Weekly Roundup: ATP Winners

Atlanta

Andy Roddick recovered from a dreadful first set to take the Atlanta title against Gilles Muller. Roddick took a mini-break in the first point of Muller’s serve in the tiebreak and never looked back, breaking the Luxembourger twice in the third set to earn the victory 1-6 7-6(2) 6-2 for his second title of the year. Roddick and Muller both served huge, with the pair hitting 18 and 20 aces respectively. Meanwhile the doubles title was won by Matthew Ebden and Ryan Harrison, the duo earned their second doubles title as a team (Newport ’11 first) by defeating Xavier Malisse and Michael Russell in three sets 6-3 3-6 10-6.

Source: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Gstaad

Thomaz Bellucci gained revenge for his defeat against Janko Tipsarevic a week ago in Stuttgart by defeating this Serb in this week’s final in Switzerland. After an incredible double fault to gift away the first set, it looked like Bellucci may falter once more but this was not to be the case as Bellucci took control of the match, breaking to love at 5-4* up in the second set to take it. Bellucci started the third set fast, and broke in the first service game of Tipsarevic’s and never looked back as he earned his second title of the year (Braunschweig Challenger) with a (6)6-7 6-4 6-2 victory. The doubles were taken by the Spanish pairing of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez who didn’t drop a set through out the whole tournament. Granollers and Lopez beat Robert Farah and Santiago Giraldo 6-4 7-6 to add the Gstaad title to the Rome title they earned a few months back.

Source: @opengstaad

Hamburg

Another to recover from being defeated by Janko Tipsarevic last week is the losing finalist Juan Monaco who took the Hamburg title with victory over Tommy Haas.  Monaco had a slow start, going down a break to the German early on, but made an excellent comeback to win the set 7-5. The second set was fairly similar as the pair traded breaks, including in the seventh and eighth games of the set before Monaco finally served it out, winning the last two games of the match for a 7-5 6-4 victory. Fernando Verdasco and David Marrero earned their fourth title of the year (Buenos Aires, Acapulco, Umag) as a duo with a 6-4 6-3 over the pair who only made it into the draw as alternates Rogerio Dutra Silva and Daniel Munoz-De La Nava.

Source: AAP

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Shanghai Heights

Andy Murray wins Japan Open 2011 over Nadal Following the conclusion of the Shanghai Masters, Andy Murray will rise to number three in the world after taking the title in China as part of his immense end-of-season form.

The Brit has now won three consecutive titles to surpass Roger Federer as the world’s third best player. It’s the first time Federer has been outside the top three since winning Wimbledon in 2003.

If Murray can build on that and finish the year-end rankings at No.3 then it could be hugely significant for the future of men’s tennis.

Federer is clearly in decline having not won a Grand Slam title since the 2010 Australian Open and the chances of him adding to his 16-strong tally are getting exceedingly unlikely at the age of 30.

For 24-year-old Murray, he is now in a very strong position. Should he make the third spot his own, his opponent in any future Grand Slam semi-final will most likely turn out to be Novak Djokovic.

Though playing the current world number one sounds daunting Murray has had a decent record over the Serb in the past. Djokovic was something of a surprise package this year having only won two majors in his career before 2011 to now holding three of the four.

That surprise element won’t be at his disposal next year and Murray can learn from Djokovic’s ability to convert a No.3 spot in the world to the top during the winter break.

The ultimatum of winning a major is still a great one with Djokovic’s currently unstoppable form and Rafael Nadal waiting in the wings but at least the greatest player of all time looks to be going in the opposite direction to help him out.

Elsewhere in Shanghai, there was a great run from Japan’s Kei Nishikori – a player Ace of Baseline has been tracking all year.

The 21-year-old reached his first Masters semi-final after wins over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Alexandr Dolgopolov before being beaten by Murray.

Nishikori will now become the highest ranked male Japanese player of all time beating Shuzo Matsuoka’s record of No.46 which he’d already equalled. He’s now expected to be just outside the top 30.

Another player who’s enjoyed success this year is Bernard Tomic who defeated the second top 10 player of his career when he took out Mardy Fish in the second round.

