Strong competition fill day two of River Classic

Published 12:23 am Sunday, June 26, 2016

The tennis competition, much like the heat, was fierce and relentless at Halls Ferry Park Saturday for day two of the River Classic tennis tournament.

At least two matches saw a 10-point tiebreaker set, adding on to the already lengthy time spent on the court. But players were kept on their toes and challenged by their opponents all day.

In mixed doubles play, Mary Jane Wooten and her partner Buddy Embry dropped a match to Louis Saddler and Leanna Johnson out of Jackson 6-3, 7-5.

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Between sets, the quartet sought shade and relief by way of a misting fan and cool towels to decrease body temperatures. Despite the heat, however, both sides mustered up the strength to continue playing.

“This is the best competition I’ve played in a long time. All of our matches were tough and could’ve gone either way. It’s also the hottest match I’ve ever played,” said an exhausted Wooten.

Embry was familiar with his across-the-net foes from Jackson through previous tournaments.

He’s developed a friendly accord that includes slight ribbing at each other in competition.

“It’s better to play people that are on your level or a little bit above it. It increases your competition,” Embry said.

Wooten will play in a ladies’ doubles match on Monday and until then she’ll hydrate accordingly.

The expansion of Halls Ferry tennis courts allows it to hold USTA sanctioned tournaments. Parallel to hosting more events, the newly added courts look to attract tennis players to Vicksburg, as with the case of Saddler and Johnson.

“We know a lot of Vicksburg people here. A lot of players that come over there, we know them, see them and socialize with them,” Saddler said on his decision to plays doubles in Vicksburg opposed to Jackson. “We’ve played in tournaments here before and it’s a good tournament. Rick Shields put on a good tournament. It’s well organized and fun to play in.”

Saddler believes upon completion of the new courts more people from Jackson will travel to Halls Ferry Park.

“It’s a real good facility, a lot of good courts,” Saddler said.

Just two courts down, Kaleel Jabour and Henry Tatem fought tooth and nail to come out victorious in their doubles match.

“We were ahead 5-2, and next thing you know it was 5-4 and then it went 6-5 and we finally won the last point,” Tatem said. “The team that were playing, they’re good too, their serves were pretty good too.”

For Jabour the tournament brought to him a realization that most fathers fight hard to face, which is he could no longer beat his son Joseph, who recently graduated from Warren Central.

Jabour and Tatem met up with Joseph and his doubles partner Friday night around 9 p.m.

“Five years ago I could beat him. A year ago I could out think him, not today,” Kaleel said. “He’s a much better player. It’s enjoyable to play against him and if I had the right player on the right date, I could win a set or two but everything has to be right. I got to be lucky and he has to be a little off.”

Jabour and Tatem finished the tournament Saturday, but every time Tatem – who just had a grandson graduate from Mississippi State – played he questioned if he could keep up with the speed of the game.

“I feel ok now but everytime I was out there I was wondering ‘Could I really run around?’ I mean I can a little bit but I just want the ball back,” he said.