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Zverev Overcomes Serving Woes To Close Out Felix

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Zverev Overcomes Serving Woes To Close Out Felix

Defending Madrid champ to face Tsitsipas in Saturday’s semi-finals

Alexander Zverev’s dominant ground game propelled him into the semi-finals of the Mutua Madrid Open as he battled through eight second-set double faults to defeat Felix Auger-Aliassime, 6-3, 7-5.

“I think this was maybe the best match of the last few months from my side, except maybe the end a little bit,” Zverev assessed. “Throughout one-and-a-half sets I played good tennis and I hope I can continue playing this way.”

The German defending champion was on course for a routine victory on Friday at the ATP Masters 1000 event, up a set and break with four chances to make it a double break in the second, but a late wobble gave Auger-Aliassime a lifeline to extend the match. After Zverev missed out on that quartet of break chances at 4-1, the Canadian secured his first break of the match on the way to levelling the set.

But the second seed reasserted himself late, creating two match points on the return at 4-5 before closing out the contest with his fourth break of the match to avoid a tie-break.

“I couldn’t put a serve in the court,” Zverev said, explaining why the match tightened up late on. “I had chances to go up 5-1 in the second set and I think the match would have been over. But I didn’t use my chances and he fought back well. But I kept fighting as well, and that’s how I got the win.”

The German was at his imperious best from the baseline throughout, gaining the advantage early and often in the rallies and frequently closing points out at the net. He broke early and late in both sets, though the two stanzas took on an entirely different complexion with Zverev’s late struggles on serve.

Despite nine double faults in the match, Zverev still won 14 of 25 second-serve points (56 per cent), far outpacing Auger-Aliassime’s 13 of 34 (38 per cent). Zverev’s dominance extended to first serve as well, where he won 74 per cent of points to his opponent’s 65 per cent.

After improving to 5-2 in his ATP Head2Head against the Canadian and gaining a measure of revenge from an ATP Cup loss in January, Zverev will now look to avenge a Monte Carlo semi-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the next round. The Greek leads that matchup 7-3, including a 3-0 mark on clay.

“Rafa is on his way back and Novak is starting to gain momentum, but right now maybe he’s the best clay-court player in the world,” Zverev said of Tsitsipas. “I think I need to play my best level to have a chance, but I’m looking forward to this match because in Monte Carlo he beat me quite easily. I hope I can change that.” 

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Anderson Reflects On Career: 'Giving Up Was Never Acceptable'

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Anderson Reflects On Career: ‘Giving Up Was Never Acceptable’ speaks exclusively to Anderson following his retirement

Kevin Anderson remembers when his father, Michael, put a tennis racquet in his hand at the age of six in their native South Africa. The elder Anderson instilled a hard-working attitude in his son from the very beginning. The idea was that if Kevin worked as hard as possible, he would have no regrets. From that moment, Anderson did everything in his power to succeed.

“I really feel like I’ve lived my life that way,” Anderson told this week after announcing his retirement. “I can remember back as a kid in South Africa being away from the tennis scene, away from the tennis world. I’m just proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish.”

The 35-year-old climbed to a career-high No. 5 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, won seven ATP Tour titles, reached the final at two Grand Slams and earned respect of the fans and his peers alike.

Anderson played more than 600 tour-level matches (354-253), and competed for the final time at this year’s Miami Open presented by Itau.

“It was on my mind that it might have been it,” Anderson said. “But it was sort of halfway through leaving the court [when I started] thinking, ‘You know what, I may or may not be playing another match’.”

The South African did not immediately make his decision to hang up his racquet. But for the first time in his career, Anderson began asking himself a key question: Why do you want to keep playing?

“It’s what I do, I’m a tennis player. I’ve done this since I was five or six years old,” Anderson recalled thinking. “That’s not a good enough reason to keep going. I think one of my strongest attributes has been to put my head down, keep fighting and figuring it out. I think it was hard for me to walk away and not even acknowledge that maybe I lost some of the passion and motivation to keep playing. I was still passionate and motivated, it just is different.”

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From his early days holding a racquet, Anderson “stopped at nothing” in pursuit of maximising his potential. The Johannesburg native reached a career-high No. 28 in the ITF Junior Rankings, but decided to play college tennis for the University of Illinois.

Brad Dancer’s first responsibility as an assistant coach at Illinois was to recruit Anderson at the 2004 US Open boys’ singles event. Dancer, who became the head coach during Anderson’s time there, recalled catching only three games of his match against Andreas Beck because he lost in

just 43 minutes. What stood out to the coach from his early days interacting with Anderson was his attitude towards such moments.

