Dartmouth’s fourth singles player, Rob Chen ’00, could be truly be called a “comeback kid.”
Last fall, he badly broke his leg while engaged in a friendly wrestling match with fellow tennis player, Jeffrey Sloves ’02. After a four-month recovery period that included surgery, Chen started the season back up at No. 4. Reclaiming his original position after such a serious injury seemed unlikely, but Chen has always been a fighter.
“All my life I’ve been really quick to get over injuries and illnesses,” Chen said. “Nothing can stop me, I guess.”
Born in Rome, N.Y., Chen has been playing tennis all his life. He had plenty of hitting partners growing up, as his older brother and younger sister were tennis players as well.
He competed successfully in junior tournaments, earning a ranking as high as 63 in the nation in singles. But the junior tennis circuit can add a lot of pressure to a young person’s life, and by the time he was ready for college, he had begun to burn out.
“It was very sad,” said Chen. “The sport I loved most in life was beginning to be a chore rather than fun. The rigors of the tour were beginning to wear on my young body as well.”
Chen entered Dartmouth as a “sort of” recruit. He had contacted the coach, Chuck Kinyon, but had not received incredibly enthusiastic responses.
That first year he played No. 8 and No. 9, but worked hard to improve his strength and work up the ladder.
Coach Kinyon has continued to be impressed by Chen’s hard work.
“Rob is hard working and dedicated to become as good as he can be.” Kinyon said. “He has worked hard over the past two years to improve his strength and skills.”
Chen’s dedication seems even more impressive when examined in the context of the other players in his class, who all quit before their sophomore years. Chen is the only junior remaining on the team, which might not bode well for next year’s season, after the five seniors graduate and leave the top three singles spots empty.
This season at No. 4, Chen started out well but ended on somewhat of a down note. He still managed a winning record of 12-7. His experience this season will certainly help him next year, when he will lead the team as its captain.
Although a teammate was responsible for his injury, Chen finds something to admire in every single one of his compadres. He counts his experience with the team as one of his best so far at Dartmouth.
“Our dynamic is great together,” said Chen. “We really fight like samurai.”
Although his dedication to tennis is a huge part of his life here at Dartmouth, Chen has managed to balance it well with academics and socializing.
He is an Asian Studies major who speaks four languages fluently.
He is also a brother at Kappa Kappa Kappa fraternity, which has been the other of his most rewarding experiences here, and has actually helped him win some tennis matches too, drawing inspiration from his brothers.
Chen is not sure where the future will take him. He played the French horn growing up, and thinks he might want to pursue that passion. He’s also always willing to try new things.
“If I ever take up another sport, it will probably be gymnastics,” he said.
For now, though, it is tennis with the Big Green. Chen hopes to finish up his Dartmouth career with a year to remember.