Murray-Djokovic Rivalry Takes Stage At U.S. Open

Sep 10, 2012
Originally published on September 10, 2012 6:45 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Serena Williams has added the U.S. Open Women's Tennis title to an impressive summer of success that also saw her win Olympic gold and Wimbledon. The men's final takes place later today at the U.S. Open. And for more, we turn to Sports Illustrated's Jon Wertheim. Welcome back to the program, sir.

JON WERTHEIM: Hi, Steve. How are you?

INSKEEP: I'm doing OK, thanks. I guess if we looked at the headline, we could say Serena's win was inevitable. But it sure didn't look that way during the final, did it?

WERTHEIM: No, we got six matches of Serena Williams at her dominating best this tournament, just playing at another level. And then yesterday, we saw Serena Williams at her combative best. She had to go deep into a third set, and it was a tremendous battle. It was really - that's as fine a tennis match as I've seen in a long time, especially on the women's side. And this was really Serena the fighter who prevailed, 7-5 in the third set. Great match yesterday.

INSKEEP: How did Victoria Azarenka - if I'm pronouncing her name correctly - get that close?

WERTHEIM: You are. And I mean, this was, you know, Victoria Azarenka was the number one player. I think Serena was the favorite. The rankings now are a bit diluted. But Victoria Azarenka is a strong player. She'd won the Australian Open. She's a big hitter, as is Serena; and also a good fighter, who got to the finals by winning several close matches. But I just thought this was an absolutely command performance by Serena Williams, who did not have her best game and still managed to win.

INSKEEP: The quote from her afterward was, "I never give up. I never, never quit."

WERTHEIM: It's completely true. And again, I would contend this is as great a fighter - not that we have in tennis, but in all of sports. I mean, if mental strength could somehow be quantified, we would have an even greater appreciation for Serena Williams. It's such an awful sports cliche, but she really did refuse to lose. I mean, that's basically what it was yesterday, deep in that third set.

INSKEEP: OK, over to the men's final later today, Novak Djokovic against Andy Murray. What do you expect?

WERTHEIM: It could be a good match. I mean, this is obviously another opportunity for Andy Murray, the British player, to win that long - you know, that elusive first major of his career. He beat Roger Federer to win the Olympic gold, so this is another opportunity. Djokovic is the defending champion. This is the first time in a long time that neither Rafael Nadal, nor Roger Federer, played deep into a tournament. But you know, it should be good match. Unfortunately, it's taking place - for the fifth year in a row - on a Monday; not a Sunday, as it ought to.

INSKEEP: Do players get bonus points for riding out tornadoes, as I guess they had to do over the weekend?

WERTHEIM: Exactly. And there actually was a player in the junior draw, with the first name Tornado.

(LAUGHTER)

WERTHEIM: So we were joking that in addition to the Tennis Channel, the Weather Channel should have rights to this event. But yeah, we almost had a Super Saturday - was not so super. And it included, among other things, a tornado evacuation - which was a first, for me, at a tennis event.

INSKEEP: Well, Jon Wertheim, I hope you're able to keep your hat on today.

WERTHEIM: And dry. Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Jon Wertheim writes about tennis for Sports Illustrated. The U.S. Open Men's Final is coming up later on today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.