Three-time champion Serena Williams began her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title with a straight-sets victory over Irina-Camelia Begu, to prevail in the first night match staged at Roland Garros.
Williams, who lifted the French Open title in 2002, 2013 and 2015, is no stranger to making history, and she wrote yet another chapter in her illustrious career with a 7-6 6-2 victory over her spirited Romanian opponent.
There were no fans in attendance on court Phillipe Chatrier due to the 9pm curfew in Paris, but there was no shortage of drama as Williams secured her 363rd Grand Slam victory, equalling Roger Federer’s tally following the Swiss’ victory earlier in the afternoon.
The 39-year-old arrived in Paris having lost two of her three matches on clay in 2021, and she was given a major scare by Begu in a gruelling opening set.
Begu reached the fourth round at Roland Garros in 2016, and with four singles titles under her belt, she posed a greater threat than her world No 74 ranking may have indicated.
After the pair exchanged early holds, Williams was forced to fend off two break points; following up a deft forehand slice with a crunching backhand winner to retain her serve, before breaking Begu moments later.
The 30-year-old responded immediately to reduce the arrears, although Williams showcased her movement, power and precision with a stunning forehand winner to restore her cushion, before firing in back-to-back aces to move 5-2 ahead.
Begu rallied magnificently by reeling off four consecutive games to seize control of the set, but she was unable to serve it out, as a series of fine returns from the seventh seed helped her force a tie-break.
The pendulum swung at regular intervals during a compelling breaker, but Williams displayed tremendous resolve to survive two set points, with a sequence of four straight points bookended by fearless forehand volleys.
The second set was a more comfortable affair for the 23-time Grand Slam singles champion, who followed up an immediate break of serve with a dominant hold, sealed courtesy of a delicious drop shot.
Begu still displayed moments of quality; a sensational running forehand winner at 3-2 down in the second set sparked applause from her decorated opponent, but it was not enough to overcome the indomitable Williams, who has now won 77 of her 78 first-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments.
The American veteran, who is bidding to match Margaret Court’s haul of 24 Grand Slam singles titles, will take on another Romanian for a place in round three, as she locks horns with world No 174 Mihaela Buzarnescu.
“It wasn’t easy in that first set. I was up and I felt like I had some opportunities and she played really well,” Williams reflected in her post-match interview.
“She [Begu] is a really good player, she has so many good wins, so I’m happy I was able to pull that first set and eventually the match.”
Earlier in the day, Sofia Kenin defeated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in a battle of the former Grand Slam winners.
Last year’s finalist Kenin – who claimed Australian Open glory in 2020 – prevailed 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a topsy-turvy tussle, which featured 16 breaks of serve.
Kenin converted nine of her 10 break points across the contest, to set up a second-round showdown against her fellow American Hailey Baptiste.
Elsewhere, two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza crashed out in the opening round, losing out 6-1 6-4 to Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk.
KQ resumes Mumbai flights after 4 months
- Kenya Airways will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
- The airline in a notice to its customers yesterday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.
Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ will on Thursday resume flights to Mumbai, ending a four-month hiatus that was occasioned by increased cases of Covid-19 in the Asian state.
The airline in a notice to its customers Monday said it will resume its operations on the route on September 16, 2021 with the first flight departing Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7am to arrive in Mumbai at 3:45 pm.
The airline will then resume full operations on the route on September 20, flying three times per week on the Indian route, which is one of the most lucrative destinations on its network.
Passengers on the route will part with Sh46,000 ($419) for one-way air ticket on economy class seats from Nairobi to Mumbai- prices that are relatively the same compared to what it was charging before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Welcome back onboard! Fly from Nairobi to Mumbai starting Thursday 16th September with normal schedules resuming from Monday 20th September 2021,” said the airline in a notice to its customers yesterday.
KQ Suspended passenger flights to and from Mumbai on April 30 until further notice, following a government directive on travel between India and Kenya due to a Covid-19 crisis in that country.
The airline said on Friday that passengers who had booked tickets after May 1, the date of the last flight from Mumbai to Nairobi, will have to change their plans.
Affected passengers, KQ said, could also take vouchers for the value of their fare for future travel within 12 months.
India has seen soaring infection rates in the recent days, since the discovery of a new virus variant. Last month, India put on lockdown one of the states following a spike in cases of Covid-19.
Other countries that have banned flights to India include France, the UK Bangladesh, Oman and Hong Kong that have banned travel to and from India or asked their nationals coming from the Asian country to isolate themselves in government-approved hotels.
India has so far detected 33,264,175 corona virus cases with the number of deaths hitting 442,874 as at September 13.
A large number of patients from Kenya also travel to India every year for specialised medical treatment, especially cancer care, helping to drive medical tourism in the densely populated country that boasts affordable and easily accessible healthcare.
Lower import volumes push mitumba prices to new highs
- Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
- Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
- Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.
The average price of a tonne of second-hand clothing items imported into the country crossed the Sh100,000 mark for the first time last year on reduced volumes in the wake of safety protocols and guidelines to curb spread of coronavirus.
Traders paid Sh100,527 on average per tonne of the used clothes, popularly called mitumba, compared to Sh96,286 the previous year.
Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) banned importation of the clothes from late March through mid-August in a bid to contain the spread of the life-threatening coronavirus infections.
Findings of the Economic Survey 2021 suggests dealers shipped in 121,778 tonnes of mitumba in 2020, a 34.02 percent fall compared with 2019 and the lowest volumes since 2015.
Last year’s drop was the first dip since 2011 when 76,533 tonnes were shipped in compared with 80,423 tonnes the previous year, the official data collated by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) shows.
The import bill for the merchandise amounted to Sh12.24 billion, a drop of 31.11 percent, or Sh5.53 billion, year-on-year.
TIn imposing the temporary ban on used clothes, Kebs had applied a standard which prohibits buying second-hand clothes from countries experiencing epidemics to ensure disease-causing microorganisms are not imported into Kenya.
Higher quality and relatively lower prices for mitumba has continued to drive demand for used clothes at expense of locally-made products amid higher margins enjoyed by traders largely operating in informal markets.
The lucrative second-hand clothing market has seen traders from China —a key source market for the merchandise —open shops in Gikomba, Kenya’s largest informal market for mitumba, in recent years to cash in rising demand.
Earnings from exports of articles of apparel and clothing accessories fell 5.32 percent to Sh32.92 billion last year compared with 2019, data indicates.
Court backs Atwoli union in horticulture membership feud
- A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
- Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.
A trade union that is led by the long-serving Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) boss Francis Atwoli has survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.
Newly registered Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (Kefhau) had filed as a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.
Mr Atwoli is the secretary-general of KPAWU. The rival union claimed KPAWU had encroached on its area of workers’ representation.
Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.
He also stated that Kefhau must go beyond its registration and recruit sufficient members from the employers, to be granted recognition and organisational rights.
“Registration on its own, does not afford the claimant (Kefhau) recognition. Until there is proof that Kefhau has satisfied Section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, the status quo must be maintained,” said the judge.
“Kefhau must recruit at least 50 percent plus one, of the unionisable employees in the floriculture and horticulture industry, members of the Agricultural Employers Association to be considered for recognition,” he stated.
He noted that there is a Recognition Agreement and CBA, binding Mr Atwoli’s union and Agricultural Employers Association, affecting 73 Flower Growers Group of employers, and over 60,000 employees.
“It is objectionable for Kefhau to be allowed organisational rights, and the legitimacy to receive trade union dues and agency fees, from over 60,000 employees, just on the strength of registration as a trade union,” said the judge.
Kefhau wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s from representing workers in that area.