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Saturday sports: Serena Williams to retire; Fernando Tatis Jr. 80-game suspension

DANIEL ESTRIN, HOST:

And now, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ESTRIN: Serena Williams prepares for life after tennis, and a huge player suspension shocks Major League Baseball. Let's talk about both of those things with Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Good morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Morning, Daniel. How are you?

ESTRIN: I'm doing all right. Let's talk about Serena Williams. One of the greatest athletes of all time announced this week she's getting ready to leave professional tennis for good, potentially making the U.S. Open later this summer her last tournament. So when great athletes retire, we tend to talk about their legacy. But she's leaving behind a few legacies, right?

BRYANT: And that's a sign of her greatness. When you're that good, there are so many things that you leave behind, and when you think about Serena Williams, to me, one of the most important things is she and her sister, Venus, they changed the entire sport in terms of who got to play. You go back to when she turned pro in 1995 and Venus turned pro in 1994. It seems like a long time ago - 27 years ago for Serena - that you had to be able to hit the ball with them. The type of female tennis player that came in before them, they weren't really always known for their power. There were some players who could really hit the ball, but now, everybody had to hit.

So people always talk about Serena and her effect on Black women playing the game and the minority element of it. But they - all of those Eastern European girls who came in who were suddenly 5 foot 11 and hitting the ball 120 miles an hour - that was a reaction to Serena. So the Martina Hingises of the world, those players - they were suddenly the ones who were at a disadvantage because of the way the Williams sisters hit the ball, and it just changed who got to play the sport. Another - I'm sorry?

ESTRIN: Yeah, well, I was going to say, her essay for Vogue - she announced her upcoming retirement there - she was very clear about the burden of being a great female athlete. What stands out for you there?

BRYANT: Well, I think that's the hard piece of it, too, is that I think that she was talking about simply the unfairness of the biology when you're looking at someone like Roger Federer, who's able to have four kids and not miss a beat in terms of his career. You're looking at - Andy Murray has multiple children. I mean, he's got three kids, and now, he gets to continue playing. And Rafa Nadal has a child coming I think this month or early next month, and they don't have to stop. And she was talking about how, you know, what that does to the female athlete, what it does to your body, what - the choices you have to make that men simply don't have to make. And she pointed that out, and I think that was a very important thing for her to do.

The other thing that is important as well when we talk about the Serena legacy is simply the number of women of color, of young Black girls that wanted to play. You look at the - up and down the rankings now, whether it's Asia Muhammad, Madison Keys, Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff - you talk to all of them, and they'll tell you that it was Venus and Serena, Serena's greatness, all of those championships that made them want to play. So it's an unbelievable legacy in addition to obliterating the record book that she has to, you know, to her name. It's really amazing.

ESTRIN: Well, in the minute we have left, let's briefly talk about baseball. Huge news last night - Major League Baseball announced Fernando Tatis Jr., the All-Star shortstop for the San Diego Padres, is being suspended after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Tell us about it.

BRYANT: Yeah. This is a huge blow. The Padres go all in. They've got a $300 million player in Manny Machado. They've got another 300 - 14 years, $340 million in Tatis, and then they just signed Juan Soto, another player who's supposed to take them over the top. And then, Tatis tests positive for Clostebol. And this is a huge, huge thing. And suddenly, it takes them - and they're still going to be a very, very good team, but boy, bad legacy for him. It's - he's out of the playoffs now. He's going to miss the World Baseball Classic. He's going to miss part of next season as well. Bad stuff.

ESTRIN: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media. Thanks, Howard.

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

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.