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Angelique Kerber Defeats Serena Williams To Win Australian
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Angelique Kerber Defeats Serena Williams To Win Australian

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Angelique Kerber Defeats Serena Williams To Win Australian

Angelique Kerber Defeats Serena Williams To Win Australian
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Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams to win the Australian Open. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the magazine tells NPR's Scott Simon how Kerber pulled off her upset, and about a scandal in the NHL.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Bravo. Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: In a major upset, Angelique Kerber beat Serena Williams in the Australian Open final. It's the German player's first grand slam title. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us now.

Good morning Howard. Were you up all night to watch this?

HOWARD BRYANT: Of course. Scott. I've been up for two weeks watching this tournament. It's the best thing (laughter). The matches begin at 3 a.m. Weren't you watching?

SIMON: No...

BRYANT: (Laughter).

SIMON: ...But I was up at 3 a.m. for other reasons, you know, the news. The number one star in tennis, perhaps the number one athlete in the world - this was her chance a tie Steffi Graf's 22 majors. But today belongs to Angelique Kerber. What happened?

BRYANT: Well, Serena Williams went the entire tournament without dropping a set. She dominated. She looked like she had come back after losing the U.S. Open last year to Roberta Vinci. And she just took over and then on the final day, had the worst time to have the worst game of her - of the fortnight. And I think what was really interesting about it was that so many players play Serena Williams, and so many players may catch her on a bad day, but she finds a way. She finds that extra gear. She makes it interesting, but at the end of the day, she come through in the end. And today, that didn't happen.

And give all the credit in the world to Angelique Kerber - great, great talent. She's been in the top 10 for the last four years, and she's one of those players that just really had a difficult time, when the chips were on the table, to kind of bring them over. And this time, she did it. I'm really happy for her because these chances don't come for these other players. Serena Williams has got 21 grand slam champions. Angelique Kerber was in her first final. And to not blink against the greatest player in the world, I think she's going - she said it really nicely. She said now, I can call myself a grand slam champion, and that sounds really, really nice. So I'm very happy for her.

SIMON: Howard, do men play in the Australian Open, too? I'm not clear on that.

BRYANT: (Laughter) Believe it or not, the men are playing. And Scott, you have a chance to redeem yourself. Three-thirty this morning - or 3 a.m. this morning, you, too, can watch Novak, Djokovic and Andy Murray. Djokovic is the best player in the world. No one has come anywhere close to him. It would be a pretty big upset for Murray to win. I see Djokovic winning this pretty cleanly.

SIMON: Hockey question - there's a compelling human controversy brewing in the NHL. John Scott, who's recently changed teams - he's in the minors now - has been voted an All-Star by the fans. He's known as a - we call him a goon in hockey, an enforcer. He's paid to hit people and unexpectedly a pick to the All-Star roster and seemingly unwelcome by the NHL.

BRYANT: Not just seemingly unwelcome. He was picked by fan vote, which the NHL wanted to do to get closer and more interactive with the public. So they have this promotion where the fans can pick the All-Star. Well, what did the fans do? The fans picked an enforcer. Part of it was kind of a prank in some ways, and part of it wasn't. And they picked John Scott to win. He was with the Coyotes, and it so turns out that he wins the fan vote. And what does the NHL do?

The NHL says that, you know what, you're not really an All-Star. This is supposed to be the best of the best. You're really not one of them, so why don't you bow out? They essentially (laughter) tried to intimidate him and say look - is this something that your family would be proud of?

SIMON: Oh, oh.

BRYANT: And as it turns out, in the opposite was that the players encouraged him to play. They said you won the vote. You're an All-Star. Come join us. So not only is he playing in the All-Star game, but the players voted him a captain. So John Scott, enforcer, is now captain on the All-Star team for the Western Conference.

And I think it's great. I think it's great in so many different ways because the All-Star game, sure, in spirit, is supposed to be about the best of the best of the best. However, I think there is a moment - and this may be that moment - where you celebrate the guy who works just as hard...

SIMON: Yes.

BRYANT: ...As the Mario Lemieuxes and the Wayne Gretzkys, but didn't have the talent. And he's out there representing because the great players can't do what they do without players like John Scott. So I think it's great, and I think the NHL did a good job by bowing to the public and by not making a big of this because they looked awful by doing it a couple days ago.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thanks so much, my friend. Talk to you later.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Watch the match tonight, Scott. Wake up.

(SOUNDBITE OF SNORING)

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