Ryan Harrison lost at the same stage to Matthew Ebden having beaten Viktor Troicki in the previous round.

Home Sweet Home

Could Christina McHale be the new queen of American tennis? The in-form 19-year-old has backed up her win against world number one Caroline Wozniacki in Cincinnati with a straight sets victory over Marion Bartoli at the US Open.

If it’s not her then perhaps her fellow teens Coco Vandeweghe or Sloane Stephens could take the mantle from Serena Williams.

At the age of 31 and after pulling out of the US Open second round with illness there doesn’t seem many more opportunities for her sister Venus to help keep America’s head above water.

The pair are mostly looking towards the Olympic Games next year as their main challenge, as indicated by their scheduled Fed Cup participation, and so the younger players have got until then to step up.

So far they’re doing better than expected. Vandeweghe won a Grand Slam match for the first time in her career at the age of 19 while Stephens has already achieved a maiden victory at a major aged 18.

There was also good news for wildcard junior Madison Keys as the 16-year-old made it to the second round on debut before suffering defeat to Lucie Safarova despite winning the first set against the 27th seed.

Add that to Irina Falconi’s third round run, Vania King’s progress and Lauren Davis also coming through, the USA has hope again.

Be wary though. Melanie Oudin, a quarter-finalist at the US Open in 2009, crashed out of the first round this year to compound a miserable 2011 which has seen her ranking drop well outside the top 100.

At least this time around there is strength in numbers and with a top 20 containing a lot of players in their mid-20s there’s every chance at least one of these youngsters could crack it at the top.

Christina McHale

While several women progressed in the competition, for 19-year-old Ryan Harrison it proved too much of a task to overcome Marin Cilic as he showed signs of promise but ultimately lost out due to a wavering mentality.

Jack Sock has emerged as a promising new face though after beating former top 50 player Marc Gicquel and faces what could be a changing of the guard match with the declining Andy Roddick in the second round.

The 18-year-old Sock won the junior event in New York last year which earned him his wildcard to this year’s men’s singles and with Bjorn Fratengelo a junior winner at the French Open this year, there’s hope for the future in both categories.

Elsewhere things are looking up for British tennis too. Heather Watson may have been beaten by former champion Maria Sharapova but forced the Russian into a third set and tested her all the way.

It was Laura Robson who shone the most though. She made the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time without the help of a wildcard after coming through qualifying. She then won her first round match, leading her opponent before she retired, but succumbed to Anabel Medina Garrigues after making several unforced errors.

The run will give her a great boost in both ranking points and morale as her year had been disappointing at one stage, having dropped out of the top 200.

Other noteworthy results to report are Ernests Gulbis‘ straight sets win against Mikhail Youzhny, Bernard Tomic’s victory over Michael Yani and Grigor Dimitrov’s loss to Gael Monfils. Bojana Jovanovski and Rebecca Marino lost their opening matches in the women’s singles but Simona Halep defeated French Open champion Li Na in a shock result.

All results for the men’s singles and women’s singles so far can be found via the US Open website.

Post-Wimbledon Blues

In my early youth I believed June was the worst month of the year for sport; then I became a tennis fan and quickly realised July tops it by a long stretch.

Summer sports like golf and cricket don’t fill the void left by the football season’s conclusion and, besides the first week where the Wimbledon schedule spills over, tennis doesn’t either.

All the top players disappear for two to three weeks once Sue Barker’s wrapped up the closing ceremony on Centre Court and, due to my UK residency, so does the coverage of the sport.

Luckily I have a companion who bets and he’s always looking for a tennis punt. He’s been keeping me updated on which players have been making the most of this July tennis drought.

Here’s a summary:

The next big buzz after Wimbledon came from the Davis Cup. Bernard Tomic and Kei Nishikori were in action for Australia and Japan with both helping their respective countries to victory. Japan will next face India with the Aussies taking on Switzerland when the World Group Play-offs commence in September.

Ksenia Pervak continued her recent good form by reaching the semi-finals of the Gastein Ladies and losing out to third in the world Vera Zvonareva at the Baku Cup. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova lost in the quarter-finals of the latter event.

