Naomi Osaka ended Victoria Azarenka’s dream run to claim her second United States Open title in three years with a 1-6 6-3 6-3 comeback win on Saturday.
The win cemented her status as the sport’s leading light both on and off the court.
Unlike the 22-year-old Japanese’s first United States Open win in 2018 over Serena Williams, which was played in a frothing Arthur Ashe Stadium, Saturday’s drama unfolded in a strangely quiet arena.
COVID-19 health and safety protocols had prevented fans from entering the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre.
But the lack of buzz around the stands did not stop the two former world number one players from producing a dazzling display of shot-making.
As Osaka walked off with a third Grand Slam title, Azarenka was denied a United States Open crown for a third time, having also finished runner-up in 2012 and 2013.
Still it was a remarkable and unexpected run for the 31-year-old Belarusian, who reached her first major final in seven years.
It was the second time in two weeks Azarenka, twice a winner at the Australian Open, and Osaka had set up a final showdown.
The pair had been set to meet in the Western and Southern Open final on Aug. 29 until Osaka withdrew due to a hamstring injury.
“I actually don’t want to play you in more finals,” Osaka told Azarenka with a smile during the victory ceremony.
“I didn’t really enjoy that.
“That was a really tough match for me.
“And yes, really inspiring for me because I used to watch you play here when I was younger. So, just to have the opportunity to play you is really great and I learned a lot.”
The presentation ceremony showed the precautions everyone has had to take during the COVID-19 era.
The two finalists had to pick up their respective prizes themselves from a table placed on court and everyone stood socially distant for the obligatory photocall.
As she has done in every match over the past fortnight, Osaka appeared on court with her left thigh strapped.
She also had on a facemask with the name of a Black American victim of police brutality or racial injustice.
For the final it was Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot by police in 2014 while playing with a toy gun in a playgound.
Osaka had already replaced Serena Williams as top earner and now has assumed the leadership mantle that goes with it.
With the United States rocked by unrest following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, just three weeks ago by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Osaka had withdrawn from her semi-final at the Western and Southern Open in protest.
The men’s and women’s tour responded by postponing all the matches that were due to take place on the day of the protest by 24 hours and persuaded Osaka to contest the rescheduled match.
By taking the stand, the 22-year-old activist had made her point.
Azarenka, who ended Serena Williams bid for a record equalling 24th Grand Slam title in the semi-finals, carried that momentum into the final with a near flawless first set.
One of top returners in the women’s game, an energised Azarenka broke the fourth seed to start the final and twice more in a lopsided opening set that took just 27 minutes.
If any spectators had been allowed in Arthur Ashe Stadium, they no doubt would have been left stunned by events as a rampaging Azarenka again broke Osaka at the first opportunity in the second to go 2-0 up.
But Osaka would not lose her composure.
After no aces in the opening set, Osaka, one of the game’s top servers, slowly began to find her mark in the second set.
She hammered down five aces while helping herself to three breaks on way to levelling the match.
In the third set, it was Osaka applying all the early pressure on an increasingly rattled Azarenka.
She took charge with a break to nudge in front 3-1.
Azarenka would show her fighting spirit with a break to get back on serve at 3-4 but Osaka would not be denied, immediately breaking back and holding serve to seal victory.
It marked the first time since Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1994 that a player had dropped the first set of the women’s final and fought back to win the title.
Edited By: Olawale Alabi)
Minister inaugurates committees on sales, distributions of agro-chemical inputs
The FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Aliyu, on Monday in Abuja inaugurated two committees – one for the distribution of grains, and the other for the sales of fertilisers and other agro-chemical inputs.
Aliyu, while inaugurating the committees, said that they would execute the administration’s mandate of ensuring that governance profited the people.
Represented by the Senior Special Assistant on Administration and Strategy, Prof. Muhammad Usman, Aliyu directed the fertiliser sales committees to determine available stock and work out modalities for the sales.
She also said that the committee would make preparations for the flag-off and subsequent sales of the fertilisers, pesticides and agro-chemicals in the FCT.
