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Serena Williams Reaches 10th U.S. Open Quarterfinal


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

And it's time to catch up on some tennis. The latest from the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows in Queens as they head toward the quarterfinals. Jon Wertheim covers tennis for Sports Illustrated, and he joins me from New York. Hi, John.

JON WERTHEIM: Hi, Melissa.

BLOCK: Let's start with the women's side. Serena Williams had a really easy victory today. She's coming off her win at Wimbledon and a dominant gold-medal performance at the Olympics. Is she unstoppable?

WERTHEIM: She's awfully close to unstoppable. She really has been tremendous. Her last three sets she's won 6-0. You know, the last two times she's played at the U.S. Open, Serena Williams has had these meltdowns. So, Serena Williams can beat Serena Williams whether anyone else can. I certainly don't see it.

BLOCK: And she's coming off a series of injuries - she had surgery, blood clots on her lungs - and here she is looking really great. She did lose last year to Samantha Stosur of Australia. It wasn't even close. How does Stosur look this year?

WERTHEIM: She's a defending champion, you know, and her next match - she's still in the tournament, which is good. But in her next match, she plays Victoria Azarenka, who is the number one seed. They've played half a dozen times and Stosur has yet to win a set. So, it will be a big ask, as they say, for her to defend again.

BLOCK: And Maria Sharapova is also still in. How's she doing?

WERTHEIM: Well, she probably should've lost last night, and she had a tremendous comeback. She's a great fighter. But, remember, in the Olympic gold medal match you referenced that Serena won, Serena Williams beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1. And one wonders, you know, the silver medal is nothing to sneeze at, but one wonders how such a comprehensive defeat, what that has done to Maria Sharapova's confidence. You know, she's won this event before. But, again, it really is Serena Williams's tournament to lose on the women's side.

BLOCK: OK. Well, let's switch over to the men's side. This year, Rafael Nadal is not competing, right. He's out with an injury. There's always the perennials, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, who won at the U.S. Open last year. Who else are you looking at who might be a contender?

WERTHEIM: Well, the other big contender is Andy Murray, who had this breakthrough beating Federer to win the gold medal. Murray, from Great Britain, from Scotland, and he wins this medal at the London Games. So the fact that it was in England, his home country, is all the more significant. He has never won a major, and one of sort of these enduring questions in tennis is whether Andy Murray can finally break through and win that title. And certainly, a few weeks after beating the might Federer on the lawns of the All England Club to win that gold, certainly he has some momentum. So, after Federer and Djokovic, I think Murray is probably your best bet on the men's side.

BLOCK: Another big story that's going on in the middle of the U.S. Open, the American favorite, Andy Roddick, announced that he's retiring at age 30. I'm wondering why somebody with a serve that still clocks in at 141 miles per hour decides to retire.

WERTHEIM: Yeah, and 30 used to be geriatric in tennis but no longer. Both Serena and Roger Federer are in their early 30s. You know, Roddick has had some injuries. And he's also sort of been this tennis sissafist(ph) where he'd broken through in 2003, and since then it's been a lot of close calls, no cigars, against Federer and Nadal. And I think his body hasn't cooperated and I think he wanted to retire at the U.S. Open, his home country slam, and made this decision and announced it.

And now suddenly he's sort of hijacked this tournament a bit. He plays on Tuesday night. It'll be a great atmosphere, could be his last match and he's the last American remaining as well.

BLOCK: And let's talk about another player who's retired after losing at this U.S. Open, and that's Kim Clijsters of Belgium. How would you sum up her career?

WERTHEIM: Yeah, you know, it's funny because she's so well-liked and the affection that she generated. In an individual sport, you know, in a sport that's so confrontational, for her to have had this uniform affection really is remarkable. But I think in all this sort of love fest and this is her final tournament, we lose sight of the fact, you know, this is somebody who won four majors. This is a Hall of Fame player. It's almost like your niceness, in a weird way, undercuts her tennis legacy. But certainly the sport will be worse off without her.

BLOCK: OK. Jon, thanks so much.

WERTHEIM: Anytime, thanks.

BLOCK: That's Jon Wertheim, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated. He's covering the U.S. Open. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.