In a tournament where John Isner was the top seed, Grigor Dimitrov couldn’t make the most of another grass court event after his second round exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at Wimbledon. He lost to 18-year-old American Denis Kudla in Newport, Rhode Island before travelling to Atlanta and falling to Rajeev Ram in the first round despite being seeded fifth. In the same tournament, Ryan Harrison reached the semi-finals before losing to eventual champion Mardy Fish. Harrison is also well inside the top 100 and improving on his highest ever ranking position all the time while Dimitrov is still at a respectable #57.

Wimbledon semi-finalist Sabine Lisicki continued her remarkable comeback by reaching the same stage of the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, joining 22-year-old Dominika Cibulkova. The German was cast aside by an imperious Serena Williams whilst the Slovakian had to retire before her match with Marion Bartoli but her ranking has improved to world number 16.

Youngsters Tamira Paszek and Irina Falconi both made the semi-finals of the WTA International tournament the Citi Open. Austrian 20-year-old Paszek made the quarter-finals of Wimbledon and has seen her world ranking increase to number 36 in the world while American 21-year-old Falconi is back in the top 100. Bojana Jovanovski made the quarter-finals and Eugenie Bouchard reached the second round as a wildcard.

As the hard court events got underway Ernests Gulbis produced a stunning turnaround from recent form. The 22-year-old ended a five-match slump to win his first round match at the Los Angeles Tennis Open against fifth seed Xavier Malisse. From then on the Latvian seemed re-born, smashing former US Open champion Juan Martin Del Potro 6-2, 6-4 en route to winning the tournament outright 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 against top 10 player Mardy Fish in the final. He’s now rose 29 places to number 55 in the world.

Ernests Gulbis

Wimbledon 2011 – Ranking Review

The grass court season is over and with the end of Wimbledon it means more ranking points have been lost or gained during the fortnight.

The women’s top 20 is pretty much unchanged with Petra Kvitova up one place after her Grand Slam success, progressing two steps further than her performance last year.

Sabine Lisicki is the biggest mover in the top 100 after having no ranking points to defend and then duly making it to the semi-finals. She’s jumped 35 places from #62 to #27 and sits just six places from her highest ever ranking position which she achieved in 2009.

Laura Robson’s first round victory was enough to see her enter the top 200 again and to a career high of #185.

The 17-year-old beat Angelique Kerber and rattled eventual finalist Maria Sharapova but lost to the Russian. She can now take heart from a season which looked like a step backwards as she’s now 32 places ahead of where she started in January having been much lower than that.

After always being behind her sister Karolina, Kristyna Pliskova has now moved ahead of her 19-year-old twin following a first round appearance against Marion Bartoli thanks to getting though qualifying. The Czech left-hander is in a career high position of #188.

Austrian Tamira Paszek has moved into the top 50 from #80 after the 20-year-old’s quarter-final run as Bojana Jovanovski dropped out of it.

There were also ranking rises for Rebecca Marino, Christina McHale and Coco Vandeweghe. Heather Watson remained at #106 and one place ahead of 19-year-old Misaki Doi who has shot up from #133.

The significant mover from the men’s tour was not surprising. Bernard Tomic’s breakthrough quarter-final run as a qualifier means he’s not only into the top 100 but deep into it at #71, an increase of 87 places.

Fellow 19-year-old Ryan Harrison is on the edge of the top 100 after qualifying and progressing to the second round. He’s at an agonising 101 in the world.

Grigor Dimitrov and Kei Nishikori both went up two places after second round appearances and had decent matches against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Lleyton Hewitt respectively.

Milos Raonic and Alexandr Dolgopolov dropped a solitary place and are next to each other in the mid-20’s of the rankings. They’ll be looking at the return of the hard courts to make further impact this season.

Sabine Returns

Prior to Sabine Lisicki’s incredible victory against French Open champion Li Na, this post was due to be titled “Anyone for bagels?” as the young players struggled to make an impact at Wimbledon this year.

Two 19-year-olds in Melanie Oudin and Kristyna Pliskova were destroyed 6-0 in their opening sets of the first round before going out to Ana Ivanovic and Marion Bartoli respectively.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, another 19-year-old, made it to the second round but after reaching the quarter-finals at Roland Garros and being 14th seed it was a surprise to see her lose in straight sets to Nadia Petrova.

