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Venus Williams Knocked Out Of U.S. Open After Losing To Karolina Pliskova

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This last month has been a treat for fans of tennis - first a competitive Olympic Games and now the U.S. Open in New York City. Today is day eight of the open. Matches yesterday and today will decide the lineup for the quarterfinals. Those begin tomorrow. And the tournament wraps up next weekend.

Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated is at the tournament at Flushing Meadows in New York. And Jon Wertheim, let's start with the big story I guess. Venus and Serena Williams - what happened with these ladies?

JON WERTHEIM: Two very different scenarios. Venus, 36 years old, was playing so well coming in, and she lost today 7-6 in the third set to an abundantly talented and abundantly tattooed opponent, Karolina Pliskova. Venus won this event in 2000 and 2001 and not again since - heartening to see her playing so well at 36, disheartening to see her lose a close match.

And Serena, by contrast, took care of business, as she has all tournament. She's the No. 1 player in the world. She's only 34.9. She turns 35 later this month. She's the baby, and she looked terrific for the fourth straight match here.

CORNISH: So who are the other women who could make a showing here?

WERTHEIM: I like Caroline Wozniacki, who was once the No. 1 player in the world. She's from Denmark. She's slipped to No. 74 but has a very strong resurgence here in New York. But again, this is really Serena's tournament to lose. This would give her 23 majors, one more than Steffi Graf. It's just a remarkable story - almost 35 years old.

Again, imagine, too - I think this sometimes gets lost. Serena played right after her sister, so she has to go through the emotion of watching her sibling lose this close match and five minutes later go on the court herself. It's just another aspect of this remarkable sport story. And really I think a week from now, Serena will have won still another major title.

CORNISH: Let's talk about the men's side for a moment because Rafael Nadal was knocked off yesterday in a big upset, and he's not the only big name who's out of this tournament, right?

WERTHEIM: Roger Federer is out as well for a very different reason. He has a knee injury and has - is not going to play again for the rest of the year, and I think there's a sense that with these two great players out, does this give an opportunity to someone else?

Nadal was playing well and then just ran into this 22-year-old Frenchman Lucas Pouille yesterday, and it was it was a gripping match. It was 7-6 in the fifth set, and this kid from France was the underdog and just did not buckle really at the moment and sent Nadal packing.

CORNISH: Now, is there a chance that someone else could break through, though, someone outside of the big four?

WERTHEIM: Well, the other two members of the big four, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, are the second and first (unintelligible), respectively. They're still in the tournament. And the stranglehold these four guys have had has just been remarkable, 42 of the last 46 majors - very stingy letting others crash their party.

There's one player I think might be able to sort of break the stranglehold. Look out for Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro. He won this event in 2009, beating Federer and then had this horrible wrist injury, back and forth to the Mayo Clinic. He is finally healthy at age 27. He would be my next best pick after the big four.

CORNISH: And before I let you go, what about the tournament overall? I hear there are record crowds this year.

WERTHEIM: Yeah, there have been, which is especially heartening with no Roger Federer and no Maria Sharapova. I think there's a sense of sort of, where does tennis go? Is it depleted without Federer? And what we realize is that the sport is bigger than any one player.

And there are great stories. There are ascending stars. Roger Federer is sorely missed. This is the first U.S. Open he hasn't played since the 1990s. And yet at the same time, there's been plenty else to cheer for. And as you say, record attendance augers (ph) well for the future.

CORNISH: That's Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated. He spoke to us from the U.S. Open in New York City. Jon, thanks so much.

WERTHEIM: Anytime, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.