hour at his belly and volley it back without a problem."

But can he take the pressure of a historic run? That will be the question this week, and could ultimately lead Borg to a third straight finals matchup with West Linn's second-seeded tandem of Christopher Erbin and Miles Rifkin.

"I've talked with their coach and they've been working hard gunning for Tanner and Austin so everybody's looking forward to a possible rematch there," says coach Borg.

In his own mind, however, Tanner Borg is mostly interested in doing his part — with Schoenlein and singles players Colt Hoeptner and David Tribble — to get North Medford over the hump after second-place finishes the past two years at state.

"If all of us get to where we should, we have a really good shot at bringing home the team trophy," he says.

And that's about all the looking ahead Tanner Borg is willing to do these days.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail

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