Brant Fenno is the son of two Princeton graduates, models his game after Novak Djokovic and even has been diagnosed with the same disease as Djokovic - celiac disease, a reaction to eating wheat and other items that contain gluten.
Like Djokovic, Fenno is pretty good at tennis. The Porter-Gaud eighth-grader just won the SCISA Open singles championship.
"This (celiac) has led to some difficult twists in his diet, and contributed to his injuries last year (he wasn't absorbing protein properly). But now with the help of a nutritionist, a physical therapist, and some good tennis coaches, Brant is right back playing the level that he played in 2012," said Edward Fenno, a local attorney and former Princeton tennis player, who doubles as Brant's father and one of his coaches.
Again like Djokovic, Brant has managed to play some pretty good tennis despite the disorder. In two seasons at Porter-Gaud, he is unbeaten in singles. He usually plays No. 2 for the Cyclones, but in the SCISA Open final, he defeated senior Seth Pinosky, Porter-Gaud's No. 1 player.
"Brant played truly brilliant tennis (in the tournament). He appears to have fully recovered both his form and his fitness after last year's injuries," Edward Fenno said.
Currently ranked among the top 25 boys 14 players in the South, Brant is cautiously looking forward to playing Belton this year, if Porter-Gaud's exam schedule allows it.
Fenno is coached by LTP pro Ben Simon and city pro Jason Nius as well as his dad and Porter-Gaud coach Jonathan Barth, the pro at Kiawah Island. Simon has returned to the area after teaching tennis in the Atlanta area.
Fenno's leap up to the No. 2 position from No. 5 for last season's SCISA Class AAA champions has helped the Cyclones overcome the loss of 2013 Lowcountry player of the year Thomas Spratt.
"Brant has been playing well," Barth said. "We're looking forward to the playoffs."
The Cyclones opened with eight straight victories before suffering a 6-3 loss at Hilton Head Prep in their last match. Porter-Gaud defeated Prep by the same score in its season opener.
The Cyclones likely will be favored when the SCISA state playoffs are held the week of April 28.
The SCISA Open was something of a Porter-Gaud affair, with Fenno and Pinosky in the singles final, senior Foster Moe/sophomore Cross Tolliver winning the doubles title, and freshman Jack Kammerer teaming up with Lowcountry girls player of the year Ann Martin Skelly to capture mixed doubles.
After eight straight first-match wins, Shelby Rogers is now on a streak of three consecutive first-match losses following a 7-5, 7-6 (4) loss to wild card Samantha Crawford in last week's $25,000 Pro Circuit Challenger at Pelham, Ala., where Rogers was the top seed.
The Daniel Island pro, currently ranked 110th in the world, also has entered a $50,000 Pro Circuit Challenger event starting Monday in Dothan, Ala. Earlier, Rogers lost in first-round qualifying at Miami's Sony Open, then was eliminated in the main draw first round at the Family Circle Cup.
The deadline for league tennis' mixed doubles team registrations is April 21.
A Lowcountry Youth Tennis Association 10-and-under tournament will be held on April 26 at Family Circle Tennis Center from 2-5 p.m. Contact John Farrelly (email@example.com).
-- Porter-Gaud's main competition in SCISA Class AAA boys and girls tennis in recent years has come from Hilton Head Prep, but the Hilton Head Island school plans to drop back to Class AA next school year.
-- The annual Charleston County Schools Superintendent's Cup tennis tournament is scheduled for May 3 at Charleston Tennis Center, Maybank Tennis Center and The Citadel. Registration will be held at 8 a.m. at Charleston Tennis Center. Matches will be played from 9 a.m.-noon at the three tennis centers.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.
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