Garth Brooks performs at "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial" January 18, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Suppose Garth Brooks Attempted A Comeback… And No One Came?

Garth Brooks performs at "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial" January 18, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Garth Brooks performs at “We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration At The Lincoln Memorial” January 18, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Five comeback concerts by Garth “I Love President Obama To Death” Brooks, were canceled recently in Dublin after authorities denied permits because local residents objected to the disruption so many successive concerts would bring. City policy says only three “special events” per year can be played at the stadium, and One Direction had already played three concerts at the venue this year. Brooks responded by saying he would play five of the concerts or none, presumably banking on the notion that he still somehow mattered in the 21st century. Nice try.

Now, possibly stinging from the sudden realization of his irrelevance, he is moving forward to try to renew his time capsule fame. Garth “I Love President Obama To Death” Brooks announced details of yet another return at a press conference recently. Expect a new album on RCA Nashville, due out in time for Black Friday, and a three-year world tour to follow. And why not? Nowadays, country music is the most popular genre around and Garth needs the attention. For country music fans who still think the 52-year-old, “aww shucks,” slightly insincere hat act has anything new to say, it is kind of a big deal. Heck, after all these years, they might even get an AARP discount on the concert tickets.

Brooks also announced a first: he’ll be making his music available digitally for the first time, but only via his own website. He still won’t be on iTunes. Or Spotify. Or Pandora. Or Beats. Or iHeartRadio. Talk about self-sabotaging a “comeback.” Hey Garth — whether your ‘80s mentality likes it or not — streaming isn’t just the future of music, it’s actually the present. If you want an audience to discover your music, you have to make it available to them in the places where they seek it.

But that’s not saying a lot. The music industry is still rolling along on flat tires, getting nowhere, slowly. The only album to even sell a million copies so far this year is the Frozen soundtrack, which sold 2.7 million units. Back when Brooks was making the video for “We Shall Be Free,” featuring cameo appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, Martina Navratilova, General Colin Powell and Elizabeth Taylor, many top artists’s albums went platinum in their opening week.

Let’s hope we can expect some sort of artistic growth from Brooks as a result of his being away for the past decade. If anything, he should consider returning to the sound of his early albums. His last album, Scarecrow, released in 2001, was one of his worst.

Perhaps he’ll try broadening his fan base in other ways. Hey Garth — I hear George Strait might be free in the future. I bet he could sell some concert tickets.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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It’s Lleyton Hewitt Finals Day Here in Newport

12Welcome to Lleyton Hewitt Day at the ATP Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island. The former world number one will appear in both the singles and doubles finals today (in that order). It’s his third consecutive singles final, and the crowd is likely going to be very supportive of the third seed as he faces second seed Ivo Karlovic. Alongside partner Chris Guccione (AUS), Hewitt (AUS) will face Jonathan Erlich (ISR) and Rajeev Ram (USA) in the doubles final.

If you’ve been lucky enough to attend the most rarified and elegant tennis event in the United States over the past few years, you’ve probably enjoyed watching Hewitt win a few matches. He has lasted in the draw to the end of the week for the past several years. You might have also have had the chance to watch his tennis-loving kids grow from babyhood to potential practice partner; Hewitt and his beautiful wife, Bec, always bring the kids to Newport. It is a sure sign that summer is in full swing when the Aussies turn the Casino veranda into a kid’s summer day camp. Kids, toys, new cans of tennis balls, new growth and freshly mowed grass… all bringing to mind the words of F Scott Fitzgerald: “That familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”

And this year is no different. Enjoy this brief clip of Lleyton on the practice court earlier in the week, with his son (a future tennis star? — note that the kid wins the point)

Hewitt advanced to the final of the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships by defeating US seventh seed Jack Sock, 6-1 6-2, on Saturday. That match was Sock’s first semifinal — quite an impressive showing for a player who, a week ago, won the Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Doubles title (alongside Vasek Pospisil). Sock hung around Wimbledon just long enough to attend the Champions Ball, then he boarded a flight for Boston and came directly to Newport. After the 21-year-old Sock won match after match after match (including routing John Isner in the quarterfinal), the ever-energetic 33-year-old Hewitt proved too much of a challenge. Ivo Karlovic beat Australian Samuel Groth 6-4 6-4 in the other semi-final.

