Borendame builds solid men's tennis program at MTSU, looks ahead to 2021
By William Stephenson
MTN Sports Director
April 20, 2020
Middle Tennessee State University’s men’s tennis team wasted no time proving their power as a program this season.
After winning the Conference USA title last year, they won their first match of the 2020 season with a home victory against Michigan State. The defending conference champions went on to defeat other power conference teams such as Arkansas, Indiana, Auburn, as well as two sweeps over Drake in their shortened 18-match season.
Photo Courtesy - MTSU Athletics
Their presence was noticed by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association by being ranked as high as 27th among all Division I tennis programs in the country.
Leading the way is Jimmy Borendame, who just finished his 10th season at the helm of the MTSU men’s tennis program.
Borendame started his head coaching career with Drake in 2009. He led them to a winning record before coming to MTSU the following season. He took over a team that just finished a 7-27 record the previous year, but his first season proved what he was bringing to the table for the Blue Raiders by turning the team around with a winning record.
“When I took over at MTSU, we had no indoor tennis center and four players on the roster,” Borendame said. “I looked at it as a blank slate to make my own team rather than take over the old program.”
His arrival to Murfreesboro affected more than just MTSU. The absence of an indoor tennis facility limited his program for practice and training. Borendame helped raise $2.2 million to help build Adams Tennis Complex, the first indoor tennis facility in Murfreesboro as well as the new home for Blue Raider Tennis.
“We had to make it a mission to get indoor courts,” Borendame said.
Now that an indoor facility was accessible for home matches, Borendame immediately started searching for was to get fans in the stands.
“We started using the knowledge of MTSU students by offering internships for marketing managers for the team to help me come up with ideas for promotions for the matches,” Borendame said.
The promotions were working, and people started coming to Adams Tennis Complex to see the Blue Raiders take on various schools throughout the season. The next step was to help create a better bond between the players and their fans.
“I convinced my guys to embrace the two-way street and go up to the crowd after matches to introduce themselves to the fans,” Borendame said. “Then they started growing relationships with the people in the stands, and what more can I ask for?”
Year after year, Borendame’s vision for MTSU tennis has come true. His vision for families to enjoy top tier tennis in a high-quality place has become a reality.
“Jimmy is an essential part of our Athletic Department,” said Drew Shea, who is MTSU's Director of Sports Medicine. “Our coaching staffs are willing to bond with our cities, but no one more than Jimmy.”
Borendame and his players, who come from all over the world, put on two clinics a year with the city of Murfreesboro’s School of kids to teach young players tennis.
“Our goal is interaction,” Borendame said. “How many kids in Murfreesboro get to meet someone from Czech Republic? The kids get to learn tennis from great student athletes from diverse backgrounds.”
They also partner with Buddy Up, which is a tennis program for kids with down syndrome. They also created Murfreesboro Tennis Day, which encourages people in the community to get out and enjoy some tennis.
“Those first few interactions are the most important to get a kid to want to play tennis,” Borendame said.
Borendame works to develop a bond with his players. Each spring, he'll invite the team to his home to grill out and play games. Players say he's involved in all aspects of their college experience.
“Coach cares a lot about our future life,” said Francisco Rocha, a sophomore from Portugal. “He is always on top of how we are doing in school and that’s the main reason our team has such a strong average GPA.”
Their season came to a halt last month after the NCAA canceled the remaining schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With COVID-19 ending the chance to defend the title, Borendame looks ahead to 2021 rather than look back at past success.
“We don’t ever talk about defending the title,” Borendame said. “That was a different team, different personalities, our focus is always this year. You’ll never hear me talk about defending a title.”
MTSU finished their season with a 13-5 record overall.