Andrew Fenty watches the ball flying towards him as he angles his racket with both hands to hit it back.
In the second set of the Citi Open, Andrew Fenty retired due to a sustained injury. Taylor Pacis/Daily.  Buy this photo.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With four forced deuce points in one game, it was clear that returning fifth-year senior Andrew Fenty wouldn’t give in easily.

It seemed like it would take everything from him and Japan’s Yosuke Watanuki to dictate the result of a qualifying match at Citi Open.

But, early in the second set, Fenty appeared to reach his limit, and it resulted in Fenty’s retirement from the match — a decision he made based on left leg and groin injuries that worsened down the stretch of the first set.

“I don’t think I’ve ever pulled out of a match before,” Fenty said. “(I felt) a sharp pain in my groin, and, at the end, I couldn’t bend my left leg.”

Injury is something that Fenty has dealt with before.

“I strained my calf three days (before Citi Open),” Fenty said. “But I played sets before. … I felt pretty good (during the match), definitely some discomfort though.”

Despite the looming injury, Fenty remained a step ahead of Watanuki at the start, catching him off guard by playing slightly ahead of the back baseline. It allowed him to capture his first break nine minutes into the match, as well as a hold in his next service game to give him a promising 3-0 lead.

“I was playing really well (at the start),” Fenty said. “This year, I felt like I was in a different head space … to understand the moment much better.”

The moment didn’t appear to faze Fenty, as he held serve to take a 5-2 lead in straight points — but his injuries caught up to him.

With a 5-3 advantage, Fenty strained his groin. It severely limited his on-court mobility and led him to make a series of unforced errors that quickly dissolved his wide lead into a five-game tie with Watanuki.

With the support of his hometown crowd in a 5-5 game — despite the pain — Fenty gave one last surge of power and energy through eight deuce points. But Watanuki, adjusted well to Fenty’s positioning on the baseline and capitalized on his seventh set-point opportunity, taking the opening set, 7-5.

After losing the next game to start the second set, Fenty chose to retire and forfeit the match.

“My injury definitely sucked a little bit,” Fenty said. “Playing these matches always gives a good taste on how good pro level tennis is.”

And while Fenty aspires to join Watanuki at that professional level, through four appearances at Citi Open, Fenty has failed to win a qualifying match — highlighting his struggles on the level above collegiate tennis. For now, though, his focus remains on recovery and preparation for his final year as a member of the Michigan men’s tennis team.

“We’ll see how long my healing process is,” Fenty said. “I plan to stay local and play college tournaments (before the dual season begins).”

His presence is a necessary one if the Wolverines want to carry over their recent success to next season, as they will return their top three singles players in senior Ondrej Styler, returning fifth-year senior Patrick Maloney and Fenty. Even though those successes were inconsistent for Fenty last season — causing him to be moved down to the No. 3 singles position during the NCAA Tournament — he valued Michigan’s team-first mentality.

Fenty’s dedication was so strong that, even as Styler fought into a third set tiebreaker at No. 1 singles, Fenty gave the Wolverines an NCAA Quarterfinals berth by winning five straight games to close out his match.

“(Fenty) has had a tough year,” Michigan coach Adam Steinberg said on May 14. “But, at 4-1 in the third set, he loosened up and went for it.”

And, even before then, Steinberg held vested confidence in Fenty’s potential on the court.

“Andrew can be one of the best players in the country,” Steinberg said on Feb. 11. “He’s proved that over and over again.”

A question mark, however, does loom large on what Fenty can do this coming season for the Wolverines — and potentially beyond Michigan.