Tennis Channel Open Circus Rolls Dice in Vegas

Posted on March 2, 2006

It remains to be seen whether Tennis Channel President Steve Bellamy's "Tennispalooza" this week at the ATP stop in Las Vegas, encompassing everything from players competing in ping pong and air hockey to gymnastics exhibitions and fan-inclusive fast serve competitions, catches on at other events -- but the results are in, and it is anything but boring.

Wednesday was the final of the Fast Serve Championships, where four amateur finalists qualified. Kevin Jackson of Orange County, Calif. led the hopefuls after knocking down a 140 mph blast (that had to land inside the service box). With first place grand prizes of a giant Panasonic flat-screen TV, Jet Blue Travel Vouchers and a Murrey Pool Table on the line to the winner, Jackson looked to have the top prize sewn up.

Until Dr. Ivo made a house call on Stadium Court.

The winning Fast Serve competitors needed to also beat the participating pros, which included Croatian giant "Dr." Ivo Karlovic of Croatia. Karlovic captured the top prize on his final serve, knocking down a gasp-inducing 142 mph bomb in front of the Stadium Court crowd after missing his first four deliveries.

Jackson took home the runner-up prize of a Stiga Ping Pong Table.


The Tennis Channel Open is featuring an "open air" interview tent this week in Las Vegas, where one side of the outdoor tent is left open so fans can witness live player post-match interviews.

After Lleyton Hewitt's interview Wednesday, the throng of mostly octogenarians crowded around the Aussie with one woman shouting "Las Vegas loves you, thanks for coming!" But after Hewitt signed one autograph then bolted for the locker room, the same woman was heard to incredulously remark to her lady companions, "He only signed one autograph! Can you believe it?"

Welcome to Lleyton Land lady.

Earlier in the day, multiple players signed autographs for fans in The Tennis Channel booth.


History was made Wednesday night when The Tennis Channel Open became the first ATP event to run a doubles-only night session with three consecutive doubles matches on the feature Stadium Court: (1) Bryan/Bryan vs. Fisher/Mayer, (WC) Fish/Ginepri vs. (2) Bjorkman/Mirnyi, and (WC) Blake/Blake vs. Coetzee/Wassen.

Blake and Fish usually play together, but the Blake brothers partnered since this is the elder Thomas' last ATP event. While Blake sports a bald head, his older, taller brother rocks the ever-popular "Sideshow Bob" look.

The Bryan brothers are particularly happy with doubles getting front-and-center attention in Las Vegas.

"The new doubles revolution is happening, with all the attention and focus from the ATP on doubles," Bob Bryan said. "(TTC Open Tournament Director) Steve Bellamy is a huge promoter of doubles. The fans received it well, this is going to be a highlight for doubles in Vegas, three matches on one night."


Other activities Wednesday on the tournament grounds were Paddle Tennis Clinics & Demos and the draw party for the Paddle Tennis pro event, USTA Membership Appreciation Day, Wheelchair Tennis Clinics & Demos, the Murrey Parlor Games Championships where France's competitive Gael "Force" Monfils threatened to quit multiple times against his tour Ping Pong foes over disputed calls, and the Mirabella Gymnastics Show. And who could overlook the Singha Beer Garden, with those two rarely-seen-together words "beer" and "garden" that conjure such lovely visions?

Tennis-X is reporting live this week in Las Vegas for the Tennis Channel Open.