Saturday Sports: U.S. Open, NFL The U.S. Open is well underway and Serena Williams is, unsurprisingly, in the finals. The NFL's opening night was underwhelming. And more girls than ever are signed up to play high school football.
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Saturday Sports: U.S. Open, NFL

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Saturday Sports: U.S. Open, NFL

Saturday Sports: U.S. Open, NFL

Saturday Sports: U.S. Open, NFL

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The U.S. Open is well underway and Serena Williams is, unsurprisingly, in the finals. The NFL's opening night was underwhelming. And more girls than ever are signed up to play high school football.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

How nice it is to find time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Serena Williams on the verge of history again. The regular NFL season has begun with a long, dull splat. And are more young women interested in getting their heads rattled too? We're joined now, as always, by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: U.S. Open - Serena Williams going for what would be a record-tying 24th Grand Slam win. But there's a 19-year-old on the other side of the net. How do you see today's match?

GOLDMAN: I see victory. I see the great...

SIMON: For one of the players, yes. But yes, yeah.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Oh, OK, for Serena Williams.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: I see Serena reversing recent history. You know, since her return to tennis after becoming a mother, she's been in three Grand Slam finals and lost all three. And she has looked rattled. Each of those losses was preceded by a strong showing in the semifinal match.

Now, the U.S. Open has followed that pattern. She's looked really good coming into this final against 19-year-old, Canadian Bianca Andreescu. So why do I see victory, Scott?

SIMON: Why do you see victory, Tom Goldman?

GOLDMAN: Thank you for asking. Because both Williams and her coach say she is finally healthy. She's battled injuries this year. Now they say she's physically ready, and that helps her mental approach. In her words, she says she has been way more chill than in the past. And, Scott, I believe her.

SIMON: Yeah, well, she knows. Rafael Nadal is the last of the big three standing on the men's side. What do you see there?

GOLDMAN: Well, we've seen the big three teeter this tournament. Novak Djokovic pulled out with an injury. Roger Federer lost in the quarterfinals, largely because he was hurt, although he refused to blame that. You know, there's all this speculation - is the big three reign over? I mean, someday it will be, someday soon. But Federer, the oldest of them at 38, he has been playing great, and no reason he can't still at 39 if the body holds up. For now, though, as you say, Nadal is left. He plays in tomorrow's final. And he has a chance to win his 19th major title, putting him one behind the leader, Federer.

SIMON: Yeah. NFL season opened - Green Bay Packers versus the Chicago Bears...

GOLDMAN: (Imitating snoring noises).

SIMON: ...With their headliner Eddie Goldman, the fabulous Eddie Goldman. This is the oldest rivalry in football - all the makings of a classic, except the game. You watched all three hours. If you had to put a highlight reel together, how many seconds would be in there?

GOLDMAN: Not many. Can I get those three hours back? I don't think I can. It was a 10-3 snore-fest, although NFL aficionados - and there are many - will say that shows my ignorance because it was a defensive masterpiece.

SIMON: Right, yes.

GOLDMAN: Well, there was a lot - there were a lot of penalties and bad offense, too. Scott, I love a great defensive play now and then, but give me touchdowns, long touchdowns.

SIMON: At least one, I think there was one. Yeah, yeah.

GOLDMAN: Lots of - lots of them. Come on, guys. And hopefully, the offenses will start waking up tomorrow.

SIMON: I want to ask you about a development in high school football, and I have divided thoughts about it. Recent numbers show that more girls, young women, than ever are participating in tackle football at the high school level. I have a hard time cheering the fact that young women athletes now stand - want an equal chance to suffer head trauma.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, well, it's a good point. And some will agree with you. We will note this interesting development, however. The National Federation of State High School Associations says last season, more than 2,400 girls played 11-man, or shall we say 11-person, tackle football on high school boys' teams. Now, that's only 0.2% of the total, but it's an increase for the fourth straight year, and this at a time when participation by boys has been declining. California leads the way with 593 girls who played. New Jersey, Texas, Colorado also had more than 100, so an interesting development.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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