Wheelchair tennis tournament continues to grow

Published 12:03 am Friday, March 21, 2014

NATCHEZ — Duncan Park tennis instructor Henry Harris is lending a helping hand in Baton Rouge this weekend at the 2014 Cajun Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament.

The tournament offers $28,000 in prizes and sees more than 100 participants from all over the world every year.

But the international event started in Natchez, Harris said.

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“Natchez started it in 1984, but it outgrew the town because it became world wide,” Harris said, “Baton Rouge took the program about 15 years ago.”

Harris remembers the humble beginnings in which the program started from.

“When we started it, we had two players that could somewhat play, but these guys (today) don’t play around,” Harris said. “They play pretty fast and what is amazing is the talent they are bringing in to play. Some are playing in the paralympics. They are amazing to see.”

Harris said his job will be as a line umpire, and to assist players with anything they may need.

“I just assist the players anyway I can, whether it’s getting them water or tape,” he said. “The professional part is I will be calling lines.”

Harris said watching the wheelchair-bound players compete at such a high level is inspiring, and he hopes to take some of the children he coaches at Duncan park to a tournament in the future.

“My goal is to get most of the kids down there to see it next year,” he said.

Matches begin at 8 a.m. daily until March 23 when the finals are played.

The event is hosted at the Paula G. Manship YMCA in Baton Rouge.

Harris said he hopes to return with stories from some of the world’s best tennis players to inspire his youth to be great no matter what obstacles are served at them.