“He’s just able to pound through everything and keep coming back. That’s not just injuries, that is also inside matches,” Dancer said. “He’d have heartbreak after heartbreak in match situations and he’d keep coming back and be tougher the next point and in the next game. Kevin’s mental toughness is by far his greatest asset.”

Anderson, who immediately caught people’s attention with his 6’8” frame and booming game, earned All-American honours each of his three years at Illinois before embarking on his professional journey. In 2008, he cracked the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time.

It was fitting that the South African lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Johannesburg in 2011, just 20 minutes from where he grew up. Friends and family filled the stands for a moment he will never forget. The following year, Anderson triumphed in Delray Beach, which was also special, as it became a training ground for him.

But most impressive was how Anderson overcame injury obstacles later in his career. After cracking the Top 10 for one week in October 2015, a series of injuries limited his progress. From the knee and ankle to shoulder and hip, the more hurdles he leapt over, the more appeared.

“Part of my nature is always figuring it out. Giving up or not being up for a challenge was never an acceptable thought for me,” Anderson said. “Always, no matter how difficult the situation was, I was going to figure it out and come back stronger.”

At his healthy best, the right-hander’s serve put pressure on opponents to seize their opportunities, because they did not come often. For someone standing 6’8”, Anderson proved a strong mover capable of hanging from the baseline with nearly anyone. And if you threw in a lazy second serve, he never feared stepping in to pummel it. Add that to his unrelenting competitive spirit, and you had an opponent as tough as any player.

Photo Credit: Getty Images
In 2017 and 2018, after falling as low as World No. 80, that showed. His big breakthrough came at the 2017 US Open, when he advanced to the championship match having previously made just one major quarter-final. After narrowly missing out on a big goal, which was to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals, the South African forged forward.

At Wimbledon the following year, he went on a jaw-dropping run to the championship match. Anderson rallied from two sets down to stun Roger Federer 13-11 in the fifth set of their quarter-final, before clawing past John Isner 26-24 in the fifth set of their semi-final, which lasted an astonishing six hours and 36 minutes. That remains the second-longest Grand Slam match in history.

“What an amazing career you had, Kevin, and it was an honour to play against you in college and 15 years on Tour,” Isner wrote on social media following Anderson’s announcement. “Enjoy retirement, you’ve earned yourself a great life after tennis!”

In 2018, Anderson, then 32, cracked the top five and qualified for the season finale at The O2 in London. Only five players have broke into the top five in their 30s, and three of them did so in 1973 or 1974, within the first year of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.

Players To Crack Top Five In Their 30s

 Player  Age  Date
 Kevin Anderson  32  16 July 2018
 Cedric Pioline  30  8 May 2000
 Ken Rosewall  39  2 March 1974
 Rod Laver  35  23 August 1973 (1st Edition)
 Arthur Ashe  30  23 August 1973 (1st Edition)

By finishing year-end No. 6 in 2018, Anderson became the second-oldest player to finish in the year-end Top 10 for the first time since 1973, further showing his late-career success.

There is a cliché that if you “check every box”, good things will happen. But Anderson made the boxes bigger, lengthened the list and hit his mark each day until he achieved his goals.

“I never felt like taking a shortcut if I’d been injured or something,” Anderson said. “Throughout my career, all the sacrifices I had to make I did so willingly, because I had this motivation to keep pushing myself and keep getting better.”

“He loves playing tennis, he loved competing in tennis. He loved everything that went into it and he pushed himself to his absolute upper limits,” Dancer added. “He just tested himself as much as he possibly could, which is awesome.”

Although injuries returned to prevent Anderson from climbing even further, he never stopped working. That allowed him to maintain a high level until the end, winning an ATP Tour trophy in front of his young daughter, Keira and wife Kelsey — who has been by his side since their days at Illinois — last year in Newport aged 35.

Photo Credit: Ben Solomon/International Tennis Hall of Fame
Anderson’s decision to retire did not come overnight. His desire to put in the work as he has for 30 years was not quite the same. And for an “all-in” professional, it was all-in or all-out.

Anderson also left his mark off the court, winning the 2018 Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award and spending years on the ATP Player Council, most recently as its president. Although nothing is set in stone moving forward, the Florida resident recently joined the board of First Serve, a nonprofit that helps at-risk kids in the state. He also wants to further the conversation about mental health and has enjoyed providing guidance to local kids pursuing their own dreams in tennis like he did in South Africa years ago.

For years, Anderson was one of the most focussed players on the ATP Tour. But recently, he realised that allowing himself to consider whether he wanted to continue his career was not accepting failure. It was an opportunity to open a new chapter for which, like always, he will give everything he has.

