Federer, Henin Triumph at U.S. Open
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Two pro tennis players wrapped up a superb year of playing, with U.S. Open titles over the weekend. For Roger Federer, it was the fourth straight men's title. Justine Henin won her second Open without losing a single set in seven matches.
Commentator John Feinstein was watching. John, good morning.
JOHN FEINSTEIN: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: So Federer - not much competition here.
FEINSTEIN: Well, yes and no, actually. If you watched the final yesterday, Novak Djokovic, who he beat, had great opportunities in the first two sets. He had a total of seven set points and could have won the first set, could have won the second set. That's part of Federer's greatness, that he raises his level at those crucial moments. He saved all seven of those set points, won them both in tiebreakers and then won the third set. But Djokovic is definitely a player to be watched. Federer, however, won his 12th grand slam title, which puts him two away from Pete Sampras' all-time record.
INSKEEP: What makes Djokovic a player to watch?
FEINSTEIN: He's only 20 years old and he's come from out of nowhere this year to be ranked third in the world. He can play on hard courts. He can play on clay. He'll probably learn to play on grass. Plus, Steve, he's got the best personality of any young player I've seen in 30 years. He does hilarious imitations of other players. He is the funniest tennis player since Johnny Carson, who wasn't much of a tennis player but was very funny.
INSKEEP: Is that something that tennis needs?
FEINSTEIN: Absolutely. Tennis needs some new personalities. I've been saying this for years. Federer is a wonderful player. He's a good guy. But he's not someone people wrap their arms around. Rafael Nadal, the number two ranked player in the world has a personality. People like him. The Williams sisters, when they're competitive, have great personalities, but they come and go from the stage because they're interested in so many other things.
INSKEEP: What about Justin Henin on the women's side?
FEINSTEIN: She's had a remarkable year. She skipped the Australian Open because she was going through a divorce. Then in April, she reunited with her father and two brothers who she'd been estranged from for seven years. And all of that emotional turmoil seemed to come together in Paris, where she won the French Open for the fourth straight year. And then she beat both Venus and Serena Williams here in New York. No one has ever beaten both of them in the same grand slam. She beat them back-to-back in New York before pro-Williams sisters crowds - because they're Americans, obviously - and then went on and won her seventh major title. So, in her own way, with all that happened to her off the court this year, she had an extraordinary year.
INSKEEP: And yet, you'd have to say, she still doesn't have the fame of the William sisters, for example.
FEINSTEIN: No, she doesn't. I mean she's not modeling. She's not on TV commercials. She's very - she's been very quiet. Her personality seems to be opening up more now. But she is someone who very few people - even those who follow tennis closely - would know has won seven grand slam titles.
INSKEEP: John, how healthy is this game?
FEINSTEIN: It's healthier now than it has been in a while. Again, we do have some new personalities coming in to it. I think the fact that Federer has a chance, if he can ever win in Paris, on the clay courts, to become the greatest men's player of all time. A lot of people are already putting that label on him. So you have a true superstar on the men's side, and you have a lot of competition on the women's side. So it is healthier. They still do a terrible job promoting the game during the course of the year. But it - it's better than it's been in a while.
INSKEEP: Okay. John, thanks very much
FEINSTEIN: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: Comments from John Feinstein. His new book is "Cover-up: Mystery at the Super Bowl."
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.