Aliyu charged the committee members to work diligently to ensure that the exercise met its objectives.
The minister advised the grains distribution committee to ensure that grains wre released from warehouses and made available to the residents of the territory in a manner that was free, fair and transparent.
“As you are aware, the administration buys off excess harvest from our farmers to give them value for their efforts and labour at the end of the season.
“Before the new harvest, when prices are naturally on the increase because of dwindling supply, the administration releases the buffer stocks to ensure that prices are regulated if not drastically reduced, for the benefit of the residents of the territory.
“In the wisdom of the FCT administration, individuals have been carefully selected to be saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring that the exercise meet its objective.
“The grains released from the warehouses must be made available to the residents of the territory in a manner that is free, fair and transparent,” she said.
The minister said that the administration would be counting on the wisdom and the ability of the committee members to diligently discharge the responsibilities diligently.
Speaking on behalf of the two committees, Mr Abdul Agbade, who chairs the committee on grains distribution, promised to deliver on the mandates.
“I want to use this opportunity to thank the Minister of State FCT for the confidence reposed in us. We will not toy with it.
“We will try as much as possible to discharge our responsibilities with the fear of God and in accordance with our terms of reference.
“The prices of food items are going up in the market and the people need to be assisted. We will do our best to ensure that these grains are sold to the people in need,” he said.https://nnn.ng/minister-inaugurates-committees-on-sales-distributions-of-agro-chemical-inputs/
NSCDC prevents thieves from diverting 1,100 litres of PMS across border
The Commandant of NSCDC, Lagos State, Mr Iskil Makinde, at the display of the exhibits in Lagos on Monday said that the thieves were arrested in their boat while they were carting away the product to Benin Republic from Badagary where it was siphoned.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr Makinde assumed duty in Lagos on Aug. 24 following a posting order dated Aug. 17 from Commandant -General of the NSCDC, Abdullahi Mohammadu.
The Commandant said that the incident happened on Sept. 20 and that the products were stocked in polythene bags and kegs.
According to him at the parade, all attempts to stop the culprits initially proved abortive.
“ However, a hot pursuit by the NSCDC marine corps of the thieves made them abandoned the boat in which the products were loaded and jumped into the sea to escape,” he said.
Makinde said that other exhibits recovered at the scene include a wooden canoe which cracked in the course of bringing it to the shore.
“ Also recovered is a 740 HP Yamaha engine used to power the boat,” he said.
The commandant said that the corps would not condone any act of criminality in the state.
“The corps is also assuring the residents of Lagos State of peaceful environment as its personnel are set of ridding the state of all criminal elements,” he said
Edited By: Peter Dada
NCC set to commence cost-based review of new rates for International voice calls services
Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, Director, Public Affairs, NCC, made this known in a statement on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that ITR is the rate paid to local operators by international operators to terminate calls in Nigeria.
Adinde said that as part of the process for the rate determination, the Commission has organised a virtual stakeholders’ engagement forum with relevant industry stakeholders.
He said that the meeting was to intimate them about the ongoing cost-based study and the need to cooperate with Messrs Payday Advance and Support Services Limited, the consultants engaged to carry out the study.
Addressing the stakeholders, NCC Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the study had become imperative following the various implementation constraints arising from contending industry and market dynamics that met previous efforts at finding an optimum price for the termination of international voice services in Nigeria.
Danbatta, said through the new ITR pricing, the Commission would be able to balance the competing objectives of economic efficiency and allowing operators the latitude to generate reasonable revenue.
He, however, explained that in 2013, the Commission issued a determination stating that Mobile Termination Rates (MTR) were the same irrespective of where the call originated from, adding that it was largely misconstrued by operators at that time that ITR should be the same rate as the MTR.
He said this led to operators ignoring the international cost portion, where ITRs were agreed at MTR level without a positive residual to cover the costs of the international leg for local operators.
“As a result of this, the ITRs continued to decline, in line with the MTR glide path and as the ITR was set in naira, it suffered a further downward slide in dollar terms following the currency devaluation.
