RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Let's get a look at day one of the U.S. Open in New York's Flushing Meadows, the last tennis major of the year. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated is following the tournament and joins us on the line from New York. Good morning.
JON WERTHEIM: Good morning. How are you?
MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you. And how are defending champs Serena William and Andy Murray looking?
WERTHEIM: Well, defending champ Serena Williams lost one game in her match last night, so she looks quite good. And Andy Murray plays today, provided it stays dry.
MONTAGNE: And let's maybe talk about Rafael Nadal. He remains a favorite and could take over the world number one ranking. Tell us about his side of the draw.
WERTHEIM: Yeah. It's funny. You know, Nadal did not even play (unintelligible) last year he has these injured knees. And then at Wimbledon just a few weeks ago he lost in the very first round on the first day, and yet he is probably the favorite to win this event. He returned in February and he's been terrific, especially on hard courts. In addition to winning the French Open, which is on clay, he's become this terrific hard court player this year.
And funnily enough, here's Nadal. His knees appear healthy. He won with ease in straight sets yesterday, and his draw is a bit tricky. He is supposed to play better in the quarterfinals, which is odd - you know, this used to be the preeminent rivalry in, I would say in all sports, but certainly in tennis. And now as they've gotten older they're in a position where they would meet earlier in the tournament.
But again, Nadal is probably, ironically, the player to beat here.
MONTAGNE: Well, you know, Roger Federer, probably not a great sign for him that he showed up on the cover of the New York Times magazine as sort of over, but he's widely considered to be one of the best tennis players of all time. But he slipped to a ranking of number seven, as you've just suggested. Maybe time really is up?
WERTHEIM: I wouldn't say up. I would say, you know, the sands in the hourglass are few. And yeah, he's 32 years old. He's married, he's a father. And he's had a terrific career. This would sort of be, you know, the indefensible assault of time, and I think everybody sort of wants to see him conjure the magic one more time. I mean he's been, really for the last decade, I would say, the spindle on which the entire sport revolves.
I mean he's really been more than just this great player. He's really been almost, you know, almost sort of this moral center of the sport. And it's no fun - I mean he lost very early at Wimbledon to an unknown player. He lost several other matches this summer to guys he never would've lost to early in his career. And we've seen this - we've seen these rhythms(ph). We've seen this drill before.
It would be nice if he could come to New York and really, you know, go out with a bang. And as you say, this is the last - this is really the season finale. This is the last (unintelligible) of the year. And we remember these results for a long time. So it would be nice if Federer could sort of finish the year strong.
MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, if you can, you mentioned Serena Williams. What's happening on the women's side?
WERTHEIM: Well, Serena Williams has a new rival - Victoria Azarenka. They've played in several finals, including the final here last year. And Azarenka just beat Serena in Cincinnati two weeks ago. They were ranked number one and number two. And realistically, it's the like the men's game used to be with Federer and Nadal. I mean realistically we've all kind of, you know, given them the path(ph) to the finals.
Anyone other than the two of them were to win, I think most people would be shocked. Maria Sharapova is not here. Venus Williams won yesterday but she is even older than Federer. She's 33. You know, Venus Williams is sort of another player people are watching but realistically her best days are behind her.
It really looks like one of two players are going to win on the women's side, and I say that here on, you know, only on the second day.
MONTAGNE: Jon Wertheim writes about tennis for Sports Illustrated. Thanks, Jon.
WERTHEIM: Any time. Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.