Sports: Aussie Open And NBA Action

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Host Scott Simon talks about the Australian Open tennis tournament with Weekend Edition sports commentator Howard Bryant.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon.

Time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

And Kim Clijsters of Belgium won the women's title at the Australian Open today, defeating China's Li Na. On the men's side, Andy Murray hopes to bring home a victory to London from the commonwealth. Hey, where's the didgeridoo? I beg your pardon. You know, that long Australian horn. We don't have one to celebrate. We have our own Howard Bryant, who joins us from WFCR in Amherst, Mass., where the weather's a lot different than it is in Australia, isn't it?

Morning, Howard.

Mr. HOWARD BRYANT (Senior Writer, ESPN.com): Good morning, Scott. I'm glad we're not talking about Jay Cutler today. So I'm sorry about your Bears. But at least - you weren't calling him a quitter were you?

SIMON: No, no, I wasn't, as a matter of fact. No, a few other things, but not -someone who couldn't pass the ball very well but not a quitter. OK?

Tell us about Li Na. She is 28. How did she get to the finals?

Mr. BRYANT: She had a wonderful, wonderful tournament. And she got to the final by being very, very tough, by being extremely resilient. She had many chances, especially when you go up against Caroline Wozniacki, who's not going to make a lot of mistakes. And she's the number one player in the world.

And she came back and she fought and she fought really hard. And she became just a darling at the tournament. And at 28 - she'll be 29 next month - it was a real nice moment. And I think that if she can fight her injuries - I mean, that's one of the reasons why she hadn't been a great player of the past couple of years - then I think she could have a nice second part to her career.

SIMON: Kim Clijsters, of course, is the champ. All credit due. But she got there without beating Serena Williams. And does that take a little bit away?

Mr. BRYANT: Well, I think it does. It's almost like the Michael Jordan when -the Michael Jordan effect when he was gone in '94 and '95 and the Houston Rockets had won the championship there was this feeling like, OK, were they really champions because they didn't beat the number one.

But, you know, you have to play who's there. And Serena wasn't there. She was injured. So we'll see what happens when the French rolls around in May.

But Kim Clijsters earned it. She was great this tournament. She lost one set in the entire tournament, and it was to Li Na in the first set of the final. And she's won three majors before. This is the first one that she hadn't won outside of the U.S. she'd won three U.S. Opens.

But she was terrific. And she earned it. And she's beaten Serena head-to-head anyway. So it's not - she's not like Wozniacki, who I don't think is a real legitimate number one. Kim Clijsters is a legit champion. And she's gone head-to-head with Serena. She's gone head-to-head with Venus. She's gone head-to-head with Sharapova. She's played all the best. She's beaten the best and now she's won the Australian Open title. And it's very, very well deserved.

SIMON: And on the men's side. Andy Murray is practically carrying Trafalgar Square on his shoulders.

(Soundbite of laughter)

What kind of chance does he have?

Mr. BRYANT: I think he's got a great chance. He's beaten Djokovic the last three times that they've played, even though Djokovic had won the first four. So they've got this rivalry going back and forth.

And I think one of the things that Andy Murray's got to really pay attention to is the history. He is looking to be the first Brit since 1936 to actually win a men's singles title. And so there's a lot of history riding on this.

But also, I think that if he is aggressive - the beauty of Djokovic's game is his defense with a great deal of offense. These guys are going to hit the ball really hard at each other. It's going to be a really powerful match if you like these guys going baseline on each other. And also if Murray can take it to the net it's going to be a really great athletic match. I'm really looking forward to it.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN.com, ESPN the magazine and ESPN the pick-up truck.

Thanks so much.

Mr. BRYANT: My pleasure, Scott.

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