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Saturday Sports: Final Games Coming Up For French Open and NHL

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Barbora Krejcikova has won her first French Open in three sets. The Final Four in the Stanley Cup playoffs - once more, BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music, just didn't make the cut. And the fallout over stickum continues in baseball. We're joined now by Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

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

SIMON: Fine, thank you. What did you make of the game? The game - the French Open win.

BRYANT: Well, I thought it was...

SIMON: The tennis match. I'm sorry.

BRYANT: Yeah. I thought it was a really difficult match for both players. This is what happens when you're in a final for the first time. You could see the nerves. You could see the stakes. It wasn't a great match, but they're not all going to be classics. And I think that's part of the beauty of the competition is that at some point, somebody is going to pick up that trophy. It's not going to lift itself. And Krejcikova was just tougher at the end. I felt bad for Pavlyuchenkova because she has been such a veteran for so long.

SIMON: She came back in the second set, right?

BRYANT: And she came back in the second set. Then she injured her leg, and so it was going to be a real struggle. And to be - you know, she's 29 years old. She's been playing for all this time, never been in the top 10, and this was a great moment for her. But Krejcikova was just a better player. And at the end of the day, she earned that championship.

SIMON: Let me ask about the men's side. Yet again, another tough match between Nadal and Djokovic. Yesterday was the 50-what time they've played?

BRYANT: That would be the 58th time that these two...

SIMON: Wow.

BRYANT: ...Have played. And I think it's just - the only thing that gives that any sort of perspective is that Chrissie and Martina played 80 times, so they've got a ways to go. But it was a terrific...

SIMON: Oh. They are - yeah. What do you make of the final tomorrow?

BRYANT: It was a terrific match. Yeah, I think that - I think tomorrow's match is really just going to come down to the great Djokovic going for his 19th title. But you've got Stefanos Tsitsipas, who's a good young player.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: Twenty-two years old, and he can hang with them. But the aura of playing against one of the great champions, one of these big three is - it's worth a set by itself. So we will see how Tsitsipas' nerves hang in there at a major final.

SIMON: Tampa Bay Lightning against the Islanders tomorrow to kick off - skate off - the semi-finals. The Las Vegas Golden Knights take on Les Habs, the Montreal Canadiens. What do you foresee?

BRYANT: Well, I foresee my sentimental feelings for the Montreal Canadiens, even though I'm a Bostonian, coming out there. It's been 30 years since a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup, since the Canadiens won in 1993. I love dynasties. I love the fact that the Canadiens were supposed to lose to Toronto in the first round, so they're a plucky underdog story. The best team, obviously, is the defending champions, Tampa Bay. And I love Barry Trotz, the coach of the New York Islanders. He won a Stanley Cup a couple of years ago with Washington. Really, really good coach - tough team. And, of course, there's the Las Vegas Knights. The Knights are an interesting team as well because they are - you know, they're an expansion team. And they just got here, and they're threatening for a championship already. They've been to the Stanley Cup once already. And so it is really a - it's Tampa Bay's - you know, it's Tampa Bay's time to lose, really. They're the best team. But I sort of like the underdog Canadiens.

SIMON: Let me ask you about baseball's stickum scandal - pitchers using foreign substances to boost their spin rates. I've seen some reports that say 80% of the pitchers in MLB might be using them. I don't know. But Gerrit Cole of the Yankees - boy, talk about looking like someone who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar this week.

BRYANT: (Laughter) He looked a little guilty. I was just waiting for him to say, I'm not here to talk about the past. It was really, really difficult for baseball once again. The spin rates - what this sticky stuff does is it allows you to do all kinds of incredible...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Things with the ball in terms of giving the ball a type of movement that you can't really do naturally. Baseball can't seem to help itself but find itself in some scandal, especially when there's not a whole lot of offense in the game right now as well. But they need to handle this 'cause you can see the difference. The pitchers are very dominant right now.

SIMON: Howard Bryant, thanks very much for being with us.

BRYANT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.