“In order to be the best in the world I needed to live and breathe tennis all the time,” Anderson said. “You just become so consumed with it that you kind of forget that there is life outside of tennis, so I’ve kind of experienced that for the past four weeks and I’m really excited about what the future may bring.”

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Tsitsipas Downs Rublev For Madrid SF Spot

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Tsitsipas Downs Rublev For Madrid SF Spot

Fourth seed to face Auger-Aliassime or Zverev in semi-finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas overcame a serious examination from Andrey Rublev at the Mutua Madrid Open on Friday, clinching a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 victory in the Spanish capital to reach a 10th ATP Masters 1000 semi-final.

Tsitsipas lifted his second Masters 1000 title at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April and the 23-year-old looks to have maintained that form as he chases a second title of the season. Unlike his relatively straightforward opening victories in Madrid over Lucas Pouille and Grigor Dimitrov, however, the fourth seed’s meeting with Rublev was a see-saw affair in which both players enjoyed spells of domination.

“He was really applying a lot of force into the strokes, and it wasn’t easy predicting what was going to come next,” said Tsitsipas after fending off two Rublev break points in the final game to clinch the win. “But I’m very glad with the way things ended.

“It’s never easy playing him, and I really had to survive that last game with my best strength and give out my soul, pretty much, to finish it in such a good way.”

A 4-4 ATP Head2Head series record coming into the match suggested little to separate Tsitsipas and Rublev, and so it proved in a dramatic encounter on Manolo Santana Stadium. Yet it was the Greek who finished strongest in a one-hour, 59-minute encounter as he avenged defeat in the pair’s most recent meeting at November’s Nitto ATP Finals.

Tsitsipas came out firing on serve and took the first set courtesy of a break in the second game of the match. The Greek dropped just six points on serve behind his delivery in the set but was aided by a slow start from Rublev, who showed his frustration as he struggled to land his trademark booming groundstrokes.

As he did against Jack Draper and Daniel Evans in his previous matches, Rublev found a way to reset and he found his groove to storm back into the match in spectacular style. Rublev reeled off four games in a row from 2-2 in the second set as he began to showcase the sort of brutal forehand hitting that took him to an 11th tour-level title in Belgrade two weeks ago.

Most Tour-Level Match Wins In 2022

Player  Wins
 Stefanos Tsitsipas 27
 Carlos Alcaraz 26
 Andrey Rublev 25
 Miomir Kecmanovic 23 
 Rafael Nadal 22

An even encounter seemed destined for a deciding tie-break until Tsitsipas produced a high-class return game to break in the ninth game of the third set before serving out for victory. The win improves the 2019 finalist’s record against Top 10 opponents to 26-34, and Tsitsipas will feel he has the momentum to go all the way this week as he chases a maiden title in Madrid.

The Greek is nonetheless refusing to get carried away with his good form. “I had a good result [in Monte Carlo] but that doesn’t really mean anything for me,” said Tsitsipas. “Madrid has it’s own challenges. Obviously a different climate, different conditions.

“I’m feeling great, to be honest, and I really hope that I can continue that way, playing so aggressive and being creative on the court.”

His semi-final opponent will be the winner of the last quarter-final on Friday’s schedule, Felix Auger-Aliassime or defending champion Alexander Zverev.

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Cabal/Farah March Into Madrid SFs

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Cabal/Farah March Into Madrid SFs

Koolhof/Skuspki reach sixth semi-final of the season

Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah moved to within two wins of capturing their third ATP Masters 1000 title together Friday, downing Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 7-6(5), 6-4 to reach the Mutua Madrid Open semi-finals.

Cabal and Farah, who last triumphed at a Masters 1000 event in 2019 in Rome, won 88 per cent (37/42) of their first-serve points and saved all three break points they faced to advance after one hour and 37 minutes.

The fifth seeds are aiming to win their first title of the season in Madrid and will next play Jamie Murray and Michael Venus after the eighth seeds eliminated Simone Bolelli and Ivan Dodig 7-6(5), 7-6(7).


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The Briton and New Zealander saved two set points in the second set to move through after one hour and 56 minutes. Last week, Murray and Venus reached the semi-finals in Estoril.

Seventh seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski continued their strong year by moving past Tomislav Brkic and Nikola Cacic 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-2 in one hour and 55 minutes. The Dutch-British pair has won three tour-level titles together this year and are currently first in the Pepperstone ATP Doubles Teams Rankings.

They will meet John Isner and Hubert Hurkacz in the final after the Miami doubles champs edged Germans Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-5.