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Hewitt, who lost to John Isner in the 2012 final and to Nicolas Mahut in last year’s title match, will try for a third time today at the $474,000 (US) grass court tournament. Hewitt is seeking his 30th career ATP title… and his second of the season after a Brisbane victory at the beginning of the year.

Although Karlovic is 4-1 in career meetings with Hewitt (including eliminating the Aussie defending champion in a Wimbledon first round match in 2003), Hewitt beat Karlovic in the first round of the 2009 French Open. So here’s to Hewitt, who may just take home two more trophies today, proving that within a champion always lies just more invincible summer.

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(All photos © Greg Victor, Parcbench.com)

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Jack Sock Defeats John Isner In Newport’s Quarterfinals

Q26Well, there’s a first time for everything. And when you’re checking off accomplishments with the rapidity of American tennis player Jack Sock, it seems like there’s an achievement every week.

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21-year-old Sock logged his first victory over his friend (and tournament top seed) John Isner in Newport’s Tennis Hall of Fame quarterfinals on Friday. (They two players have had four previous ATP meetings.) The two players have been spotted practicing with each other throughout the week, which could explain why there was such camaraderie on the court, especially at a match this deep into the draw. Tennis fans were delighted to see that when Isner was introduced before the match, Jack Sock made a point to applaud him.

On the green grass courts, Sock displayed a relaxed style that reflected his having won the Gentlemen’s Doubles championship at Wimbledon last week (along with partner Vasek Pospisil). It’s amazing what having to figure out how to ship a Wimbledon trophy home will do for one’s confidence.

Sock took the match over the top-seeded Isner in straight sets, with a score of 6-4, 7-6(4) in just 88 minutes. Seventh-seeded Sock saved each of the three break points he faced against Isner, and he won 33 of 42 first-serve points.

But what made the match such a pleasure for the Newport crowd was that the high level of play was matched by an equally high level of sportsmanship. At one point, when Isner disputed a line call in Sock’s favor, Sock agreed with Isner and ceded the point. A wave of enthusiasm for the act of sportsmanship swirled around the wooden, horseshoe-shaped stadium. In Newport, a moment like that is highly regarded.

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Within a few games, the situation was reversed, with Sock disputing a call in Isner’s favor. Sure enough, Isner agreed with Sock and ceded that point. Now, they were even; it was something like “love-all” and it made for a swell atmosphere.

This didn’t mean that each player wasn’t trying hard to win, of course. Isner was hoping for a third Newport trophy, having won the title in 2011 (d. Rochus) and 2012 (d. Hewitt). But Sock has been on a tear this whole week. Clearly he is raring to get to the hard-court season, where expectations are high for Sock to perform well at next month’s U.S. Open in New York City.

And why not? Winning means being able to call Newport home for another day. It’s a perfect spot for lawn tennis in July. The venue is a well-run, attractive place to watch quality tennis (with every seat as close to the action as any tennis fan could dream of). The crowds are extremely tennis-savvy and there is much to do in town after the day’s matches end. As Sock said after the match, “This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. I love the city. I love the tournament.”

Sock will face former World No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt (who is making his third consecutive appearance in the final here) in the quarterfinal.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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A Pay Raise At The U.S. Open

1Let’s face it. For some players it’s all about the ranking. For others, it’s all about the titles and the trophy. And no doubt, for some (including more than a few tennis agents), it’s all about the check that comes with the ranking points and the trophy. For those players who don’t mind paying taxes, the 2014 U.S. Open is providing even more motivation than usual.

Last year, Rafael Nadal earned $2.6 million for winning the U.S. Open title. But that’s so 2013. This year, whoever wins the men’s and women’s singles title will take home a record $3 million.

