History Repeats Itself At Women's U.S. Open

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Serena Williams will take on Victoria Azarenka in the U.S. Open final. Host Scott Simon talks to NPR's Tom Goldman about tennis, as well as the season opener of the NFL.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Now look over your shoulder, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

SIMON: The men's semi-finals in the U.S. Open, tennis, that is, are underway. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic is battling - oh, I'm sorry about this - Stanislas Wawrinka. I just meant I had to take a breath before pronouncing the name, 'cause it's new. We're going to go to an old name, NPR's Tom Goldman.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Tom, Tom, the Swiss sensation is - he took the first set and he's up in the second. He broke Djokovic's serve.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Stan the Man.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Stan the Man, he is now, as a matter of fact. This is, this is, look, who knows what will happen in the end, but this could be a surprise. He's playing very, very well.

GOLDMAN: You know, if you look at the fact that Novak Djokovic is in his 14th great - straight Grand Slam semi and Wawrinka is in his first, yeah, it's surprising. But not when you look at how Wawrinka has been playing this year. He lost to Djokovic in a five-hour, five-set epic at the Australian Open. He crushed Andy Murray in the quarters at this U.S. Open. Right now, as you say, he's playing very well in the semis.

Wawrinka always has played in the shadow of his majestic countryman Roger Federer, but not now, Scott.

SIMON: Yeah. Let's ask about the women's side because Serena Williams once again is in the finals. She's going to meet Victoria Azarenka. This, of course, is a repeat of last year's finals. Is there any reason to think there won't be the same result, the way Serena's been playing?

GOLDMAN: You know, she's hard to bet against. She is peerless but not unbeatable every now and then. Azarenka beat Williams twice this year in tournament finals, including last month in Cincinnati. Azarenka hasn't played very well at this Open. But she has survived, she's in the finals. So there's definitely some buzz about tomorrow's match.

SIMON: Another sport kind of gets underway in earnest this weekend. Of course, that's - what do we call it? - football. That's right, American-style football. It actually began Thursday night. The Denver Broncos' Peyton Manning, 37 years old, threw seven touchdown passes. The Broncos beat the defending Super Bowl Ravens about 9,000 to 27. I think it was 49 to 27, as a matter of fact. Two of those seven touchdown passes went to Wes Welker. Now, every pass he's, I believe, caught since college has been either from Tom Brady - 'cause he was with the Patriots for six years - and now Peyton Manning. I think if Wes Welker really wants to show how good he is, he should play for the Bears and try and catch a pass from Jay Cutler. That's a test.

GOLDMAN: That's very mean, too. You know, Welker says he won't compare the two, Brady and Manning. He says it's like comparing Michelangelo and Picasso, two guys some 400 years apart who aren't often compared. But we get the idea.

SIMON: I want to ask you about the Read Option because there's been a ruling that might really change the complexion of this season.

GOLDMAN: Well, the Read Option's surge in popularity in the NFL, with the influx last season of young, mobile quarterbacks like Russell Wilson in Seattle, Robert Griffin III in Washington and Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco, and it's basically, the quarterback hands off the ball to a running back or he keeps the ball himself and the quarterback makes his decision after he quickly reads how the defense is reacting. And when it works, it can freeze the defense and result in big rushing yards.

The NFL this week clarified the rules, basically said defensive players have more opportunities to hit the quarterback, and in this play - defenses love this, but coaches don't. So we'll see if this rule clarification inhibits players from using this play.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so very much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You bet.

SIMON: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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