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Murray Highlights US Open Wild Cards

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Murray Highlights US Open Wild Cards

#NextGenATP American Nakashima also receives a wild card

Andy Murray, the former World No. 1 and 2012 US Open champion, headlines the wild cards for the US Open, the USTA announced Thursday.

The 33-year-old, who is No. 129 in the FedEx ATP Rankings as he continues his recovery from hip surgery, will compete in Flushing Meadows for the first time since 2018. The three-time Grand Slam champion owns a 45-12 record at the US Open, where he also reached the final in 2008.

The USTA also announced that Americans Ulises Blanch, Maxime Cressy, Sebastian Korda, Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Michael Mmoh, Brandon Nakashima and J.J. Wolf will also receive singles main draw wild card entries to the tournament, which begins on 31 August.

A #NextGenATP player, World No. 220 Nakashima has risen more than 500 spots in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the past eight months. He reached the quarter-finals at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com in February.

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Blanch, 22, is World No. 242. He won his second career ATP Challenger Tour title in Ann Arbor this January and defeated then-World No. 54 Pablo Andujar in Monterrey. Another player who enjoyed ATP Challenger Tour success at the start of the season is 23-year-old Cressy, who made two finals in February, winning the title in Drummondville.

Former junior World No. 1 Korda won the 2018 Australian Open boys’ singles title. His father, Petr Korda, won the 1998 Australian Open men’s singles title. Kwiatkowski, 25, lifted his first ATP Challenger Tour trophy in February at Newport Beach.

A former Top 100 player who received a wild card is Mmoh. The American beat then-World No. 15 Roberto Bautista Agut in three sets to reach the third round of the 2018 Miami Open presented by Itau. Wolf, 21, has won two ATP Challenger Tour titles this year.

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Yevgeny Kafelnikov: The Man Who Sparked Tennis' Russian Revolution

  • Posted: Aug 06, 2020

Yevgeny Kafelnikov: The Man Who Sparked Tennis’ Russian Revolution

The Russian was the first man from his country to become World No. 1

In the latest profile on the 26 players to rise to No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, ATPTour.com looks back on the career of Yevgeny Kafelnikov. View Full List

First week at No. 1: 3 May 1999
Total weeks at No. 1: 6

At World No. 1
Yevgeny Kafelnikov overtook Pete Sampras to become No. 1 in the FedEx ATP Rankings on 3 May 1999, remaining atop tennis’ mountain for six weeks. “I think it’s the ultimate goal for every professional tennis player, to be able to reach that pinnacle. That’s what we play for,” Kafelnikov told ATPTour.com. “It’s one of the most enjoyable accomplishments from my career.”

Kafelnikov made national history by becoming the first Russian to reach World No. 1. At the time, there was only one other Russian in the Top 100: Marat Safin, who reached World No. 1 the following year.

Grand Slam Highlights
Kafelnikov arrived at 1996 Roland Garros as one of the tournament favourites, crushing World No. 1 Pete Sampras in Dusseldorf the week before the clay-court Grand Slam. Four of the Top 5 seeds lost by the fourth round and Kafelnikov took full advantage.

The 22-year-old felt in great physical shape during the fortnight, going for four eight-kilometre runs around Court Philippe Chatrier during the tournament. Kafelnikov earned his second and final ATP Head2Head win against Sampras in the semi-finals before overcoming surprising cramps late in the championship match against Michael Stich to become the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion. He also won the doubles title alongside Daniel Vacek. No man has won the singles and doubles trophy at the same major since.

“I’ve got news for you: Nobody will [do it again] for a very long time,” Kafelnikov said. “If you ask me when the next time we’re going to see a champion in singles and doubles at the same Slam, I don’t see that happening for many, many years to come.”

Kafelnikov won his second and final major singles title at the 1999 Australian Open, beating five players who reached the Top 5 of the FedEx ATP Rankings to lift the trophy. That victory helped propel the Russian to World No. 1 later in the year. He also won Grand Slam doubles titles at Roland Garros in 1997 (w/Vacek) and 2002 (w/Haarhuis) as well as the 1997 US Open (w/Vacek).

Nitto ATP Finals Highlights
Kafelnikov competed at the ATP Tour’s season finale, now called the Nitto ATP Finals, seven times. The Russian advanced through round-robin play three times, highlighted by a trip to the championship match in 1997. He battled past Carlos Moya in two tie-breaks to reach the final in Germany, but was unable to challenge Sampras, who triumphed in straight sets.

Tour Highlights
The International Tennis Hall of Famer (inducted in 2019) won his first ATP Tour match at 1992 Moscow, defeating Spaniard Marcos Aurelio Gorriz. That proved a happy hunting ground for the home favourite, as Kafelnikov won five consecutive titles at the tournament from 1997-2001. He lost in the 1996 final against Goran Ivanisevic before winning 28 consecutive matches in Moscow.

Kafelnikov was a model of consistency during his career, winning multiple titles each year from 1994-2002. Kafelnikov claimed 26 tour-level singles titles. Although he never claimed ATP Masters 1000 glory, the right-hander made five championship matches at that level. He proved capable on all surfaces, winning ATP Tour titles on clay, hard, grass and carpet. He completed his singles career at 2003 St. Petersburg, falling in the second round against rising Russian star Mikhail Youzhny. In doubles, Kafelnikov won 27 tour-level titles, including seven Masters 1000s.

Biggest Rivalries
There wasn’t one man who served as a consistent foil for Kafelnikov. The Russian believes his generation was so saturated with talent, that there were many rivals to contend with.

