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Naomi Osaka holding US Open trophy.
Osaka shows killer instinct in Grand Slam breakthrough
9 September 2018, 7:04 AM

The killer instinct that carried Japan’s Naomi Osaka to a first Grand Slam title evaporated as she hugged her idol Serena Williams after beating her in a controversial US Open final.

Osaka said it wasn’t the ire of the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd — angered at penalties meted out to Williams — but just the realization that she’d robbed the US great who inspired her career of a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

“I know that she really wanted to have the 24th Grand Slam,” said Osaka, who choked up again herself trying to explain her feelings.

“When I step onto the court, I feel like a different person, right? I’m not a Serena fan. I’m just a tennis player playing another tennis player.

“But then when I hugged her at the net I felt like a little kid again.”

Osaka, 20, looked nothing like a kid as she took the court aiming to become Japan’s first Grand Slam winner.

Undaunted by the massive pro-Williams crowd — extra noisy with the Ashe stadium roof closed because of rain — she broke Williams twice for a quick 4-1 lead in the opening set, displaying the kind of powerful ground game and dominant serve that have made Williams herself a star.

She had locked up the first in style with a blistering service winner when Williams was incensed by a code violation warning for receiving coaching from her box in the second game of the second set.

Although Williams would take a 3-1 lead in the set, the accusation festered, and soon a violation for racquet abuse cost her a point while a third for verbal abuse cost her a game.

“I didn’t know what was going on, I was just trying to focus. Since it was my first Grand Slam final, I did not want to get overwhelmed,” Osaka said.

“Serena came to the bench and told me she had a point penalty and when she got the game penalty I didn’t know that either.

“I was just trying to focus on myself at that time,” Osaka said.

A somewhat muted reaction to her history-making victory had nothing to do with the late-match chaos, Osaka said.

Kei Nishikori is the only other Japanese player to reach a Grand Slam final, and he couldn’t take the last step, falling to Marin Cilic in the 2014 US Open men’s final.

“To have a huge reaction isn’t really me in the first place,” she said. “It just still didn’t really feel that real.”

Osaka, who earned $3.8 million (€3.29 million) for the victory, said her next goal was a simple one: to win her next tournament in Tokyo.

Asked if she was prepared for the reception she’ll receive as the country’s first Grand Slam winner, Osaka said: “Apparently not, because people keep asking me that.”

 

Serena, Osaka ready to write history in US Open final
8 September 2018, 10:45 AM

A year after Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka were both caught up in a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, both will be trying to make history in the US Open final on Saturday.

For Williams, the joy of giving birth for the first time last September was quickly followed by a series of complications that led to multiple life-saving surgeries.

At the same time, precocious Japanese talent Osaka, who grew up idolising Williams, was left wondering if she would ever make it through to the second week of a major after another early exit at Flushing Meadows.

Twelve months on and the duo will contest a high-stakes final where the prize on offer will not only be the $3.8 million winner’s cheque that is up for grabs.

For Williams, victory would allow her to tie Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam titles.

But standing in her way will be a determined Osaka eager to become the first Japanese player to win a singles major.

Williams will undoubtedly have the support of her home crowd but there will be no shortage of love for Osaka, who has won the admiration of New Yorkers over the last fortnight as much for her red-hot game as her cool-headed demeanor.

Osaka and Williams have played against each other once before, at Miami in March, and it was the Japanese upstart who used her formidable power to topple her idol in straight sets.

While Williams refused to read too much into that result considering she was competing in only her second tournament following the birth of Alexis Olympia, the win should offer some added measure of belief for Osaka, who has not been shy about describing her admiration for the American.

“Even when I was a little kid, I always dreamed that I would play Serena in a final of a Grand Slam. Just the fact that it’s happening, I’m very happy about it,” Osaka said after her semi-final win over 2017 runner-up Madison Keys.

“I really feel like I don’t want to overthink this match, so I’m not going to think that she’s so much better than she was in Miami.

“I’m just going to go out there and play. Since I already know she’s a good player, I don’t want to be surprised if she plays better or not.”

Osaka has demonstrated extreme composure to go along with her power game and has only dropped one set while carving a path into the final.

But Williams will represent the stiffest test yet for Osaka after also cruising mostly unchallenged into the final, her only real blip coming in the fourth round when she needed three sets to get by Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Williams, whose first crack at joining Australian Court atop the list of most Grand Slam titles ended in defeat at this year’s Wimbledon final, knows she has come a long way since the Miami defeat to Osaka.

“Well, it was good that I played her because I kind of know how she plays now,” said six-times U.S. Open champion Williams, who will be bidding to join Court, Evonne Goolagong and Kim Clijsters as the only mothers to have won Grand Slam titles in the professional era.

“I mean, I was breast-feeding at the time, so it was a totally different situation. It was what it was. Hopefully I won’t play like that again. I can only go up from that match.”

Alibaba co-founder and chair Jack Ma
Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma announces plans to retire at 54
8 September 2018, 6:55 AM

Alibaba co-founder and chair Jack Ma plans to retire from the Chinese e-commerce giant on Monday to devote his time to philanthropy focused on education, he told the New York Times in an interview.

Ma was an English teacher before starting Alibaba in 1999 and built it into a multibillion-dollar internet colossus, becoming one of the world’s richest men and a revered figure in his homeland.