Sticking with the pre-20 age group Simona Halep almost produced a stunning result against one of the title favourites Serena Williams.

The Romanian, who beat Bojana Jovanovski in round one, took the first set versus Williams before the American turned up the heat and showed why she’s won at The All England Club for the past two years. Halep eventually lost 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 and saved suffering a bagel in the last set.

Second round casualties also came for Rebecca Marino, Polona Hercog and Christina McHale with the latter producing a great first round result beating 28th seed Ekaterina Makarova 8-6 in the third set.

Speaking of 8-6 in the third set, Sabine Lisicki is now firmly back amongst top level tennis again. You may have heard her story several times over the last few hours but it’s worth repeating.

Ranked outside the top 200 this year having been out for seven months with a severe ankle injury, the current world number 62 and Aegon Classic champion saved two match points to reach the third round of Wimbledon over Chinese sensation Li Na.

The tennis was outstanding, the drama even better and now her chances of equalling the quarter-final run she had in 2009 is seemingly possible.

Her next opponent is another Asian player but with very much less experience. Japan’s Misaki Doi is 19-years-old and ranked outside the top 100 but has come through qualifying and Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ tennis ball sleeves along the way to the third round.

Another good match-up is Maria Sharapova vs. Laura Robson. If Robson wants to announce herself on the WTA Tour then she’ll have no better chance to do so against the woman who won at SW19 as a 17-year-old.

Robson is at that age now and although her chances of emulating her junior win on centre court in the seniors, a victory over the fifth seed would top anything she’s done in her career up to this point.

For her compatriot Heather Watson, it was a disappointing end to a steady-looking win as an elbow injury ultimately left her serving redundant and an often wild Mathilde Johansson took the match 2-6 6-4 6-4.

The men didn’t have much luck either although there were some promising signs which still need to be decided tomorrow.

Grigor Dimitrov has been likened to Roger Federer and you can see why. He possesses such talent and looks like a Grand Slam winner of the future.

This year Jo-Wilfried Tsonga proved to much of a task to overcome after several rain delays but the recently turned 20-year-old fought all the way to the end, producing wonderful tennis along the way.

On the other courts Bernard Tomic and Ryan Harrison were busy announcing why they’ve been hyped along with Dimitrov.

Tomic continues tomorrow against Igor Andreev after winning the third set to make it 2-1 and David Ferrer will try to come back from 2-1 down against Harrison.

Elsewhere the dream third round tie between Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal didn’t materialise after the Canadian had to retire in the previous round whilst Kei Nishikori battled but couldn’t prevent Lleyton Hewitt rolling back the years and taking a first round win. Alexandr Dolgopolov also lost to Fernando Gonzalez in the opening round.

Serb Your Enthusiasm

On the day former champion Ana Ivanovic crashed out of the French Open, new talent Bojana Jovanovski showed why Serbian tennis still has a bright future.

The 19-year-old is the youngest player in the top 50 of the women’s game and in her first round match against Andrea Petkovic she showed why she’s there.

She did lose 6-4, 7-6 (7-3) but had taken several breaks and even led *5-2 in the second set before eventually being rolled over by the 15th seed. Yet I found her match enthralling and I also think Jovanovski is my new favourite player on the WTA tour.

Let me just point out, I had been subjected to Aravane Rezai’s dour show on Day 2 as well as the appallingly bad match between Patty Schynder and Sorana Cirstea beforehand so that might have played a part but I thought Jovanovski was great.

Her forehand in particular produced some thunderous shots down the line which culminated in her 31 winners but 41 unforced errors along with Petkovic turning up a gear towards the end of the match ultimately lost it for her.

My only qualm is she reminds me of Vicky Pollard (just the hairstyle and earrings). However I’m looking forward to watching her hopefully progress into a future household name.

caroline Garcia

An even younger player did make the second round though. French wildcard Caroline Garcia beat experienced campaigner Zuzana Ondraskova to set up a meeting with Maria Sharapova.

The 17-year-old had also reached the second round of the Australian Open this year and although further progress this week looks unlikely, she could improve France’s underachieving status in the sport with Mary Pierce and Amelie Mauresmo now just memories.

