With his sturdy six-foot-three frame and hands big enough to palm a basketball, 17-year-old Andrew Fenty looks more like a grown man than a teenager honing his groundstrokes—a fact that becomes more evident when we shake hands inside the Junior Tennis Champions Center, in College Park, Maryland, where he trains.
When we meet, Fenty is only a few days removed from what was arguably one of his toughest losses to date, though he barely flinches as he admitted so. Competing with other locals for a wild-card spot in next month’s Citi Open, Fenty advanced to the finals, only to lose in three sets (6-2; 5-7; 6-3) to 30-year-old Damon Gooch. Even so, Fenty says that tournament was more about getting in his reps.
“The whole point of the tournament was to get ready for Wimbledon, to get a lot of matches under my belt, and I achieved that goal,” says Fenty, who’s now in London awaiting the start of the juniors’ tournament at tennis’s most prestigious event. “So obviously you’d want to win, but at the end of the day, that’s not why we’re here.”
Aside from the fact that Fenty is the 76th-ranked junior tennis player in the world, it’s his clear sense of purpose, composure, and work ethic that stands out in both conversation and on the court—what could easily be attributed to his pedigree, as the son of former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty.
Fenty is a normal kid in more ways than one—he likes to kick back with his buddies and cheer on his hometown teams. But throughout the summer, when he’s not traveling to compete, Fenty’s schedule works like that of an already practicing professional athlete: he wakes up at 6:30 AM and takes a shower before eating breakfast. He’s on the court shortly before 8 AM for two hours of drills, followed by an hour of fitness training and another hour of on-court match scenarios before lunch, with a few more hours of exercise to follow. Unlike members of the ATP Tour, though, he goes home afterward to a load of school work.
I ask him what it’s like to be a teenager and live such a regimented life, what it’s like to be a young athlete who’s also the son of a polarizing ex-mayor. Fenty’s soft-spoken about most everything, from his rising profile in his sport to his more famous father, who these days turns up mostly in stories about his relationship with Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“I don’t really think about the public eye. I just try to focus on myself,” Fenty says.
On the French Open, where he had a spot in the qualifying draw: “I belong in there. I feel ready. You know how you have to taste it first?”
On his father, who while serving as mayor could often be seen running: “Super competitive, also super fit. I get it from him.”
Fenty stares ahead for a moment then slides down in his chair, glancing at his coach of the past several years, Asaf Yamin.
“As he said, he belongs there,” Yamin says. “I can tell him all day that he belongs there but it doesn’t mean anything—he needs to get it himself.”