The U.S. Tennis Association also announced that the total purse for the tournament will be $38.3 million. That is an increase of 11.7 percent from $34.3 million last year. Runners-up will get $1.45 million, an increase from $1.3 million.

Both the men’s and women’s doubles champions will earn $520,000, the highest in U.S. Open history. And — talk about motivation to make it into the tournament — any player who loses in the first round of singles at Flushing Meadows will make $35,750, an increase of $3,750.

The U.S. Open starts on Aug. 25. To visit the U.S. Open website, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Unforced Error: ESPN and the Wimbledon Doubles Coverage

espn-ball tumbsEver since Andy Roddick lost his “mojo,” the American sports media have been bemoaning the absurd notion that there are few reasons for American tennis fans to care about tennis, to buy tickets to matches or to tune in to watch tennis on television in the 21st century. They have practically declared that the current generation of American players don’t even exist… before those up-and-coming players even get to spread their racquet-gripping golden arms and fly.

Then, along came an event like the 2014 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Doubles Final, where three out of the four players vying for a championship trophy were from the United States (Jack Sock, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan) and the fourth was from Canada (Vasek Pospisil). When they won, Pospisil and Sock became the first pair to win a Grand Slam title in their first tournament together since Max Mirnyi and Lleyton Hewitt at the 2000 US Open. And, incidentally, Jack Sock (at 21 yrs, 285 days) became the third youngest man in the Open Era to win both a Grand Slam men’s & mixed doubles title. Wouldn’t it have been swell if, instead of whining about how there are no American tennis fans because there are no American top players, ESPN had shone the spotlight on these Americans… even if it was “only” the doubles?

On the second Saturday of Wimbledon, ESPN scheduled a tennis coverage window that extended for a whole six hours, as well as a one-hour “pregame show” at 8 a.m. ET. This seems reasonable, since the day’s order-of-play included several important matches. Yet, following an almost-over-before-it-began women’s final (that only lasted 55 minutes), ESPN could very easily have shown the Gentlemen’s Doubles final in its entirety. As if there was another reason to show it, the doubles final was being contested by one of the most popular doubles team of all time, the Bryan Brothers, Bob and Mike.
As if that weren’t enough to justify airing the tennis being played live on Centre Court, the Bryans were facing two other North Americans — Jack Sock (of the United States) and Vasek Pospisil (of Canada). Hello, ESPN marketing division — Saturday’s faceoff was a dream match made for your American audience.

Instead, ESPN decided to put the match on its live-streaming service, ESPN3. To make matters worse, ESPN’s decision not to show the men’s doubles final was accompanied by a decision to show a replay of the previous day’s men’s semifinal between Novak Djokovic and Grigor Dimitrov. That’s right — they showed a match that had aired live the previous day. It’s not like viewers didn’t have a chance to see the men’s semifinal matches the day before. That was the fourth of July — a day that any self-respecting American tennis fan no doubt had Wimbledon playing while enjoying the day off. Worst of all — ESPN fell for the false assumption that any single’s match is preferable to any double’s match. That’s what I’d call ESPN: an Especially Stupid Programming Notion.

It’s a shame that ESPN did not take advantage of the opportunity it had to build future audiences for what is likely to be a return for America to the top of the international tennis game… namely, in the form of Jack Sock. Let’s hope that in future Grand Slam coverage, the emphasis for ESPN will be on the reason that most viewers tune in — LIVE action on the courts… especially in a championship match… and especially when there are exciting American players involved.

Photo: Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil

Photo: Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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(Photo: Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, fine examples of communication and clarity at Wimbledon)

JACK SOCK & VASEK POSPISIL into Wimbledon Men’s Doubles Semifinal

(Photo: Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, fine examples of communication and clarity at Wimbledon)

(Photo: Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock, fine examples of communication and clarity at Wimbledon)

In the upset of the day at Wimbledon, Vasek Pospisil (CAN) & Jack Sock (USA) defeated second-seeded Alexander Peya (AUT) & Bruno Soares (BRA) 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 in the gentlemen’s doubles quarterfinal. And now it’s on to the semifinal for Sock/Pospisil, where they will face fifth-seeded Leander Paes (IND) and Radek Stepanek (CZE).

