Andrew Fenty was the lone bright spot for the 16th-ranked Michigan men’s tennis team’s 6-1 loss to No. 1 Ohio State on Sunday at the Varsity Tennis Center.
The Wolverines’ initial intensity was quickly extinguished by the Buckeyes’ dominant net play during the doubles matches. While No. 1 and No. 3 doubles found themselves down almost immediately, the second-ranked doubles tandem of Fenty and senior Myles Schalet were able to hang with the Ohio State duo of Alex Kolbet and Kyle Seelig.
This match was unique in Michigan’s infectious energy and angle shots to stall the Buckeyes’ net play, specifically initiated by Fenty.
“(Angle shots) are made for him, the grip, the way he hits the ball,” said Wolverines coach Adam Steinberg. “He can really create off the court.”
Fenty’s energy did not fade in his No. 3 singles match against Ohio State’s Martin Joyce. It seemed as though every extended silence was interrupted by a strong Fenty play followed by an eruption from his teammates and the crowd. Fenty closed out the first game with a perfectly executed drop shot followed by an animated celebration, calling on his teammates and the Michigan crowd to reassert their role in the match.
“He loves college tennis and it’s contagious,” Steinberg said. “These matches bring out the best in him.”
Fenty applied his inspiring performance throughout his match, particularly to counter Joyce’s various runs. When Joyce tied the match at two with multiple aces, Fenty employed what would be the point of the match.
After Joyce telegraphed Fenty’s drop shot, the freshman displayed his reflexes with a quick volley. Joyce responded with a strong passing shot for which Fenty sprinted back, caught up to the ball and painted the line with a backhand winner. The crowd didn’t need a Fenty invitation to applaud the freshman for taking the pivotal 3-2 break.
“The guys on my team tell me that I have the fire,” Fenty said. “I’m the fire of the team.”
As Joyce found his rhythm with a powerful first serve, Fenty recaptured the momentum, ripping a forehand return to take a 5-3 lead followed by an emphatic celebration to propel him to a 6-3 first-set victory.
Fenty was met with far more contention in his second set. As his passion was countered by Joyce’s commanding second-set play, Fenty focused his energy towards his teammates. This was on full display after Fenty hit a cross-court winner and immediately cheered for sophomore Mattias Siimar’s point on the adjacent court rather than celebrate his own shot.
“I lost it for a bit,” Fenty said. “I was watching the scoreboard too much and saw that we were losing. When I celebrate, I look to my teammates and try and get them going and try to get the crowd really into it.”
After falling into a 4-1 deficit, Fenty found himself alone as Ohio State had won its fourth and match-clinching point. Fenty nevertheless continued his relentless drive to cut into Joyce’s lead, albeit in a 3-6 losing effort.
The third-set tiebreaker was initially back-and-forth, landing at 4-4. Fenty stayed expressively energetic while rattling off six of the next seven points. This was capped by an athletic serve return to take the tiebreaker along with the match, 6-3, 3-6, 10-5.
While Fenty pushed his win streak to 10 with the win, Steinberg stressed the need for the rest of the Wolverines to come out with more energy.
“The guys have to believe in themselves,” said Steinberg. “I think we respected them too much. (Fenty) loves that environment. We need that on every court though.”