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Rome Draw: Returning Finalists Nadal & Djokovic In Same Half

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Rome Draw: Returning Finalists Nadal & Djokovic In Same Half

Zverev, Tsitsipas lead draw’s bottom half

One year after Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in a three-set final at the 2021 Internazionali BNL d’Italia, the two most successful players in ATP Masters 1000 history have been drawn in the same half for next week’s event.

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Five-time champion Djokovic, who can still add to his record 37 ATP Masters 1000 titles in Madrid, is the top seed in Rome. He could face Aslan Karatsev in his opening match, where the Serbian would be looking to avenge a semi-final loss on the clay of Belgrade last year. One of the more intriguing opening-round matches could yield Djokovic’s third-round opponent: 14th seed Reilly Opelka takes on Stan Wawrinka, who will be competing in his second ATP Tour match of the season as he returns from a foot injury.

Eighth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, a quarter-finalist in Madrid, is the next-highest seed in Djokovic’s quarter. The Canadian could face Monte Carlo finalist Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the second round and 2020 Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman in the third round.

Nadal, seeded third, is a 36-time ATP Masters 1000 champ. His 10 Rome titles are his most at any event at that level outside of his 11 in Monte Carlo. The 35-year-old will be competing in his second event after a six-week injury layoff as he continues his return from a rib fracture. The Spaniard could open against John Isner, with fifth seed Casper Ruud — a former Rome semi-finalist who returns after missing out on the 2021 event — a potential quarter-final opponent.

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Alexander Zverev leads the draw’s bottom half as the second seed, with the 2017 Rome champion set to open play against a qualifier in the second round. Madrid semi-finalist Carlos Alcaraz looms as a potential quarter-final opponent, with the seventh-seeded Spaniard possibly facing a tricky opening match against Cristian Garin.

Fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and Grigor Dimitrov are in line to meet for the third time in as many events following wins for the Greek in Barcelona and Madrid. Dimitrov will need to get past a qualifier to set up that encounter.

Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner are also in Tsitsipas’ quarter, as is Dominic Thiem, who will seek the first victory of his return from a right-wrist injury against Fabio Fognini. The winner there could face 10th seed Sinner in the second round.

The 2022 Internazionali BNL d’Italia will be played from 8-15 May at the Foro Italico in Rome. It is the fifth of the nine ATP Masters 1000 events on the 2022 calendar, and the third and final clay-court tournament at that level.

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Nadal 'Looking Forward With Optimism' Following Alcaraz Defeat

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Nadal ‘Looking Forward With Optimism’ Following Alcaraz Defeat

Spaniard was competing for the time since March this week

Rafael Nadal said that despite losing to Carlos Alcaraz at the Mutua Madrid Open Friday, he will remain positive as he looks at the bigger picture following his recent injury setback.

The World No. 4 suffered a rib injury six weeks ago and was competing for the first time since Taylor Fritz ended his perfect start to the season in the Indian Wells final in March.

“The reading of the tournament is I have played three matches and that I came here with hardly any preparation, with no preparation. This is the reality,” Nadal said in his post-match press conference. “I said that before coming here it was going to be a tough week, even though I have lost to one of the fittest players of the world with no doubts, I even had my opportunities.

“I have played two-and-a-half hours [today] and three matches. This is a positive outcome. From here onwards, just looking forward with optimism and [I’m] happy and excited. We will see what happens. You have to believe.”

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Awesome Alcaraz Takes Out Nadal In Madrid

The 35-year-old, who has lifted the trophy in Madrid five times, defeated Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic and David Goffin en route to the quarter-finals. However, Nadal was unable to match Alcaraz’s intensity, with the third seed praising the #NextGenATP star as he looks ahead to Roland Garros.

“He was better than me in several aspects of the match and several aspects of the game, and I need to improve,” Nadal said. “I just accept it naturally with calm and with security that there is a path to continue.

“It’s an easy loss to digest in that regard, because we knew what we could expect here, and now because of that, I don’t take away any merit from Carlos. Congratulations
to him. He’s playing great, and I hope the best for him for the rest of the tournament.”

When it comes to returning to Tour in style, Nadal is an expert, with his recent Australian Open triumph an example after he missed the second half of the 2021 season with a foot injury. The 91-time tour-level champ is looking to lean on his past experiences and build further momentum and his fitness over the coming month.

“You just recover that with days and with matches, like yesterday, like the first day, like today. This is the reality,” Nadal said. “From there onwards, you just have to continue that path with constant determination, with the correct determination. You know that when you come from a period like the one I came from, you have to accept the things and just go with this determination because in the medium term, we have a goal that is higher than any sadness that I may have for losing.

