Defending champions still on top

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2000

Last year, Tony Dodgen of Port Gibson and Henry Harris of Jackson teamed up for the first time at the Natchez Cancer Tennis Tournament in the Men’s 8.5 Combination Doubles division.

Not only did they play on the same team for the first time, but they also won the championship for the first time as a team.

&uot;It was my and Tony’s first time together,&uot; said Harris, former assistant director in the Natchez Recreation Department. &uot;We sneaked in there and surprised a lot of people.&uot;

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&uot;It was fun,&uot; Dodgen said of winning their division’s title last year. &uot;The Cancer Tournament is a good tournament.&uot;

Dodgen and Harris have each played tennis for 26 years. And even though they first teamed up last year, each of them have played in the tournament for several years.

&uot;I’ve participated in this tournament since ’92,&uot; said Dodgen, who has coached tennis at Alcorn State for four years. &uot;I may have missed a year or two. Harris actually beat me a couple of times, so it’s nice to have him on the same team.&uot;

&uot;I have played here all but two years,&uot; said Harris, the director of tennis for the Special Olympics for the state. &uot;I had to go to Keesler Air Force Base to work with the Special Olympics.&uot;

Dodgen and Harris gave different reasons for why they keep coming back to Natchez for this tournament, which is now in its 26th year.

&uot;I always like to come here because (Duncan Park tennis pro) Frankie Spence is such a good person to be around,&uot; Dodgen said. &uot;It’s also a very good social event. Natchez is a good town to visit. Norren Pyron is a very good organizer.&uot;

&uot;Natchez is my home. I was born and raised here,&uot; Harris said. &uot;I’ve been gone for a year and three months. I know how important this tournament is for the junior development here in Natchez.&uot;

Dodgen and Harris have had some success in the tournament in the past.

Dodgen won a mixed doubles title with Julie Callon a couple of years ago.

Harris won two mixed doubles titles and two men’s doubles titles, &uot;but those were years ago.&uot;

As to what team gave Dodgen and Harris their toughest match last year, Dodgen said it was &uot;a fellow named Mickey (Thornton), who is a very consistent player and his teammate, whose name I can’t remember.&uot;

Both players said they like their chances of winning again this year, especially with having a first-round bye.

&uot;I hope that we can repeat,&uot; Harris said. &uot;Every team is gunning for us. We’re not going to surprise anyone this year.&uot;

&uot;I feel better about our chances now that we have only two matches to play,&uot; Dodgen said. &uot;We won our first match today (Friday, 6-2, 6-2 over Klent Herring and Shawn Newman) pretty quickly.&uot;

Both players agreed that the heat and humidity will be a big factor in this year’s tournament.

&uot;It was hot out there today,&uot; Harris said. &uot;You have to worry about beating the heat more beating your opponent.&uot;

&uot;The Cancer Tournament is always the first hottest weather weekend of the year,&uot; Dodgen said. &uot;You have to worry about staying hydrated.&uot;

The tournament continues today with the finals set for Sunday at Duncan Park.