The question of today’s match seemed to be, “Is the court playable, or not?” If you asked the two opposing teams, I suppose you’d get two different answers. Pospisil and Sock had no problem tearing it up on the disappearing blades of British grass, while Peya and Soares felt less confident on the surface. Still, the nearly total scoreboard symmetry reflected what an even match it was. Not overly demanding physically, in the grand scheme of a Grand Slam, but certainly both teams were tested mentally by the conditions (and the approaching end of the draw).

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Two of the most exciting singles players of their generation, Sock and Pospisil fit right in at Wimbledon, not only with their explosive strokes, but also by obviously respecting the doubles game just as much as singles. For a team who have never played together before this tournament, Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock seem an almost perfect pair. Let’s face it — they look like the kind of athletes that tennis whites were invented for. This is what tennis in July in an English garden should look like; two young gents in white, slugging it out with clever angles and a sensitive touch, ready for the necessary improvisation that a successful match on grass requires, all the while maintaining cool and projecting an image that the future of tennis is just fine, thank you very much.

With the powerful hands of Jack Sock and the incredible reach of Vasek Pospisil, the two Northern Americans quickly won the first set, 6-4. In the second set, Soares complained about the increasingly dry and slick condition of the court, citing the lack of grass and expressing concerns about potential injury. With Pospisil/Sock’s zero out of eight break points converted, and Peya/Soares converting one out of one, the second set went easily to Peya/Soares, 6-3.

In the all-important third set, Peya’s serve became more effective and Sock’s returns were lighting quick, with angles that one would expect from a Wimbledon quarterfinalist. In the occasional moment when Sock might have started to come down hard on himself (the result of having executed an unforced error), Pospisil cheered Sock on and kept the team focused on winning the third set, which they did in a tie-break, 7-6 (6). From then on, the Canadian/American team had the momentum. They easily won the fourth set, 6-4. In the end, the match went to the team that persevered… the team that communicated with clarity at each phase of the game… the team that just might win the next round on the sheer adrenaline of having reached a Wimbledon semifinal. As Shakespeare wrote, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”

Dream big, and play bigger, gentlemen. You’re almost there.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Jack Sock & Vasek Pospisil In Wimbledon Men’s Doubles Quarterfinals

JS_VP_rnd3After the USA vs. Belgium match, American World Cup fans may have evaporated as suddenly as they appeared, but loyal North American tennis fans still have reason to celebrate — the team of Jack Sock (USA) and Vasek Pospisil (CAN) have reached the quarterfinals of men’s doubles at the Wimbledon tennis championships. Jack Sock is the one of three Americans left in the doubles draw. He is in fine company there, along with the top-seeded duo — Mike and Bob Bryan.

As a team, Sock and Pospisil have matched each other’s on-court energy and enthusiasm perfectly so far this tournament. They’ve also been clear about what their individual responsibilities are, so that they continually improve their game with each other. With each successive match, they also seem to be refining their ability to communicate instinctively. The delays between their second and third round matches must have given them some very effective practice time. (The second-round Saturday match was postponed until Monday because of rain. The first three sets were played on Monday, until rain forced a second postponement.)

On Wednesday, Sock and Pospisil defeated Mate Pavic of Croatia and Andre Sa of Brazil 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 6-4 in a third-round match that lasted just over two hours. Sock and Pospisil won in less than 24 hours after they completed a 6-7, 7-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 second-round victory over eighth-seeded Rohan Bopanna of India and Aisam Qureshi of Pakistan on Tuesday. In the straight-set, third-round match the team of Pospisil/Sock (with an average age of 22.5 years) had fewer unforced errors and more winners than the pair of Pavic/Ra (whose age averages 28.5). Taking nothing away from their technique, the team of Pospisil/Sock has an easy-going, buoyant style on the grass. Their game is a gentle reminder of the long-standing history of the sporty art of lawn tennis. In other words, they make doubles look like the invigorating and satisfying game that it is (and that is often overlooked in Grand Slam coverage).

