SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
And I wait all week to say time for sports.
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SIMON: The 2012 tennis season is in the home stretch - or is it the last set? What do we call it? The U.S. Open in New York, and it's been eventful. We'll also hit the gridiron in a moment. First, Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine joins us now from New York. Howard, good morning.
HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?
SIMON: I am fine, thank you, my friend. And U.S. Open - we'll get the first rounds in a moment - but Andy Roddick announced that one way or another, this is going to be his last round as a professional tennis player. And I guess he took out his grief on some 19-year-old Australian kid.
BRYANT: Bernard Tomic, yes, who really didn't show up. He put the white flag up midway through the second set. It was a very interesting week, considering that you also had Kim Clijsters retiring as well. But Roddick is the interesting here because of where American tennis has gone. Between 1968 and 2002, American men have just dominated tennis. We were winning a major tournament 33 percent of the time - a third of all majors went to Americans - Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, you name it. And since 2003, we've won just one, and it was Andy Roddick back in 2003 at the U.S. Open.
And so the state of the game has really declined in terms of this country winning major, major championships. And so he was the last one. And the big question's going to be now is who is going to take his mantle. He was a great, great player, and not good enough though in the age of Roger Federer. He was not close enough to the McEnroe-Connors standard and not good enough to compete with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, but represented the United States very, very well.
SIMON: Wonder, too, how sports broadcasters will get through a major tournament without cutting to shots of Brooklyn Decker cheering on her husband.
BRYANT: Whatever will we do?
SIMON: Any storylines we should be following. I've been intrigued by Laura Robson, the British teenager who's on a string of big upsets.
BRYANT: Sure - 18 years old, great story. You've got a couple of them. You've got some very good stories. One, obviously, is Laura Robson. Everyone's talking about Andy Murray at Wimbledon and finally he won gold at the Olympics and lost to Roger Federer in the final, and no Brit has been able to win a major in such a long time. But here is Laura Robson, who's 18 years old and she comes in, and she sends Kim Clijsters into retirement by beating her. Kim Clijsters won four majors. Then yesterday she beats Li Na, who won the French Open. So, she's taken out two players who have won five majors combined, left-handed, full of energy. And I think that's what this tournament needs in youth. In addition to having great accomplished players, you got to have some spirit and some personality. And she's fun.
SIMON: Yeah, Laura Robson's great fun to watch, yeah. I want to ask you about college football for a moment. A big game today seems to be Alabama versus Michigan. What's at stake here aside from millions of dollars in television contracts?
BRYANT: Well, the state of the free world is at stake as always in college football, as you know. I really feel that the one thing about college football that people do gravitate toward - I'm not a huge college football fan myself - but I feel like what it does to people who really care about it is that it really is a winner-take-all type of thing. You kind of have to win every single game. You lose one game and your national title hopes are dashed. So, when you have a big matchup early and you're just getting started, this is a big game. Well, I think it's a bigger game for Michigan and for Alabama, naturally, because Alabama is defending national championship. They'll be there at the end. But if you're Michigan, this is a good chance early on to show what you've got.
SIMON: I guess things don't look so great for my Boise State Broncos, right? This is a rebuilding year in Boise.
BRYANT: Exactly. And I was thinking that last night when they lost. I said, oh, well, goodness, Boise State lost one game therefore their entire future has been destroyed, and for - at least there's next year, right?
SIMON: At least there's next year. Howard Bryant, senior writer at ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine. Howard, thanks so much. Have a good U.S. Open.
BRYANT: No, my pleasure. I love it.
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SIMON: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.