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Saturday Sports: Wimbledon Returns After Pandemic Canceled 2020 Championships

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FADEL: Let's go to the tennis court. Wimbledon starts Monday. The tournament is set for full capacity even as the delta variant continues to spread. Some star players are sitting this one out. And the Montreal Canadiens are heading to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since 1993. To talk about all this, we're joined by Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila. How are you?

FADEL: I'm doing all right. So let's start with Wimbledon. The championships were canceled in 2020 due to COVID. Now the delta variant is spreading. But the tournament will go on, and organizers say full capacity. How do you think this is going to play out?

BRYANT: Well, I'm one of the conservative ones. I've - I understood why the tournament was canceled last year. I've always - I'm still very, very wary, as much as it's great to hear crowd noise when you watch a baseball game like last night and you see 50,000 fans all sitting next to each other. Wimbledon is a really close, small-grounds tournament. It is going to be great that fans are going to be back, but I totally understand the hesitancy, that some people aren't ready to get on with it. But I also get that people are ready to move on and watch everything as they used to. It's going to be really difficult, though, because this delta variant is extremely transmissible. So we will see how it plays out.

On the court, I think people are really excited. You didn't have a tournament in 2019. You have Simona Halep, who is defending champion, and then she's out with an injury. On the men's side, the last time we saw Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, they were playing in the final. And Roger has since had a surgery, but he's back. Novak Djokovic is the favorite to run away with this championship.

And then, of course, there's Serena Williams, who is still on her quest for championship No. 24. And so there are always going to be great things to watch in terms of the competition. Wimbledon is the premier championship of all the four majors. And I think that there's going to be a bit of a relief for a lot of people to be able to resume after not having the tournament last year.

On the other hand, there's also always something looming when it comes to tennis, and that is this great battle between the ATP, the Men's union or association, and this budding, new Novak Djokovic-led PTPA, which is a rival which is going to be real interesting to see a player rights battle take place in tennis. And the twist on this is that the men are actually, for the first time, considering having a unisex union, having the women involved as well. It's going to be really interesting to see how the ATP responds to this.

FADEL: So, Howard, let's get some hockey in here real quick. The Montreal Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights. They'll face off against Tampa Bay for the Stanley Cup. What do you make of the Canadiens' season?

BRYANT: Oh, I absolutely love this. We - if we - it's great, the former dynasty as underdog. The Canadiens were supposed to get knocked out in the first round by Toronto, and instead they've come all the way through. And now they're in the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1993. The last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup was the Canadiens in 1993. But, of course, they're playing Vegas - I'm sorry. They're playing Tampa. Tampa is the defending champions. They're the best team. But does - do the Canadiens have one last miracle in them? We'll see in these seven games.

FADEL: That's Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Thanks so much, Howard.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.