Dong Chen beats bad back and RI rival for ACS(I) triumph

Dong Chen returning the ball in the decisive fifth match. He overcame a back injury and the distraction of a change of court to help ACS(I) win their third successive title.
Dong Chen returning the ball in the decisive fifth match. He overcame a back injury and the distraction of a change of court to help ACS(I) win their third successive title. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Their schoolmates had gathered all along the fence surrounding the tennis court.

The cheers were deafening, each side egging their player on in the Schools National C Division boys' final at the Kallang Tennis Centre.

With the best-of-five tie finely poised at 2-2, whether Raffles Institution or their old rivals Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) would walk away with the overall crown came down to the match between RI's Jay Tan and ACS(I)'s Dong Chen.

Jay was touted as RI's top player, but despite his best efforts, he could not stop his rival from emerging a 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3 winner.

ACS(I) had already won two singles matches - Takeshi Koey beating Timothy Lee 6-0, 6-2 and Caleb Tay defeating Joshua Lee 6-1, 6-1. However, the two doubles matches went RI's way, Ahmad Naqib and Timothy Lim defeating cousins Christopher & Mark Theng 6-2, 6-1 and Andre Keh and Aneish Sawney beating Nigel Chum and Ritesh Mulani 6-3, 6-2.

What was remarkable was that Dong Chen not only had to get past Jay, but also a back injury and the distraction of a change of court (owing to leaves on the surface) midway through the match to help his school win their third straight C Division title.

The 13-year-old said: "I've had this back injury since last month. It affected my training schedule also but I just told myself to choke it down and suffer through the match.

"My main goal was, point by point, try to win everything. I was a bit upset when I lost the second set. Anything could've happened but I was always preparing for what could happen next."

RI's coach Weber Ho could not help but praise Dong Chen's performance and display against his side.

"My best singles' player went up against Dong Chen and my player played really well but Dong Chen and Takeshi are the top two guys in the whole of Singapore," he said.

"The line-up was actually to their advantage. I expected them to do something else but they didn't. Or else, I could've won one of the singles."

In the C girls' final, Methodist Girls' School beat Nanyang Girls' High School 4-1 to retain the title.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Dong Chen beats bad back and RI rival for ACS(I) triumph'. Print Edition | Subscribe