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Sock and Pospisil (the only unseeded team left in the men’s doubles draw) face the number two-seeded team of Alexander Peya (Austria) and Bruno Soares (Brazil) in the quarterfinals. The match that will take place today, Thursday. They will play second up on Court number 2.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Wimbledon, Day One Is Here (Who The Americans Face In Round 1)

1Wimbledon 2014 is finally upon us. The world’s greenest tennis championship runs from Monday, June 23rd until Sunday, July 6th.

With England’s recent World Cup performance, the hometown crowd at Wimbledon are likely looking forward to Monday morning, when the matches begin at the All England Club. If there is a momentary lack of national pride in the game of soccer, perhaps the Brits will be redeemed in the individual sport of tennis — in the form of defending men’s singles champion, Andy Murray. Last year, Murray put an end to Britain’s 77-year desire for a men’s champion they could call their own; long live King Andy and long live the reign of tennis in the British headlines. Can he repeat the performance, now that he has a new coach in Amélie Mauresmo?

Wimbledon 2011

Murray is not without serious competition, of course. Spain’s Rafael Nadal is the top-ranked player, and Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is the top-seeded player. Switzerland’s Roger Federer, about to celebrate his 33rd birthday in a month or so, hopes for at least one final championship. So do many of the world’s tennis fans. Last year, Federer lost in the second round (his earliest exit from a grand slam event in 10 years), but last week he won a Wimbledon warm-up at Halle, Germany.

In the women’s draw, chances are good that this will be Maria Sharapova’s year to win again; she has one Wimbledon title (in 2004 over Serena Williams). True, she’s won only two of 18 matches against Williams, and they’re in the same quarter of the draw this Wimbledon, but she has the momentum in 2014.

And then there are the Americans.

The American men include Ryan Harrison, No. 9 seed John Isner, Bradley Klahn, Denis Kudla, Alex Kuznetsov, Sam Querrey, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock, Donald Young and Michael Russell.

The American women include Lauren Davis, Victoria Duval, Madison Keys, Vania King, Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale, No. 18 seed Sloane Stephens, Anna Tatishvili, wild card Taylor Townsend, CoCo Vandeweghe, No. 1 seed Serena Williams and No. 30 seed Venus Williams.

For the United States, 2014 Wimbledon could go one of three ways. Either…
1) this year’s tournament will be another necessary wait in the development of America’s younger generation of top players (Ryan Harrison, Madison Keys)…
2) or there will be a surprising run from one of the younger crowd (Jack Sock or Sloane Stephens)…
3) or else one of the veteran Americans (John Isner – the guy who still has it in him to go further, Serena Williams – who still hasn’t won a Slam this calendar year) will go into the tournament with a relaxed approach that spins well on the grass, and they will make a run to the finals. John Isner, at ninth, is the only U.S. male seeded in the tournament, but he carries American hopes in the men’s draw. Williams is the top seed in the women’s competition.

Photo: John Isner in his legendary 2010 Wimbledon match, where he defeated France's Nicholas Mahut after three-days  on the grass.

Photo: John Isner in his legendary 2010 Wimbledon match, where he defeated France’s Nicholas Mahut after three-days on the grass.

Here are Americans in the men’s and women’s first round draws for Wimbledon 2014… (q-qualifier, w-wild card, l-lucky loser)

Men
Bradley Klahn, United States, vs. Sam Querrey, United States
Steve Johnson, United States, vs. Roberto Bautista Agut (27), Spain
q-Alex Kuznetsov, United States, vs. Fabio Fognini (16), Italy
Grigor Dimitrov (11), Bulgaria, vs. q-Ryan Harrison, United States
Donald Young, United States, vs. Benjamin Becker, Germany
Michael Russell, United States, vs. Julian Reister, Germany
w-Daniel Smethurst, Britain, vs. John Isner (9), United States
q-Pierre-Hugues Herbert, France, vs. Jack Sock, United States
q-Marsel Ilhan, Turkey, vs. q-Denis Kudla, United States

