July 08, 2019
Two years after Johanna Konta raised national expectations to giddy heights at Wimbledon with a stirring run to the semi-finals, she set speculation racing again by beating the two-times champion Petra Kvitova in three sets.
Johanna Konta battles past Petra Kvitova to reach Wimbledon last eight
All summer, Konta has been rewriting bits and pieces of British tennis history so it was no surprise she should return to that familiar territory after this edgy 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win in two hours and 25 minutes on a balmy, barmy day on Centre Court, where she almost blew a 5-1 lead in the deciding set.
No 1 Court had already witnessed the low-key exit of the American teenager Cori Gauff, who found the former world No 1 Simona Halep way too strong in two quick sets. Uncertainty ruled.
Next up for Konta on Tuesday is another Czech, Barbora Strycova, ranked 54 in the world and who took nearly two and a quarter hours to beat 21st seed Elize Mertens 4, 6-7-5, 6-2 on court 12. Strycova won her only match against Konta, in two close sets in the fourth round on the hard court of Tokyo two years ago, which is not much of a guide. However, no matter who Konta plays in the next week, the burden of expectation will not dissipate.
Her numbers against the other remaining contenders on her side of the draw are encouraging: 3-0 over Alison Riske, who eliminated Ashleigh Barty, the world No 1; and 1-1 against Serena Williams, her win coming when they last met, a dramatic 6-1, 6-0 thrashing in wretched circumstances in San Jose last year – on the day the American heard her half-sister’s killer had been released from prison.
Konta has now won more matches on grass, 32, over the past four years than anyone on the Tour. Another three and she will be even more deliriously happy than she was courtside after seeing off Kvitova.
“Of course there was a little bit of nerves,” she said, “but I don’t put it down to nerves me not coming through that 5-3 game [in the third set, when she blew two match points]. The balls were coming at me at 100 miles an hour. She was playing really well and I was expecting to go to five-all at one point. I feel truly grateful to be here and am happy to still be here against the best players in the world.”
So, to return to the ever-lingering conundrum, can she match the heroics of Virginia Wade, the last British player to win the women’s title here, in 1977? The advice from Martina Navratilova, who won nine Wimbledons, was simple and direct: “She has to think: ‘Why not?’ You have to think you have a chance.”
Konta had a blinding clay season, culminating in a semi-final at Roland Garros, the first British player to get that far since Jo Durie in 1983. Since then, she has consolidated her grass form and arrived at Wimbledon in upbeat mood, fit and confident she could do as well as in 2017, perhaps better. But she knew Kvitova would be no pushover, even though she was undercooked and recovering from a right arm injury.
Johanna Konta battles past Petra Kvitova to reach Wimbledon last eight
Nerve, or bottle, comes in many forms, and Konta’s drop shot – a high-risk shot on grass if the bounce betrays the executioner – to hold for three-all was ample demonstration of that.
The grass, which behaved well in a dry, warm first week, showed occasional signs of bringing players down – literally – and the strain on knees to scoop under a flat, hard Konta forehand brought the best out of Kvitova on her way to a solid hold. The momentum was with the Czech in the early exchanges – but Konta showed in coming back hard at Sloane Stephens that she is always dangerous.
This time, Kvitova hit a rhythm that Konta could not match, and the first set was hers.
For all that there is widespread love for Kvitova, after her recovery from a knife attack two and a half years ago – not to mention her universal popularity in the locker room, where she has won the votes of her WTA colleagues six years in a row to win the Karen Krantzcke sportsmanship award – the cheers in the second set were for Konta when she broke at the first opportunity.
In a second game that went beyond 10 minutes through seven deuce points, Konta needed two aces to complete a significant hold under the most intense counterattack from Kvitova. She was leading 2-0 but it felt more like parity.
Kvitova faltered again with a weary backhand to hand Konta another break for 3-0. Konta had to ignore a marginal replay of her serve at 15-0 in the fourth game – which tested her “acceptance” philosophy – to hold for 5-1. A superb lob and a line-skimming backhand got Konta to set point on Kvitova’s serve, but she held.
Konta had the trainer on during the break to tape her left foot – and struck a third ace to level at a set apiece after an hour and a half. Nice, tidy work. She said later: “I tripped over my foot and it was a little bit sore, I just wanted to give it some support. It’s normal.”
A quarter of an hour into the deciding frame, Konta struck a wicked backhand that kissed the line for a crucial break, and held comfortably to lead 3-1. All was looking routine until nerves trembled her racket in the eighth game, when she twice squandered match points and saved three of four break opportunities.
The crowd’s anxiety levels rose appreciably as Kvitova held to love and Konta had her second chance to finish the job – which she did, relieved and ecstatic when her opponent’s backhand drifted long.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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