Timothy Tep joined the Virginia Wesleyan tennis team this year all the way from Cambodia.
Tep grew up in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, with the tennis gene from the multiple athletes within his family. His father, Tep Rithivit has quite the impact on the sport of tennis in his country as he helped bring it back to Cambodia after the Khmer Rouge period and the Cambodian Civil war in 1975. He is now the secretary-general of the Tennis Federation in Cambodia. The federation teaches 12,000 kids for free, half of whom are orphans.
His father also won bronze medals and played in the Davis Cup, which is the premier international team event in men’s tennis.
Tep’s grandfather, Tep Khunnah, was also a tennis player. He was one of Cambodia’s best players during the 1960s. In addition to that, Tep’s maternal cousin, named Arnaud Boetsch, reached a singles ranking of World No. 12. Tep was born into tennis, as shown by his family ties.
Tep grew up playing other sports such as soccer and racing motorbikes from a young age, but his ultimate passion proved to be tennis.
Prior to Virginia Wesleyan, Tep had been to the United States twice. On his second visit, he attended a recruitment camp in Pennsylvania where he met VWU head coach Martin Perry.
Despite 12 other coaches from other schools attending the camp, Tep found himself choosing Virginia Wesleyan.
“I had a very good connection with him so that’s how I ended up here [VWU],” Tep said.
Junior Andreas Combos was one of the first to meet Tep on his arrival to Virginia Beach. Combos said that even though he didn’t get to speak with Tep’s father, he seemed to have a lot of tennis knowledge and has done a lot for tennis in Cambodia.
Senior Paul Gladstone said, “Even though he hasn’t been here for that long, we gelled together pretty well. He was a nice guy and pretty passionate about tennis.”
Tep has only competed in five matches so far, and currently holds a 1-4 record with a win against Goucher College. He played 4 singles and won 6-4 and then 6-3. He also picked up a doubles win as he teamed up with sophomore Anthony Wilson. Despite the slow start, Tep has already left a mark on his teammates.
“The variety in his game, not a lot of people have that,” Combos said. He elaborated and said that Tep exhibited a wide range of skills such as moving the ball around the court and mixing up the pace, which he executed with a polished technique.
Tep explained that he’s been making progress since the first match. He felt at first that everything was new and it was hard to play his game.
“Each week it’s getting a lot better. I get to know more of my teammates, my coach, my assistant coach. They’re all very nice. I get more comfortable in practices and in matches too,” Tep said.
Tep stated that the weather is one thing quite different, and he is not used to this “freezing” weather as opposed to the 100 degree Cambodian weather. He also noticed that a lot more people drive places compared to walking.
The schooling system is another cultural difference he found in America. He attended a French school in Cambodia called Lycée Français René Descartes de Phnom Penh and speaks French fluently. Tep said that the grading and ways of teaching were different here.
“I found it way better the American way…it’s pretty positive,” Tep said.
His next match will be March 2 against Emory and Henry College.