Hilton serves up TC odds

Feb 27, 2007 1:31 AM

The Tennis Channel Open has returned to the Darling Tennis Center for a second straight year, but with a new twist. The Vegas books have recognized it.

The SuperBook at Las Vegas Hilton stepped up the box and served an ace in posting odds for the only pro tennis event Las Vegans can see in person. The event began last Sunday and runs through Mar. 4.

Defending champion James Blake opened as the 3/2 favorite, followed by Marat Safin at 4/1 and Lleyton Hewitt at 8/1. The hardcourt event is a 32-man draw and takes place at the 3,500-seat Darling Tennis Center, largest public tennis facility in the state of Nevada.

As for the odds, SuperBook icon Jay Kornegay said that last year’s event made it on the big board briefly but they had to wait so long on commitment that the decision was made to take them down. This year’s is up for the count.

For those tennis fans wanting to see the tourney but don’t know where the DTC is, it’s located in Summerlin near Buffalo Drive and Washington Avenue. There are 23 lighted courts and the championship facility shows very well on TV, which will be provided all week by the Tennis Channel.

Las Vegas used to be a mecca for special events tennis. Famed comedian Alan King ran his event at Caesars Palace for years and the legendary casino resort hosted a number of big money challenge matches in the 1970s involving Jimmy Connors.

Tennis died out in Vegas over the past 20 years with the occasional men’s or women’s event showing up, but none had enough star power or corporate support and simply faded away.

It’s a shame that recently retired Andre Agassi had few chances to play sanctioned events on the ATP circuit in his hometown.

Grand Slam events (Australian, French, Wimbledon, US Open) have odds posted at the Las Vegas books, but that’s really about all the gaming exposure tennis will receive in the calendar year.

As far as the Tennis Channel Open, Blake comes in a very shaky favorite. After losing two weeks ago in San Jose to Ivo Karlovic, he had to pull out of the Memphis event with a tender ankle.

Safin and Hewitt have each won the U.S. Open over their careers and their stock certainly goes up with Blake perhaps playing at 100 percent healthwise.

If searching for longshots, try either 15/1 Tim Henman or 100/1 Gustavo Kuerten. "Gentleman Tim’ has long been England’s heart-throb and a strong serve and volley player in a tennis world where many live at the baseline.

Kuerten is a past French Open champ hampered by injury. The Brazilian is great when right.

Our choice is Safin, whose game appears to be re-energized after a nice run at the Australian Open.