Indy 500, French Open Mark Memorial Day Weekend

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Tandelaya Wilder, sports director at NPR station WSHU in Fairfield, Conn., talks about two big sports events this weekend: French Open tennis and the Indy 500 auto race.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jennifer Ludden.

This weekend, tennis stars battle the heat and each other in the third and fourth rounds of the French Open. Back home, this Sunday the competition will be just as heated at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To bring us up to speed, we turn to Tandaleya Wilder. She's the sports director at WSHU in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Hi, Tandaleya.

Ms. TANDALEYA WILDER (Sports Director, WSHU): Hey, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: Let's start with the tennis. Rough week to be an American in Paris. I hear temperatures are up in the 80s, and no American men are left in competition on the clay courts.

Ms. WILDER: Not a single one. It's really been brutal, Jennifer. For the second straight year, no American man has advanced beyond round two in Paris. The injured and ever-aging Andre Agassi exited in the first round, golden boy Andy Roddick is out and our best hope, James Blake, cramped up in the final three sets of his match to who? A virtual unknown, the 2003 junior champion...


Ms. WILDER: ...from Switzerland.

LUDDEN: That hurts.

Ms. WILDER: Yeah. So it hasn't been a pretty picture.

LUDDEN: James Blake has quite a story, though. Tell us about him.

Ms. WILDER: Yeah. You know, in his defense, he came into the French Open on a 14-match winning streak, but here's a guy who broke his neck last year, suffered a case of shingles; his dad, who inspired him to play tennis, died of cancer, and, once ranked number 22 in the world, he dropped so low he had to start from the bottom and climb his way to qualify for the French Open. So it's no wonder when asked about his loss, he was actually philosophical, almost Zen-like about it, and he said that he's glad he even got to the second round.

LUDDEN: Well, I guess people will really be rooting for him the next go-around.

Ms. WILDER: Yeah. He's quite the underdog to root for, that's for sure.

LUDDEN: Well, how the American women doing in the French Open?

Ms. WILDER: Well, they're wilting in the heat. We started off with 13 American women in the main draw. Nine were cast out in the first round. Venus played terrible--countless unforced errors, just couldn't get anything going--and ended up losing in the third round to a 15-year-old Bulgarian. And top seed Lindsay Davenport is the only American keeping the Stars and Stripes flying over Paris.

LUDDEN: Hm. Well, let's move from Roland Garros to Indianapolis. We've been hearing a lot about the one woman competing this year in the Indy 500. Tell us about Danica Patrick. I understand she had the fastest time in Friday's practice round.

Ms. WILDER: Oh, yeah, she's a real rebel out there. I mean, she posted a top speed of 225 miles per hour during the practice round and has really become the odds-on favorite to win this thing. I mean, people who've never paid attention to the Indy 500 before are all abuzz about this 23-year-old. She's a rookie, she's only the fourth woman to qualify for the Indy 500 and she drives a car owned in part by comedian David Letterman.

LUDDEN: So she would be the first woman, if she does it.

Ms. WILDER: If she does it, and, you know, it would be the biggest victory to date for a woman in a traditionally male sport. I mean, the Indy 500 is like the Kentucky Derby of open-wheel racing, and she competes against men in the highest level of her sport each week, so it would be huge if she won.

LUDDEN: Tandaleya Wilder hosts "She Got Game," an Internet radio show devoted to women's sports.

Tandaleya, thanks.

Ms. WILDER: My pleasure.

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