“I tell you, honestly, my only dream is be in Paris healthy enough and physically good enough to compete at the highest level possible. If that happens, I know it’s a tournament that I have been playing well a lot of times in my career. I know very well the place, and why can I not be competitive again and give me one more chance. That could be a dream for me.”

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Awesome Alcaraz Takes Out Nadal In Madrid

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

Awesome Alcaraz Takes Out Nadal In Madrid

19-year-old to meet Djokovic for first time in semi-finals

What a difference a year makes for Carlos Alcaraz.

A year on from winning just three games in a second-round defeat to Rafael Nadal at the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open, the 19-year-old sensation exacted revenge on his countryman at the ATP Masters 1000 event on Friday with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-3 victory in a topsy-turvy clash in the Spanish capital.

Alcaraz withstood a trademark Nadal fightback and a nasty second-set fall on the Madrid clay to prevail in an absorbing two-hour, 29-minute encounter. The win elevates the Spaniard to No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings and he now faces a semi-final clash with another ATP Tour legend, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, in a maiden ATP Head2Head meeting between the two.

“It means a lot to me,” said Alcaraz after the match. “All the hard work that I put in every day pays off today. To beat Rafa, to beat the best player in history on clay, it means a lot to me.”

Breaking into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings and clinching a maiden Masters 1000 title in Miami in March have been the headlining achievements of Alcaraz’s stellar 2022 season so far, and a first victory over Nadal represents another milestone for the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion. He displayed maturity and youthful exuberance in equal measure to overcome Nadal, becoming the first teenager to defeat the 35-year-old on clay.

Alcaraz was untouchable in the opening set, striking 19 winners as Nadal struggled to match the quality and intensity of his opponent’s game. Although Nadal immediately broke back after dropping serve in the first game of the match, a combination of huge baseline hitting and clever drop shots earned Alcaraz two further breaks as he charged to the first set in Manolo Santana Stadium.

Despite his opponent’s strong start, there was no panic from 36-time Masters 1000 champion Nadal, whose return game began to fire as he sensed a drop in Alcaraz’s level. Alcaraz recovered 0/40 to hold for 1-1 in the second set before a slip in the next game left him requiring treatment for an ankle injury. Nadal’s improved hitting won him 20 of the final 22 points of the set to level the match as Alcaraz struggled to regain his early momentum.

Nadal appeared to have the upper hand as he chased a 12th semi-final appearance in Madrid, but his younger opponent showcased levels of resilience that the 21-time Grand Slam champion would be proud of. A reenergised Alcaraz struck the ball with authority as he clinched the only break of the deciding set in the fourth game to reach the semi-finals in Madrid for the first time.

Alcaraz’s early dominance was reflected in his outstanding Conversion and Steal numbers for the first set. When the 19-year-old had control of rallies he regularly came out on top, winning 74 per cent of points after taking up offensive positions. Even as Nadal tried to hit back there was no let-up from Alcaraz, who also won 61 per cent of points from defensive positions in the set. (Learn more about Conversion and Steal scores).

Rafael Nadal Vs. Carlos Alcaraz ⁠— First Set Insights:

<a href=''>Rafael Nadal</a> Vs. <a href=''>Carlos Alcaraz</a> Balance Of Power Stats

Alcaraz never lost belief he could win despite appearing to struggle physically after his second-set fall. “It affected me a lot,” said the Spaniard. “When I lost the second set, I [just] thought that I was able to come back, to do my best, try everything on court, fight until the last ball. It was the key.”

The win takes Alcaraz to his third Masters 1000 semi-final and extends his winning streak against Top 10 opponents to five.

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‘Comeback On Track!’: Medvedev To Play Geneva

  • Posted: May 06, 2022

‘Comeback On Track!’: Medvedev To Play Geneva

ATP 250 event in Switzerland will be held from 14-21 May

Daniil Medvedev’s initial schedule on his return from a hernia procedure will include the Gonet Geneva Open, the ATP 250 event announced on Friday.

“Comeback on track!”, wrote the 26-year-old on Twitter in response to the announcement of his wild card. Medvedev will be making his debut at the Swiss tournament, which runs from 14-21 May at the Tennis Club de Geneve.

The World No. 2 last played at the Miami Open presented by Itau in March, where he reached the quarter-finals before falling to Hubert Hurkacz at the ATP Masters 1000 event.

Medvedev is yet to pick up a title in 2022 but has nonetheless enjoyed a strong start to the year that saw him reach No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time on 28 February. He reached a fourth Grand Slam final at the Australian Open in January, with a run to the semi-finals in Acapulco also contributing to his 16-5 match record for the season so far.

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