Air Hockey Athletes Rock Tennis Channel Open

Posted on March 5, 2006

The off-court "Tennispalooza" antics were cranked up Saturday at the ATP Tennis Channel Open in Las Vegas with the culmination of the 2006 Tennis Channel Air Hockey Invitational championship round, with three-time USAA (don't ask) champion Jose "The Eagle" Mora from Caracas, Venezuela squaring off against American and world No. 2 Davis Lee "The Dragon" Huynh.

"This is the world's fastest table sport!" shouted out the enthusiastic M.C. while the 150-odd onlookers no doubt racked their brains for competing speed table sports: Chess? That game where you flick a paper football?

Tennis Channel Open Tournament Director Steve Bellamy revelled in the circus energy on the tournament midway, where fans poured into after the Lleyton Hewitt win Saturday to view or participate in air hockey, table tennis, the World Stringing Championship, the Paddle Tennis Championships, Thai dancing, the Singha Beer Garden, Thai cooking exhibitions and a host of other activities.

"One of our goals was to create a spectacle," Bellamy said with a grin during the final as the M.C. shouted "He's going for a right wall bank!"

"If we provide bits and pieces of air hockey, paddle ball, the Thai dancers, Wally Green the table tennis star, the Wilson World Stringing Championships, etc., that's a fun ticket," Bellamy said as fans stood four-deep trying to get a look at "The Eagle" and "The Dragon," who were sweating profusely in front of the vocal crowd and rabble-rousing M.C.

So hyped-up were the proceedings that the ATP players on the stadium court sent word over to tone it down.

Brief chants of "USA! USA!" ensued as "The Dragon" swept "The Eagle" in the best-of-five competition, with his stock rising as a potential future world champ.

"I think the sport's growing," said Huynh in an interview with The Tennis Channel. "I think I'm doing the things I need to do to become a world champion."