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Top players, amateurs flock to 30th annual Cajun Classic Wheelchair Tennis Tournament

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BATON ROUGE - Some of the best players in the tennis world are competing in Baton Rouge this weekend at 30th annual Cajun Classic wheelchair tennis tournament.

The tournament, hosted by the Baton Rouge Wheelchair Tennis Association, is one of only two super series in the country sanctioned by the International Tennis Federation. And players from all over the globe return every year for the competition and the comradery.

With the spring sun beating down on the court, the back-and-forth matches quickly heat up at the Paula G. Manship YMCA on Saturday.

Over 100 players competing, including top-ranked world players, swinging their way to over $40,000 in prize money. And they are also competing for a chance to bump up their international ranks.

"I'm world number 3 now so things are looking up,” Aniek Van Koot said.

Van Koot makes the trip from Holland and has been competing here for almost a decade.

“I've been playing since I was 10, I'm 28 now. Not professionally in the beginning,” Van Koot said.

She travels all around the world for different tennis tournaments, but what makes Baton Rouge so special is the people behind this event.

"I love coming back here. The southern hospitality and the people are so friendly, it's one of the nicest places," Van Koot said.

Tournament director Jennifer Edmonson emphasized their focus on giving the players, both amateur and professional, the best tournament experience.

“We pride ourselves the most on hosting all of these players, showcasing our southern hospitality, feeding them some great food, giving them some wonderful, special amenities and basically having a family reunion every year,” Edmonson said.

With hundreds of people in attendance, Van Koot hopes that exposure to the game will show that wheelchair athletes train and compete just as hard as everyone else.

“Understanding that the wheelchair tennis tour is really big and professional, and we put in as much effort as the able body, but sometimes people think less of us...we try so hard so that everyone can take us seriously,” Van Koot said.

The tournament finals will be held Sunday starting at 9 a.m., and it's free to attend.


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