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Tennis Fans Use 3-Day Weekend To Follow U.S. Open
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Tennis Fans Use 3-Day Weekend To Follow U.S. Open

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Tennis Fans Use 3-Day Weekend To Follow U.S. Open

Tennis Fans Use 3-Day Weekend To Follow U.S. Open
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In New York, the U.S. Open tennis tournament is in full swing heading into the Labor Day weekend. Earlier this week, Venus Williams unexpectedly withdrew before her second round match. She's been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. Steve Inskeep talks to Jon Wertheim, of Sports Illustrated for insight into what's been going at the tournament.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The U.S. Open tennis tournament continues over the weekend in New York. Last night, Argentina's Carlos Berlocq was the latest victim of the seemingly unstoppable number one seed, Novak Djokovic. The Serbian star won six-O, six-O, six-two. For more on the tournament's highlights, we're joined by Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim.

Welcome back to the program.

Mr. JON WERTHEIM (Sports Illustrated): Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Oh, man. I was watching - this is going around on YouTube, this rally from Djokovic's match yesterday. And it's amazing, because you see Berlocq really truly working hard. He seems almost heroic and Djokovic seems to be toying with him almost.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Always good when we can furnish entertainment in a match in which one player wins two games. But, no. I mean, that was sort of - this has been a theme all year. Djokovic has just been this unstoppable force.

INSKEEP: He just seems - I mean, he just seemed like a different quality player. He could just hit a couple of easy lobs, get the other guy out of position and crush him.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Yeah, that's basically - I mean, you're exactly right. It is a different quality player. And that's what we'll see with Djokovic. You know, he will not be winning six-O, six-O, six-two later on in the tournament. But right now, it just looked like two completely different classes of players in his first two matches.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about some of the other players that might be in the upper class there. Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, how are they doing?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, they're still in the tournament, which is always good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. WERTHEIM: (Unintelligible) particularly dazzling.

You know, Djokovic has never won this event. On the other hand, he's lost two matches - and one was by injury - since Thanksgiving weekend. So this has just been absolutely dominant year for him. He's never won the U.S. Open, but, boy, he sure is the favorite, especially given sort of relative play these past couple of days.

Djokovic has looked tremendous and Nadal and Federer have not. On the other hand, again, they've won this thing six times between them. So we'll see what happens.

INSKEEP: Has anything surprised you, so far, in the tournament?

Mr. WERTHEIM: Well, the Americans have done surprisingly well, which, you know, for jingoistic reasons is always nice. It's been, you know, the weather's cooperated. The U.S. Open did a great job getting this in order after, you know, Irene mania. Nice tournament so far. We'll see what the second week brings. But it's been very pleasant these first four or five days.

INSKEEP: What about on the women's side? The top woman, Caroline Wozniacki, won six-two, six-O - pretty dominant there as well.

Mr. WERTHEIM: This is a number one player, though, who has never won a major, which is always a great source of concern. And she's not Serena Williams, though she's the top seed. And she did look good, Wozniacki did, last night. But as I see it, this is really Serena Williams' event to lose.

INSKEEP: But you do have a situation, then, where the top player on both the men's and women's sides has never won the event that we're looking at here. That's interesting.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Right. Actually, the top two women's seeds have never won a major or any kind. And Serena Williams, for a variety of reasons, most of them injury related, seeded 28th, yet is the overwhelming favorite. So go figure. But that's sort of a snapshot of women's tennis these days.

INSKEEP: Does that 28th seed make it more difficult for Serena Williams? Of course, it would mean she would face more difficult match-ups in the early rounds than she's gotten so far.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Yeah, it's sort of double edged. Her next opponent is the fourth seed. So we have a third round match between the favorite in Serena and the fourth seed, which is quite rare. Sort of a de facto final.

And yet on the other hand, if Serena wins that match, which I suspect she will, then the path suddenly clears. So you face tougher opponents earlier, but then, you know, your draw opens up a bit. But, you know, I think Serena, she's done this before and it almost doesn't matter to her. And this is how she rolls.

INSKEEP: Jon, thanks very much. Always a pleasure talking with you.

Mr. WERTHEIM: Anytime. Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated is covering the U.S. Open Tennis tournament in New York.

(Soundbite of music)

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