“Ironically, the Nigerian operators paid the international operators in dollars to deliver international calls which created an imbalance of payments as the ITR in Nigeria declined,” he said.
Danbatta said Nigerian operators’ profitability and commercial results were negatively affected putting Nigeria’s ITR below that of most countries with which it made and received the most calls, thereby making Nigerian operators perpetual net payers.
“According to him, this has, therefore, led to undue pressure on the nation’s foreign reserves, which continued to get depleted by associated net transfers to foreign operators on account of this lop-sidedness.
“Hence the need for Nigeria, with volatile a currency to regulate the ITR to prevent or mitigate the imbalance of payments with international operators.
“Where ITR is not properly regulated, it tends to have negative effect on a market like Nigeria with major supply side challenges and associated socio-economic implications. So, setting a rate substantially above the MTR has resulted in a number of repercussions.
“One of such is the consumer shift to online channels as calls are increasingly made through Internet Protocol (IP)-based technologies such as Skype and WhatsApp because of high international call prices.
“To this end, an economically-efficient ITR that is cost-based will maximise economic benefits to all stakeholders,” he said.
Earlier in her remarks,NCC Director, Policy, Competition and Economic Analysis, Mrs Yetunde Akinloye, said the forum was aimed at formally engaging with and sharing the perspectives and insights of industry stakeholders.
Akinloye said that it was also for ultimately enlisting their collective support in relation to the inputs and requirements towards the determination of a mutually- realistic ITR in Nigeria.
She noted that the project commenced on March 10, with a kick-off meeting but was stalled by the challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating the need to explore emerging channels of engagement to move forward and ensure the completion of the project.
Akinloye reiterated the Commission’s commitment to continuously provide a conducive environment and level-playing field for the effective interplay of factors that would sustain market development and growth.
“This is addition to ensuring the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunications regulatory services for the benefit of consumers and licensees,” she said.
Edited By: Ali Baba-Inuwa
NCDC, NIMR, partners to conduct COVID-19 antibody tests in 4 states
Abuja, Sept. 21, The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the Nigeria Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and their partners are conducting anti-bodies household surveys in four states in Nigeria.
Speaking at the daily briefing of the Presidential Task Force on Monday in Abuja, the Director general of NCDC, Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu said the tests are being conducted to better understand the burden of COVID-19 infection in Nigeria.
“These seroprevalence surveys, which will be carried out in Gombe, Enugu, Nasarawa and Lagos states would provide the best evidence yet, on the extent of COVID-19 infection in the country.
“The seroprevalence surveys are used to identify the occurrence of disease in a population by estimating the presence of antibodies in individuals who have had the disease.
“This is done by testing blood samples in randomly selected households in selected states.
“In addition to this, study participants will also have a rapid malaria test and receive treatment if the test is positive,” he said.
Ihekweazu, said, this is the first set of household surveys to be conducted for COVID-19 in Nigeria and as part of ongoing public health research activities.
“The surveys will increase the current understanding of COVID-19 transmission patterns, the burden of infection in the population, and the age groups most affected.
“This information will help inform COVID-19 response decisions by the Government of Nigeria and partners as part of measures towards ending the pandemic.
” The surveys will also estimate the proportion of people who have COVID-19 but are not showing any symptoms, that is asymptomatic.
“Through this, the country can identify risk factors for infection and measure the transmission of COVID-19 within households,” he explained.
By administering rapid malaria tests, he said, the surveys will also assess malaria infections and their possible relationship to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The results from the surveys, he added, will inform the response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria.
He also stated that the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC) and the University College London (supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) are supporting the NCDC and NIMR in implementing these surveys.
The News Agency of Nigeria, reports that the surveys will be conducted between September and November, and preliminary results are expected to be released by December 2020.
Edited By: Sadiya Hamza https://nnn.ng/ncdc-nimr-partners-to-conduct-covid-19-antibody-tests-in-4-states/