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Saturday sports: Serena Williams' farewell US Open; Albert Pujuls looks toward 700 career home runs

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: A last chance to see Serena, and Albert Pujols closes in on a milestone. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: I'm fine, thank you. Serena Williams has nothing to prove to anybody. But is this her last U.S. Open?

BRYANT: I think so. And no, she doesn't have anything to prove. I think that - I think she did a really wonderful thing in announcing that she was going to be retiring - even though she doesn't like to use that word - and this was going to be her last U.S. Open simply because I think her fans needed to know for certain and to have a chance to see her and to give - to provide that sort of fan service that - to sort of return what she's given them all of these years. Six times she's won this championship, 23 majors overall. I think what people don't remember when they think about Serena is that she doesn't have just 23 majors. She has 23 singles majors. She's also got 14 majors in doubles with Venus. She's also got two more mixed doubles and four Olympic gold. She's just done everything, and I think that this will be the proper send-off.

Can she win the championship? That's going to be a really tall order. She's only played four matches this year. She's only won one of them. She really is, probably for the first time in her life, an underdog. But boy, what a magical fairy tale story if she can come to New York and pull off some magic.

SIMON: Yeah. And - let me put it this way. It's going to be difficult for people to say goodbye to her, isn't it, given all she's represented...

BRYANT: Oh, absolutely. It's difficult for her to say goodbye, and I think that it's a double-edged sword when it comes to the announcement. To be honest with you, Scott, I never thought she was going to announce it. I really thought she was going to just not play anymore and fade away because she - by her own admission, she hates goodbyes. She doesn't like that sort of awkwardness like we saw when she lost to Belinda Bencic in Toronto earlier this month. It's a really difficult thing for her, and I think it's really - if you read the piece in Vogue, her farewell - it's not her forte to have the traditional sendoff.

But I do think that this was a good move because, one, tickets have gone through the roof. People want to see her. She's playing Sunday night. I'm sorry, on Sunday night - she's playing Monday night at the first night of the tournament. And it's going to be really emotional.

SIMON: Let's turn to Albert Pujols, 42 years old, St. Louis Cardinals again. He's closing in on perhaps a 700-career home run. You know, they play the Cubs starting next Friday, so that should really - he's at 693 now, so that should really open the door. What do we say about Albert Pujols? Boy, yes, I hope he makes these last seven.

BRYANT: Yeah. What a career, and to think that you're looking at him - I saw Albert Pujols in the 2011 World Series hit three home runs in a game against Texas. It's only happened - to that point, only Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson had done it before...

SIMON: Do you - I remember people, like, cringing and going ooh because they hadn't seen anything like that before.

BRYANT: Yeah, exactly - two-time World Series champion, 2,100 RBIs, three-time MVP, Rookie of the Year. What can you say? He has been one of the most feared hitters, one of the most beloved Cardinals of all time. I know that means a lot to you as a Cubs fan. But when people think about this generation of player, they're going to be thinking about Albert Pujols, really one of the best to ever do it. And if he gets seven more home runs, then he's in the category of Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Nobody else has hit 700 home runs.

SIMON: Yeah. And I guarantee you, if he hits that 700th and it's against the Cubs, they will line up to shake his hand and say congratulations.

BRYANT: Yes.

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

BRYANT: Thank you, Scott. 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.