Tennis Stars Shining at U.S. Open

Russian icon Maria Sharapova faces Belgium's Justine Henin-Hardenne in the women's final, while the men's final could match top-ranked Swiss star Roger Federer and American hope Andy Roddick. Linda Wertheimer discusses the matchups with sports commentator Ron Rapoport.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

First, time for tennis. The women's final for the U.S. Open is set for this evening. Yesterday, Russia's Maria Sharapova beat the world's number one player, Amelie Mauresmo. Ms. Sharapova will now face second seed Justine Henine-Hardenne of Belgium. For the men, there are two rounds to go in Flushing Meadows, New York. This afternoon number one ranked Roger Federer faces Nikolay Davydenko. Andy Roddick meets another Russian, Mikhail Youzhny.

On the line from Los Angeles to do the handicapping is WEEKEND EDITION's own grand slammer, Ron Rapoport.

Good morning, Ron.

RON RAPOPORT: Hi, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: So the women first.

RAPOPORT: Well...

WERTHEIMER: Former Wimbledon champion, Russia's Maria Sharapova v. Justine Henine-Hardenne of Belgium.

RAPOPORT: Yeah. Not to put too fine a point on it, Linda, but I think this is a moment of truth for Maria Sharapova. You know, ever since she won Wimbledon two years ago, she became sort of a marketing icon, but not exactly that on the tennis court. This is the first time she's even made the finals in a grand slam tournament. Since then she's been 0 and five in semifinals. But if she can beat number one, you know, the way she did Mauresmo yesterday, and beat number two today, she'd be making a big statement.

So if she wants to prove she's not just another pretty face, this would be a real good time and place for Maria Sharapova to do it.

WERTHEIMER: So on to the men. We have two fairly low-ranked Russians standing in the way of the Roddick-Federer final that CBS at least is hoping for.

RAPOPORT: Well, I think a lot of people are hoping for it, all due respect to our Russian friends. Wouldn't it be fun to see a final between Federer - who's the best player in the world, no doubt about it - and Andy Roddick, who so many people think could be the next great American player.

You know, Federer's favored every time he steps out onto the court. I think my favorite moment in the tournament so far came when he was beating James Blake in a tense match Thursday. In the middle of the match, Blake just stood out there on the court and yelled out what everybody was thinking: you're too good.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RAPOPORT: That's got to be tough to admit when you're playing a guy, but it turned out to be the truth.

WERTHEIMER: So can anyone beat him?

RAPOPORT: Oh, he did - you know, Federer went on to win, no question.

WERTHEIMER: So let's not conclude, though, without talking about Andre Agassi, now retired after a valiant but very painful third round departure. This has been an incredible career.

RAPOPORT: Well, it really has. You know, Agassi knew he wasn't going to win this tournament. He said as much going in. And when he lost to the 112th seeded player in the world, Benjamin Becker, I guess it was a painful exit both for him and all of his fans. But at the age of 36 and after taking - I don't know, four, five cortisone shots for pain during the tournament, what a memory he left behind when he beat Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in five sets on Sunday.

You know, it was just a thrilling match and the crowd was on fire, so I guess that's one great last Agassi performance to file away in the memory books. You'll see it on a lot of lists of great sporting moments of the year, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much, Ron.

RAPOPORT: Okay.

WERTHEIMER: Weekend sports commentator Ron Rapoport.

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