Up 30-0 in his second set, third service game during his singles matchup, senior Andrew Fenty abandoned his blazing overhand serve in favor of a slow underhand stroke. The move caught Illinois’s Olivier Stuart, ranked No. 63 in the country, by surprise, forcing him to direct a shot right into the net. Fenty’s rather unusual decision spoke to the competitive edge he held over his singles opponent.
“That decision was a little tactile,” Fenty said. “I thought if I hit it lower, he would miss it, and he actually missed it.”
Fenty nearly ended up on the wrong side of the match’s opening game. However, down 15-40, he won three consecutive points to retain his first service game victory. In the next game, Fenty charged to a 40-15 lead, but lost two consecutive points before ultimately breaking Stuart.
Riding his momentum to win both the third and fourth games, Fenty highlighted the fifth game with several acrobatic plays, striking shots in areas unreachable for his opponent. Fenty closed the set in straight games, his first time doing so in a singles matchup since losing to Western Michigan’s Peter Kuszynski on Jan. 21.
Before his next set began, Fenty could be found pumping up sophomore Jacob Bickersteth, who immediately followed by taking a 5-4 lead in his No. 3 singles matchup, and senior Patrick Maloney, who notched up the first set of his No. 5 singles match at four games apiece. Fenty’s strong first-set performance translated to Bickersteth and Maloney as they won their opening sets, 7-6 and 7-5. Together, the three Wolverines took control of one side of the Varsity Tennis Center.
“When I’m rolling like that, it helps everyone, honestly,” Fenty said. “My goal as the frontrunner is to keep going… and make it easier for (Bickersteth and Maloney) to win sets and matches.”
Beginning his second set, Fenty once again fell behind to a 15-40 deficit before swiftly emerging victorious in each of the next three points to break Stuart and post a 1-0 lead. Even after losing the following two games, Fenty quickly recovered to the tune of five consecutive game victories, finishing the set, 6-2.
Although Fenty has not played his best tennis this spring season, holding an even 3-3 singles record, the Wolverines are prepared to take Fenty’s momentum and try to dominate non-conference opponents through March.
“(Fenty) winning the first set in the way he did and getting up like that was a big lift for the team,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said. “It’s been a tough start for him.”
Even through that tough start, Fenty brings a brand of keen and intelligent play to every match, and it’s promising that he posted a convincing victory over an adept opponent like Stuart.
“Andrew can be one of the best players in the country,” Steinberg said. “He’s proved that, over and over again.”