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Saturday Sports: Wimbledon finals; Northwestern University scandal; FIFA women's world cup

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Championship weekend at Wimbledon. Team scandals at Northwestern. And the U.S. women's soccer team tries for three World Cup championships in a row. Michele Steele of ESPN joins us. Michele, thanks so much for being with us.

MICHELE STEELE: Yeah. No problem, Scott.

SIMON: Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, new Wimbledon's women's champion, isn't she?

STEELE: Yes. And this was a big, big upset, Scott. Marketa beating sixth-ranked Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 to win Wimbledon in straight sets. And you know what? Only took an hour and 20 minutes for a very locked-in Marketa to win her first major, becoming the first unseeded player to win Wimbledon. This was a combination of her playing well. But you know what? Jabeur looking frustrated, really...

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: ...All match a crushing disappointment for Jabeur, who is now 0 and 3 in major finals. She was in tears when she was handed that runner-up trophy today, calling it the most painful loss of her career and promising she will win at Wimbledon one day, just not today.

SIMON: Marketa Vondrousova has a, at this point, pretty famous tattoo collection, too.

STEELE: Yeah.

SIMON: And I noticed her silver-haired coach in the stands. She said he's going to get one now.

STEELE: Yeah. You don't see a tennis players with tattoos pretty often, but they made a bet, and now he's going to pay up and get one.

SIMON: Men's final is tomorrow, and a lot of people are referring to it as epic. Carlos Alcaraz and, of course, against - any more superlatives wouldn't be necessary for Novak Djokovic.

STEELE: Yeah. You've got Joker, the No. 2 ranked player in the world and 20-year-old Alcaraz. Many people see him as the future for elite men's tennis. He is ranked No. 1. They've played twice in the past. They've split those matches. In the last match that they played, Alcaraz said that he was very nervous playing Djokovic, for good reason.

SIMON: Yeah.

STEELE: He said that those nerves, those are one reason that he cramped up and cut their last match short. Now, we all know that tennis is a very physical game. But you know what? It's a mental one as well. And Sunday's men's Wimbledon final is going to be an absolute appointment programming for anybody who loves the game.

SIMON: Let me ask you about events this week. Northwestern University doesn't always lead sports coverage, but two coaches at Northwestern were let go by the university this week - Pat Fitzgerald, their football coach, Jim Foster, the baseball coach, fired over allegations of bullying, hazing, fostering a toxic work environment and some things even worse. What do we know about the story?

STEELE: Yeah. You're right, Scott. Northwestern doesn't always lead the sports pages, but, boy, did they ever this week, especially in Chicago. You know, I have a buddy of mine who went to Northwestern, and he told me that no matter what the record for the football team, you could always take pride - right? - that they were doing things the right way, so to speak. Well, this was handled about as poorly as you could handle it for Northwestern - the president of the university. First, he gave a two-week suspension to the football coach, was hoping to keep those hazing allegations quiet. Well, they all went public last weekend. And that's thanks to the really, really excellent reporting from the Daily Northwestern. And after that came out, the university did an about-face. They said they made a mistake, and they fired the football coach. The baseball coach also let go this week after evidence of bullying and abusive behavior. And, Scott, this is really a black mark, a dark week for a university athletic department that many in the Big Ten really expect much better from.

SIMON: And I want to give commendation to the student journalists at the Daily Northwestern, who did a good job in a tough situation.

STEELE: Absolutely.

SIMON: FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off. Did you hear that? I said kicks off.

STEELE: Boo.

SIMON: All right. Thursday in Australia and New Zealand, Team USA will try and win their third - unprecedented - third World Cup in a row. This is a different team than the one that won the last two, though, isn't it?

STEELE: Yeah. They're hoping for a three-peat, which no men or women's team has ever done, but it's a different team. Like you said, they've been hit with the injury bug early. Even the captain went down after injuring her foot. And there's a ton of new faces. You know, you will recognize some of the big stars - veterans Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan. But 14 of the 23 players that went Down Under this week, they are World Cup newbies. The U.S. is expected to get out of their group stage handily. I wouldn't bet against them, but this is a very new team.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, time will tell. Isn't that how we put it?

STEELE: Oh, I hate to say that. But in this case, we'll see. Yes.

SIMON: All right. Michele Steel of ESPN, thanks so much. Talk to you soon.

STEELE: Sure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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.