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Saturday Sports: Tennis fans cheer Caroline Wozniacki's comeback

MILES PARKS, HOST:

And now, it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PARKS: Shohei Ohtani - he can do it all. The Tour de France begins today, and a tennis star announces a comeback. Michele Steele of ESPN joins us now. Good morning, Michele.

MICHELE STEELE: Hey, Miles.

PARKS: So Ohtani - let's just start there. He hit another homer last night. I think it traveled, like, 500 feet. I just watched it right before we went on the air. Earlier this week, pitched a game that he won, hit two home runs in that game. And the reason this is interesting is he is up for a new contract at the end of this season. What are we expecting when Ohtani hits free agency?

STEELE: It's going to be crazy, Miles. You're right. He hit his 30th homer on the season last night, the first MLB player to 30 home runs this season, struck out 37 batters last month. We are witnessing history. And as you mentioned, the best baseball player in the world is having a career year, and he's a free agent this winter. And remember, baseball doesn't have a salary cap. So owners with deep pockets who need help - think somebody like the Met's Steve Cohen - is someone who could very well be all-in on a once-in-a-lifetime player. Now, Ohtani's teammate Mike Trout has actually guesstimated this for us, and he thinks he gets 500 to 600 million on his next contract. But, Miles, I would not be shocked if it goes higher than that. Ohtani and the Angels play the Diamondbacks again tonight.

PARKS: Wow. Let's turn to cycling. The Tour de France, the premier event in that sport, begins today. Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard is favored to repeat. But the focus this week has been on safety. Why is that?

STEELE: Yeah, for very good reason. You know, this is the premier cycling event on the calendar. It starts today. But there are new concerns over rider safety. There was a fatal crash last month on the Tour de Suisse. That's a Switzerland tour, of course. A Swiss rider, Gino Mader, died after he crashed at high speed with an American rider, Magnus Sheffield. Now, Miles, part of the issue here is just technology. The bikes are so much faster, right? These guys are still jam-packed into those pelotons. They're all jockeying for position at really high speeds. And there are a number of analysts who say that this year on the Tour de France, riders are going to be a lot more cautious, especially on those descents. We'll see what happens. This is the premier cycling event of the calendar. The final stage wraps up July 23.

PARKS: And the premier event on the tennis calendars coming up too. Wimbledon starts next week. But this week, the biggest news in tennis was elsewhere. Caroline Wozniacki, the former world No. 1 player who retired a few years ago - she announced she's making a comeback. Any idea when she'll be back on the court?

STEELE: Yeah, you know, this is just great news for tennis fans. She's targeting the Canadian Open in August and then is planning to play the U.S. Open. That's awesome news for tennis fans here in the United States. You know, fans are obviously applauding her return, but women in sports are cheering it on too. So many female athletes see having a family as incompatible with chasing their dreams on the court. And that's one of the reasons that Wozniacki took that hiatus three years ago. She's had two kids since. She's seeing Serena Williams as one player who showed it was possible coming back after having her first child. And Wozniacki says she wants to be a part of changing that paradigm. You know, it doesn't have to be an either-or conversation, Miles.

PARKS: And then finally, I want to touch on this great story this week from the European Athletics Team Championships. There was a shot-putter who was thrown into a different competition. Can you tell us more?

STEELE: Yeah, it's so wild. I used to run track in high school, and this is just an unbelievable situation. But yes, the team's shot-putter for Team Belgium stepped up and volunteer to run the 100-meter hurdle race after they had a couple runners go down to injury. The team risked disqualification if they didn't field anyone, so she took one for the team. Her name is Jolien. I spoke to her at her home in Ghent, and she told me she was happy to do it. But she's now focused on making the Paris Summer Games next year, Miles, in shot put.

PARKS: (Laughter).

STEELE: This is not a new career for her.

PARKS: OK. OK.

STEELE: She's sticking to shot put.

PARKS: So yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Michele Steele of ESPN, thank you so much for joining us.

STEELE: You bet.

(SOUNDBITE OF TALKING HEADS SONG, "ELECTRICITY (DRUGS)") 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.

Miles Parks is a reporter on NPR's Washington Desk. He covers voting and elections, and also reports on breaking news.