Originally Published: March 7, 2006 4 a.m.
It was a quick trip to Las Vegas this weekend (instead of Scottsdale) for its first professional tennis tournament in 20 years. The $380,000 Tennis Channel Open debuted at the newly-built public 25-court Darling Memorial Tennis Center.
Tennis Channel President and founder Steve Bellamy put on a true tennis extravaganza with something going on from the minute the gates opened and throughout the whole day.
Pro men's and women's tennis matches were the headliners. But events like a fast serve contest, paddle tennis championships, finding out who was the world's fastest racquet stringer were memorable, as were an air hockey invitational, table tennis, musical entertainment, a Moto Cross jumping exhibition and much more.
There were no snobby VIP tents, but open tents that allowed everyone to join in and participate. Open media interviews with the pros were available for public viewing.
And to think Arizona lost this great opportunity. When talking to Bellamy he mentioned to me that he tried seven different times to get Arizona communities to continue to hold this event, it just didn't come together.
Unfortunately professional tennis events are not increasing, so the chance of Arizona coming up with another pro venue is almost nil.
James Blake pulled off a great win against former No. 1 in the world Lleyton Hewitt in three sets, 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 to win his fifth career title. He hit some amazing forehand winners.
Bob and Mike Bryan won the doubles title, defeating Levinsky and Lindstedt in two quick sets 6-3, 6-2.
The master of ceremonies for the week was none other than Wayne Bryan, father of Mike and Bob. He is similar to Prescott's Brad Newman always a quip, on a roll, upbeat and fun.
They have a good thing going, and I recommend that if you have the time, you make the trip next year.
"Lleyton Howard Interviews Lleyton Hewitt"
He may only be 4-years-old, but Lleyton Howard got his first personal interview with his name sake, Lleyton Hewitt, this past Sunday after Hewitt lost in the finals against James Blake.
Howard: How old were you when you first started playing tennis?
Hewitt: 6-years-old. How old are you?
Hewitt: Then you should be better than me (Laughter.)
Howard: How did your mom and dad help you with your tennis dreams?
Hewitt: They just filled my pockets with money (jokingly-laughter) Š no, no, no, they traveled around a lot with me when I was younger and made it a lot easier.
Howard: What makes you happy about playing tennis?
Hewitt: Playing in front of all these people. It's a lot of fun to do a job that you really enjoy.
Howard: Last thing, will you say "COME ON" with me?
Hewitt: Nah, I've already done that Š would you do it for me?
Howard: (with fist up and pumping arm) "COME ON!!!" (Audience Laughs.)
*Sunday, March 12 from noon to 4 p.m., Spring Fling Mixed A-B & C Doubles. Call 445-1331 to enter.
(Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 30 years in the tennis and fitness industry. He can be reached at 445-1331 or firstname.lastname@example.org)