Women
Serena Williams (1), United States, vs. Anna Tatishvili, United States
Chanelle Scheepers, South Africa, vs. Christina McHale, United States
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (26), Russia, vs. Alison Riske, United States
q-Victoria Duval, United States, vs. Sorana Cirstea (29), Romania
Klara Koukalova (31), Czech Republic, vs. w-Taylor Townsend, United States
Madison Keys, United States, vs. Monica Puig, Puerto Rico
CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, vs. Garbine Muguruza (27), Spain
Tsvetana Pironkova, Bulgaria, vs. Varvara Lepchenko, United States
Maria-Teresa Torro-Flor, Spain, vs. Venus Williams (30), United States
Sloane Stephens (18), United States, vs. Maria Kirilenko, Russia
Lauren Davis, United States, vs. Alisa Kleybanova, Russia
Vania King, United States, vs. Yvonne Meusburger, Austria

Photo: The patient crowd waiting to enter Wimbledon on Day One

Photo: The patient crowd waiting to enter Wimbledon on Day One

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Player Field at Hall of Fame Tennis Championships to feature top 6 Americans, Including Isner, Johnson & Sock

logo_bannerJohn Isner, Steve Johnson, Bradley Klahn, Donald Young, Jack Sock, and Sam Querrey have all committed to the field, along with defending champion Nicolas Mahut of France, Australians Lleyton Hewitt and Nick Kyrgios.

NEWPORT, R.I., June 20, 2014 – Just after Wimbledon, the ATP World Tour returns to the United States for the summer, with the first stop being the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships in Newport, Rhode Island, where the top six American players on the tour are all committed to the field. The tournament, which is the only grass court pro tournament in North America, will be played July 5 – 13 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“We have a strong player field set for Newport in July,” said Tournament Director Mark Stenning. “It’s always nice to kick off the U.S. summer swing with the top Americans here in Newport just after the Fourth of July. We look forward to welcoming many exciting international tennis stars as well. After watching the excitement of Wimbledon on television these next couple of weeks, the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships offers a great opportunity to see grass court tennis in person and we look forward to welcoming the fans to enjoy a great week of tennis in Newport.”

Isner

John Isner Headlining the American contingent is No. 1 American John Isner, a fan favorite in Newport who counts two Hall of Fame Tennis Championships victories (2012 and 2011) among his eight career titles. Isner is currently ranked world No. 11 on the ATP World Tour and goes into Wimbledon next week as the No. 9 seed.

Steve Johnson, who was the NCAA Singles Champion in 2011 and 2012 when playing for University of Southern California, and Bradley Klahn, 2010 NCAA Singles Champion from Stanford, will both be making their main draw debuts in Newport. Johnson and Klahn are currently ranked in the world top-75 and have posted big wins over top-30 players in the past two years while climbing the rankings. Donald Young, who recently upset world No. 27 Feliciano Lopez to advance to the third round at the French Open will return to Newport as well. After playing on grass courts for the first time in Newport in 2012, Jack Sock will be back for a third consecutive year. The 21-year-old is currently ranked No. 75 after an impressive run into the third round of the French Open, including a first round upset over world No. 22 Nicolas Almagro. Newport veteran Sam Querrey, will be back for his sixth appearance at the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, where he was a finalist in 2009. Querrey’s grass court season is off to a strong start. Earlier this month he advanced to the round of 16 at the Aegon Championships at Queen’s Club, and today, he is playing in the semifinals at the Aegon International at Eastbourne.

Ryan Harrison and Tim Smyczek, who have both had success in Newport in past years will also return to Newport in July. Harrison won the Newport doubles title in 2011 with Australian Matt Ebden, who is also committed to play Newport again. Smyczek was a doubles finalist last year, with partner Rhyne Williams.

Joining the Americans in Newport will be defending champion Nicolas Mahut of France, former world top-10 player Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus, big serving Croatian Ivo Karlovic, who is currently ranked world No. 33, and his countryman Ivan Dodig, who is ranked world No. 38, and two popular Australians – former world No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt and rising star Nick Kyrgios.