Heather Watson could do the same for British tennis. She’s already become the first British woman to reach the second round at Roland Garros for 17 years. Elena Baltacha may be slightly miffed having won her match against Watson’s close friend Sloane Stephens.

Fellow American prospects Christina McHale and Coco Vandeweghe also lost to Sara Errani and Maria Kirilenko respectively whilst Melanie Oudin couldn’t upset current title-holder Francesca Schiavone.

In the mens’ singles there were also some good results for the emerging players.

Kei Nishikori has reached the second round for the second consecutive year after beating Yen-Hsun Lu. He’ll have to defeat 31st seed Sergiy Stakhovsky if he’s to top his longest run at the French Open.

Ryan Harrison got a place in the first round thanks to a lucky loser spot and almost took full advantage before fifth seed Robin Soderling finished him off. The 19-year-old looked fully out of his depth when his Swedish opponent destroyed him 6-1 in the first set before the American took the second on a tiebreak.

Despite then breaking Soderling many times throughout the rest of the match he couldn’t keep his own service game together and lost a spirited display in four sets.

To summarise, it’s been a great first round for the young tennis players, especially the women. Some of the other selected results are:

MS: Carlos Berlocq (ARG) d. Bernard Tomic (AUS) 7-5, 6-4, 6-2

MS: Michael Berrer (GER) d. Milos Raonic 26 (CAN) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4

MS: Alexandr Dolgopolov 21 (UKR) d. Rainer Schuettler (GER) 6-3, 6-3, 6-1

WS: Rebecca Marino (CAN) d. Kateryna Bondarenko (UKR) 6-3, 6-3

WS: Simona Halep (ROU) d. Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) 6-2, 6-1

WS: Gisela Dulko (ARG) d. Irina Falconi (USA) 6-3, 6-4

WS: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 14 (RUS) d. Yaroslava Shvedova (KAZ) 7-5, 6-3

WS: Polona Hercog (SLO) d. Olivia Sanchez (FRA) 6-0, 6-1

French Open 2011

Over the last few days I don’t think I’ve ever wrote as much Italian before in my life, so I’m taking a break from Milan’s Trofeo Bonfiglio and looking towards the slightly wider covered French Open in Paris.

Qualifying has already finished and today the main draw was decided with help from current and former champion Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic.

My blog will cover the junior tournament most prominently but with that not scheduled to start until 30th May I will pay attention to the young players coming through who have been seen here previously and even some new faces.

The thing about a Grand Slam is one good run and you’re in the top 10 or 20 in the world when before no one had heard of you unless they were the die-hard sitting-in-the-rain-for-10-hours-to-get-in-court-18 kind of fans. Petra Kvitova and Tsvetana Pironkova will testify to that.

Sloane Stephens (USA)

News, so far, is good for Heather Watson and Sloane Stephens, two players who have had a mention on Ace of Baseline before and whom I track frequently.

American Stephens is a particular surprise after overcoming the top seed Anastasia Pivovarova in the last round of qualifying 6-3, 6-4.

Watson didn’t drop a set in making the main draw and joins fellow British players Elena Baltacha and Anne Keothavong who qualified outright based on their ranking positions.

In the men’s qualifying, Ryan Harrison lost to another youngster in Spaniard Javier Marti. The 19-year-old won the third round match 6-2, 7-5 and will face fellow countryman and qualifier Albert Ramos in the main draw.

Elsewhere in the main draw match-ups, I may have to cut down my coverage of Milos Raonic as the Canadian looks like he’s made it. Seeded 26th, he’ll face Michael Berrer in the first round and could face Andy Murray in the last 16 should all go to plan. The next step is asserting a top 10 position.

Other noteworthy matches are wildcard Bernard Tomic vs. Carlos Berlocq, Kei Nishikori vs. Lu Yen-Hsun and in the women’s draw the youngsters have it tough with Maria Kirilenko vs. Coco Vandeweghe, Andrea Petkovic vs. Bojana Jovanovski and Francesca Schiavone vs. Melanie Oudin.

For the full qualifying results and more, check out the Roland Garros website where the main draws for the men’s singles and women’s singles are also available.