His own worth has soared along with that of the company, which was valued at $420.8 billion based on its share price at the close of trade on Friday.

Ma told The New York Times that he plans to step down from the company on Monday – his 54th birthday – referring to his departure as “the beginning of an era” rather than an end.

Ma, who gave up the title of CEO in 2013, said he now planned to devote his time and fortune to education.

The way he chose to make the announcement was unusual. The New York Times is blocked in China by Communist Party censors and there was no official statement from Alibaba on Saturday.

But in an interview with Bloomberg TV released on Friday, he hinted at his retirement plans, saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, one of the world’s most prolific philanthropists.

“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier,” he said.

“I think some day, and soon, I’ll go back to teaching,” he said, adding he had been preparing philanthropy plans at his eponymous foundation “for 10 years”.

Ma is part of a generation of billionaire entrepreneurs who made their fortunes as China embraced the digital age, creating some of the country’s largest and most successful companies in the space of little more than a decade.

Huge conglomerates like Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com are to China what Facebook and Google are to the United States.

Ma is the first of his generation of uber-wealthy tech bosses to retire, a rare move in a country where business figures often run their empires well into their 80s — Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing only retired in May at the age of 89.

Ma’s rags-to-riches story is particularly remarkable.

Born into a poor family in Hangzhou, eastern Zhejiang province, Ma became a university teacher but gave the job up after discovering the internet.

After being knocked back by US venture capitalists in 1999, a cash-strapped Ma persuaded friends to give him $60 000 to start Alibaba, which operated out of an apartment in Hangzhou.

Watch Jack Ma hosting President Cyril Ramaphosa:

WATCH: Inquiry into State Capture
6 September 2018, 10:00 AM

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo is hearing all applications for cross-examination of witnesses at the State Capture Commission that is currently on in Parktown, Johannesburg.

On Monday, several people implicated in testimonies by former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor and former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, applied to be cross-examined.

They include Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Hawks officials Major General Zinhle Mnonopi and Mandla Mtolo.

Kaepernick ads spark boycott calls, but Nike is seen as winning in the end
5 September 2018, 7:03 AM

Protesters burned their Nike shoes, investors sold shares and some consumers demanded a boycott after the footwear and apparel maker launched an advertising campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who sparked a national controversy by kneeling during the national anthem.

But the brand recognition that comes with the campaign may be just what the company wanted, and marketing experts predicted it would ultimately succeed.

The ad revived a raging debate in the United States that started in 2016 when Kaepernick, then with the San Francisco 49ers, began kneeling to protest multiple police shootings of unarmed black men.

“This is right on the money for Nike. They stand for this irreverent, rebellious attitude. In this case, it’s reinforcing the brand,” said Erich Joachimsthaler, CEO of strategy consulting firm Vivaldi.

While some fans praised Kaepernick and other players who joined him in kneeling as patriotic dissenters, critics led by US President Donald Trump blasted the protesters as ungrateful and disrespectful.

Trump called Nike’s campaign “a terrible decision” in an interview with the Daily Caller published on Tuesday, but he also showed some respect for Kaepernick’s right to speak out.

“As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way ” I mean, I wouldn’t have done it. In another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do,” Trump said.

The NFL, which gave in to pressure from Trump and ordered players not to kneel on the field during the anthem, nonetheless praised Kaepernick.

“The social justice issues that Colin and other professional athletes have raised deserve our attention and action,” said Jocelyn Moore, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs.

In the immediate backlash against the campaign, announced on Monday, Nike shares fell nearly 4 percent at one point on Tuesday and closed down 3.2%.

Calls for a boycott fed social media buzz about the campaign. There were 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the previous 24 hours, the social media analysis firm Talkwalker said at midday, an increase of 135 percent over the previous week.

After his protests, Kaepernick could not find a job for the 2017 season and sued the National Football League, accusing owners of colluding to blackball him. He is still without a team.

Nike has sponsored Kaepernick since 2011 and said he will be one of several faces for a campaign marking the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan.

The ad refers to Kaepernick’s loss of NFL income with the quote: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Some who were offended by the choice posted social media pictures of Nike shoes they had set on fire or socks with the Nike swoosh cut out.

Twitter user Sean Clancy, or @sclancy79, posted a picture of a pair of Nike trainers on fire on Tuesday that was retweeted 20 000 times.

Athletes including Serena Williams, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul showed support.

The controversy may have been a convenient excuse for some investors to sell an over-valued stock, Vivaldi’s Joachimsthaler said.

Christopher Svezia, a footwear and apparel analyst at Wedbush Securities Inc., said Nike shares were trading at roughly 30 times next year’s forecast earnings, compared with 24 percent for rival Adidas.

“Nike more than anyone else really knows who their customer is,” Svezia said, describing them as largely 14- to 22-year-old males.

Matt Powell, a senior adviser with market research firm NPD Group, predicted the boycott would fizzle. “Old angry white guys are not a core demographic for Nike,” he said.

Barry Lowenthal, CEO of The Media Kitchen, praised the campaign and said Nike has long proven successful in using celebrity endorsements to promote its brand, a precursor to what is known as influencer marking in the social media age.

“These kind of endorsement deals were the first version of influencer marketing. Of course they know it works. It’s classic product placement,” Lowenthal said.

Even former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighed in, tweeting: “The #NFL season will start this week, unfortunately once again @Kaepernick7 is not on a NFL roster.”

 

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