Mahut will return to Newport after a championship sweep last year in which he had a dream run from wild card entry to winning the Hall of Fame Tennis Championships singles and doubles titles. Both Karlovic and Hewitt have seen great success in Newport in recent years, with Karlovic in the quarterfinals last year and Hewitt advancing to the finals in 2013 and 2012. Baghdatis, Kyrgios, and Dodig, all newcomers to Newport, will bring a lot of excitement to the draw. Baghdatis is an ATP World Tour veteran known for high energy matches. Last weekend, Kyrgios jumped 28 spots in the ATP World Tour rankings after winning the Nottingham Challenger, making him the youngest player in the world top-150.

Tournament tickets are available on www.HallofFameTennisChampionships.com or by phone at 401-849-6053. Hall of Fame Members save $5 on tickets, and enjoy many other benefits throughout tournament week, including access to a Member Lounge, first-in-line status for autographs, and much more.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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New Blues/Roots: The Nighthawks – ’444′

cdThe Nighthawks - 444
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: EllerSoul Records

Good news for fans of blues and roots rock who are looking for some new tunes for the coming summer nights. Rockabilly legends, The Nighthawks, will release a new album on Tuesday, June 17. 444 features thirteen songs simmering with the band’s trademark blend of blues, soul, and good old rock ‘n’ roll. The collection includes five originals, as well as classics by Muddy Waters, the Du Droppers and others. The album also includes two songs that first appeared in Elvis Presley movies; “Got A Lot of Livin’” (from the 1957 film ‘Lovin’ You’) and “Crawfish” (the fun opening number from the 1958 film ‘King Creole’).

For over 40 years they’ve been playing their brand of music… long before people started labeling it. If it spoke to the soul and made you want to move, they’ve played it. Over the years, they opened shows for such artists as Muddy Waters, James Cotton, John Lee Hooker and Carl Perkins. The Blues Foundation gave The Nighthawks the “Acoustic Album of the Year” award for their 2011 album Last Train To Bluesville. And now, with 444, they have put out yet another fantastic album that recreates the feeling of live gig. The energy and style these guys have is evident in every track.

The Nighthawks–Documentary Film from Michael Streissguth on Vimeo.

The Nighthawks are Mark Wenner (vocals & harmonica), Johnny Castle (bass), Paul Bell (guitar) and Mark Stutso (drums). They are one of the most consistent and reliable bands around; they are still making music that people relate to when they walk in the door and they are still playing those songs with an astonishing passion and commitment.

Essential Downloads: “Walk That Walk,” “You’re Gone,” “No Secrets.”

Upcoming Nighthawks’ Tour Dates:

6/20 @ The Birchmere, Alexandria VA

6/22 @ Capital Ale House Music Hall, Richmond VA

6/26 @ Thunder in the Valley, Johnstown PA

6/27 @ Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival, Charleston WV

6/28 @ The State Theatre, Culpepper VA

7/04 @ Evenings on Main, Luray VA

7/05 @ High Tides on Potomac, Colonial Beach VA

7/06 @ Bethesda Blues & Jazz, Bethesda MD

7/20 @ Gilligan’s Pier, Newberg MD

7/25 @ Sellersville Theater, Sellersville PA
7/27 @ Hiawatha Paddlewheel Riverboat Cruise, Williamsport, PA
8/3 @ High Tides on the Potomac, Colonial Beach, VA
8/8 @ Apple’s 11th Annual East Coast Motorcycle Rally, Little Orleans, MD
8/9 @ Patriot Harley-Davidson, Fairfax VA
8/15 @ Edmonton Blues Festival, Edmonton Alberta
8/27 @ Lee District Nights, Franconia, VA
8/31 Antique & Custom Bike Show, Vienna VA
9/1 @ Greenbelt Labor Day Festival, Greenbelt, MD
*(with more dates to be announced, so keep checking the Nighthawks’ website)

To preorder this album on Amazon, click here.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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