Well, Well, Wells

The quarter-final line-up for the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has been decided and for some of the up and coming tennis stars it’s been a very productive tournament.

Ryan Harrison impressed the most after reaching the fourth round as a wildcard entry. En route he beat top 50 Frenchman Jeremy Chardy and 22nd seed Guillermo Garcia-Lopez before Roger Federer dispatched of the American in straight sets.

It was far from an easy ride for the 16-time Grand Slam winner though as Harrison took the first set to a tiebreak which the former world number one edged 7-4 before securing the second with a more comfortable 6-3 scoreline.

In the previous round Harrison had met another young prodigy in Milos Raonic. The 20-year-old Canadian defeated home favourite Mardy Fish to reach the third round but lacked the same sharpness which earned him his first ATP Tour title last month.

However, 17 aces as well as some great baseline work from Raonic showed the class he possesses and he’s now flown out to Miami in preparation for the Sony Ericsson Open.

Ernests Gulbis had looked in good form going into his third round tie with Serbian Novak Djokovic after beating Taiwan no.1 Yen-Hsun Lu but this year’s Australian Open winner kept his 2011 unbeaten streak intact with a 6-0, 6-1 blitz.

Elsewhere Aussie Bernard Tomic reached the second round whilst further American success came from Ryan Sweeting, Donald Young and Sloane Stephens from the women’s draw.

Kim Clijsters has already declared she’s a fan of 17-year-old Stephens who lost to world number one Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.

Certainly the experience gained as well as the ranking points earned from the combined ATP Masters 1000 and WTA Premier event will aid all the successful young players with Harrison already carving a name for himself.

Great stadium at Indian Wells Indian Wells Masters in California is considered the biggest tournament outside the four Slams

Sleeping Giants

Bernard TomicSince 2003, America has been awaiting a male Grand Slam winner.

Andy Roddick won the US Open on his own turf eight years ago and still remains the only real chance of adding to the illustrious legacy of a dominant tennis nation.

Roddick very nearly won Wimbledon in 2009 but at the age of 28 his chances of building on his solitary Grand Slam victory are slipping.

It’s perplexing how a country which has spawned legends such as Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe is running out of talent at the highest level.

It’s very much a similar story for Australian tennis too. Not since Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon back in 2002 have we seen the Aussies challenge at Grand Slam level.

Although not enjoying the same kind of history as the USA, with Mark Philippoussis and Pat Cash being the only other notable players in the last 30 years, they did produce tennis legend Rod Laver and the passionate sport-loving Australian public demand competitors in the Grand Slam event they annually host.

There is, though, hope that both countries could end their barren runs and it comes in the form of two 18-year-olds.

At number nine in the USA’s best ranked players and at 156 in the world’s, Ryan Harrison could be the next Grand Slam contester and take over the mantle of Roddick in two or three years.

Being an American automatically gives Harrison an advantage of great home support at Flushing Meadows enhancing his US Open chances in the process. Australian Bernard Tomic is in the same position.

Like Harrison, Tomic is currently sitting outside the top 100. On paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking he’s another product of the Eastern European tennis machine churning out talented players every year but, although of Croatian descent, he is from Down Under.

That home advantage has already begun to have an effect with Tomic mustering a third round run at this year’s Australian Open.

But be warned, the teen has also gained a controversial reputation in his short career so far. He’s been quoted as saying compatriot and former world number one Hewitt was “not good enough” for him to practice with whilst his father and coach John has threatened to convert his nationality to Croatian.

That could hinder his dreams greatly as his support on and off the court wouldn’t be at the same level.

Even if Tomic and Harrison don’t make Grand Slam winners it’s crucial for both countries to encourage new talented youngsters to pick up a racket.

Currently the Williams sisters and the recent success of Sam Stosur have been keeping US and Aussie fans content but after their reign ends there’s little waiting in the wings to keep the respective legacies going.

Harrison and Tomic therefore play a more important role than just winning tournaments, they must also win over new tennis fans and the stars of the future.

Ryan Harrison loses his shirt
Youngsters Ryan Harrison and Bernard Tomic are the next prospects from the supposed giants of world tennis

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