Blake bypassing Vegas on way to Indian Wells

A familiar face will be missing when the Tennis Channel Open returns to the Darling Tennis Center on March 3.

James Blake, winner of the inaugural event in 2006, is skipping this year’s ATP Tour stop in Las Vegas. Instead, his preparation for the Masters Series event at Indian Wells, Calif., which follows Las Vegas, will consist of consecutive February tournaments at Delray Beach, Fla., San Jose, Calif., and Memphis, Tenn.

“Obviously we’d love to have James back, but we’ll have such a good, deep field. I don’t think we’ll take a big hit,” Tennis Channel Open director David Egdes said. “Last year, he lost early and we still drew good crowds on the weekend.”

Lleyton Hewitt, ranked 21st, is returning to defend his Tennis Channel singles title, and the Bryan twins, Mike and Bob, will attempt to win the doubles title for the third straight year.

Though Andy Roddick, the highest-ranked U.S. player (No. 6), will again skip the Las Vegas tournament, Egdes is rounding up a talented field. He has lured two former Australian Open finalists, 16th-ranked Marcos Baghdatis and No. 7 Fernando Gonzalez. Baghdatis lost to top-ranked Roger Federer in the 2006 final at Melbourne, and Gonzalez was beaten by Federer in last year’s final.

Also, former college star John Isner, who gave Federer a good battle in the U.S. Open, has committed to play in Las Vegas, as has No. 63 Sam Querrey.

Egdes said he hopes to gain commitments from Americans Mardy Fish and Donald Young this month after the Australian Open, which begins Monday.

“We haven’t given out any of our wild-card slots,” Egdes said. “We’ll have a good American presence at our tournament, but tennis is a global sport. There are so many great international players, and it’s great for the game.”

Blake was traveling to Melbourne on Tuesday. His agent, Carlos Fleming, said Blake might play in future events in Las Vegas.

“He loves Vegas, and he appreciates the support the fans there have given him,” Fleming said. “But there’s a lot of great tournaments in America, and he can’t play all of them. … He can only play so many weeks in a row.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at or (702) 387-2913.

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