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Saturday Sports: Frances Tiafoe's U.S. Open milestone; end of WNBA season


I wait all week to say - and now it's time for sports.


SIMON: The U.S. Open comes to a close. The NFL season begins. A new WNBA champion is ahead. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you, my friend. Iga Swiatek faces Ons Jabeur - in the final - women's final of the U.S. Open. What do you foresee?

BRYANT: Good battle, really good battle. Really great styles - Iga Swiatek - two-time major winner, won the French Open in 2020 and again in 2022, No. 1 player in the world, outstanding mover. She's a really, really good player, really fun to watch, and she's going up against Ons Jabeur, who is a fantastic player herself, who was so close to winning Wimbledon just a few months ago. And now she's back in the final for the U.S. Open for her first major. And so this is going to be a great battle - great battles of styles. I mean, if you're a tennis player, Ons Jabeur is just - she's a wizard with a tennis racket, and one of them is going to get their first and another one is going to get their third major. So I'm really looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

SIMON: And the men's finals tomorrow?

BRYANT: Oh, goodness. We're still talking about the men's final after - I'm still talking about the semifinal last night between Carlos Alcaraz last night...

SIMON: Yeah, let's - yeah men's final can wait. Frances Tiafoe...

BRYANT: Frances Tiafoe - oh my goodness...

SIMON: ...The most fascinating athlete. I have loved reading his life story - 24, son of immigrants from Sierra Leone. His father was a maintenance man, the University of Maryland, and that's how he got to take lessons at the court there. It's terrific. Alas...

BRYANT: It's a true story.

SIMON: ...He lost last night.

BRYANT: And the loss last night was just - I mean, you have to add all the pieces. As they say in "The Wire," all the pieces matter. In the United States, the men - we have been spoiled by Serena Williams. But on the men's side, the men have not had a major champion since Andy Roddick in 2003. This is the first Black American male to play in a semifinal in a major since Arthur Ashe in 1972. So it's been quite a drought. And for Frances to do it the way he's done it, to get there, to beat Rafael Nadal and to play 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz - unbelievable battle between those two last night, and Michelle Obama was there. I mean, the stars have been out this entire fortnight, and boy, what a battle. They were close, and Alcaraz was just a little bit better. But what a thing to look forward to, seeing Alcaraz and Tiafoe, and these guys - they're going to be doing this for a long time. I think tennis is in pretty good hands.

SIMON: Speaking of Michelle Obama - the Chicago Sky - their reign as champions of the WNBA came to an end. Tomorrow, it's going to be the Las Vegas Aces versus the Connecticut Sun. What do you foresee there?

BRYANT: Well, (inaudible) I was watching and for the Sky - I was - at the U.S. Open sort of watching the playoffs at the gym. And to see how this happened - to lose an 18-to-nothing run to be - to lose your championship - all credit goes to the Sun, and they're playing the Las Vegas Aces. You've got the coach, Becky Hammon there, the former NBA assistant coach over with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio and coach of the year, and this is going to be a great battle. One of them is going to win their first championship in their respective cities, so, so much to play for.

SIMON: NFL season begins - and once more, following a series of serious scandals involving domestic abuse and the continuing scandal of concussions. Any sign all the problems make the game less popular?

BRYANT: Well, it's less popular with me, but it's never less...

SIMON: Yeah, me too.

BRYANT: It's always popular, and another football season kicks off. And for the football fans out there, all roads lead to Buffalo. Let's see what they do with their favorite status right now as the team to beat. But as always, Scott, the health issues in this game never cease.

SIMON: Yeah, Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.