“You take Marcelo Rios, Guga, Moya. Pete and Andre were dominating the Tour at the time,” Kafelnikov said. “To me, the whole field was a big competition. I played many great matches against Guga. Me and Marat didn’t play any big matches against each other, thank God. We both had about 20 guys who were great rivals for both of us.”

If you had to pick one rival for Kafelnikov, it might be Gustavo Kuerten. The Brazilian beat the Russian in three Roland Garros quarter-finals (1997, 2000-01), needing five sets in two of those matches. Kuerten lifted the Coupe des Mousquetaires in each of those years. It wasn’t always the biggest stars who frustrated Kafelnikov, either. He never enjoyed playing Dominik Hrbaty (4-9) or Thomas Johansson (5-9).

“Dominik’s game was such a solid game that he had every answer to all my shots,” Kafelnikov said. “If I was hitting the ball hard, the ball was coming back twice as hard. That stuff was driving me nuts. Those two players [Hrbaty and Johansson] read my game so well.”

Overall Match Win-Loss Record: 609-306

Overall Titles/Finals Record: 26-20

Legacy
The Russian maximised his all-around game and stellar fitness to compete — and in many cases, beat — the best players in the world. Kafelnikov’s strength was his backhand, especially up the line. His two-hander was one of the best of his generation.

“I was not even close to being as gifted as John McEnroe or Roger Federer or even Marat Safin, or Marcelo Rios or Nick Kyrgios,” Kafelnikov said. “I was never that gifted. But I was a really hard worker. I’m sure that because of that, I’ve got all my titles, all my goals.” 

Besides his work ethic, Kafelnikov will be remembered for showing young Russians they could enjoy success on the ATP Tour. He was the first Russian Grand Slam singles champion and World No. 1. Today, three Russians are inside the Top 15 of the FedEx ATP Rankings.

“Yevgeny was the guy who really made it click for me that it was possible to become an unbelievable tennis player,” Safin told ATPTour.com. “Yevgeny achieved to be the elite in tennis, so for me that was the goal, it was like, ‘Wow’. To that point no Russian guy like him made it, so because of him I [knew] I had a chance.”

Memorable Moment
Kafelnikov does not consider one achievement from his career greater than the rest. Instead, he cherishes his Grand Slam victories, reaching World No. 1 and winning the singles gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

In familiar circumstances, Kafelnikov played Kuerten in a consequential quarter-final, defeating the Brazilian 6-4, 7-5. With gold on the line, the Russian battled hard to scrape past rising German Tommy Haas 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. 

Marat Safin on Kafelnikov
“I learned a lot from him when I was younger, practising with him. I understood the intensity of the tennis ball, the way he played from the baseline and how close he stood to the line. For me it was the most shocking moment in my tennis understanding. It was due to him. I never told him, but I understood what it meant to take the ball early [because of Yevgeny]. It clicked and from that point I started to play better and better because of him.”

Larry Stefanki on Kafelnikov
“He was a workhorse, playing both singles and doubles most weeks. Yevgeny and competition merely went together. He always showed up to win. He loved the big matches and played his best tennis under the most extreme pressure. He absolutely cherished being under the gun to have to win a match.”

Kafelnikov on Kafelnikov
All my success came because I worked hard. That’s how I will always be remembered.”

Broadcaster/Journalist Graeme Agars
Strong and tall with a powerful and reliable baseline game, Yevgeny Kafelnikov was a handful for all those who had to face him across the net. The poker-faced Russian was also adept at volleying when he chose to be and that made him a difficult player to outmanoeuvre.

His no-fuss approach to the game didn’t make him a box office headliner like some of his peers, but his results spoke for themselves. He became the first Russian to win a Grand Slam title when he defeated Michael Stich at Roland Garros in 1996 and he added to his haul that same year by winning the doubles crown as well. In doing so, he remains the last player to win both the singles and doubles titles at the same Slam event, a record that will likely stand for a long time.

After retiring at the St. Petersburg Open in October 2003, the multi-talented Russian turned himself to a variety of different endeavors. He played successfully in the World Series of Poker, competed at the Russian Open, Austrian Open and Czech Masters on the European golf tour, and briefly coached fellow Russian Marat Safin.

When not engaging in those activities, he also had interests in fishing, watching football, baseball and ice hockey and spent two years playing on the ATP Champions Tour.

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Gilles Simon Says Time Off Will Benefit This Group Of Players…

  • Posted: Aug 05, 2020

Gilles Simon Says Time Off Will Benefit This Group Of Players…

The Frenchman blogs about how he feels different groups of players should approach the return to tennis

Which players will be best equipped to start strong when the five-month Tour suspension ends later this month?

I think this period is the best for middle-aged players, guys between 25 and 30. I believe they already have experience on the ATP Tour and it’s the right moment for them to improve their game and to do a “check-up” of what happened in the first part of their career.

They are starting to know a bit more about themselves as people and players. Middle-aged players are starting to understand the limitations they had before and now they’ve had the time to work on those things, while still having the energy to do so. They’re still very young and healthy. For them, it will be great.

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When you are young, you can still practise a lot without injury. You have many things to improve in your game. It’s the right time to work a lot, to improve on weaknesses, to finally have the time to work without having the pressure of having a tournament right after. This is the time if you want to improve something in your game. Some things need time to be fixed.

What is really hard in tennis is you always have things coming up and tournaments to play. You say, ‘I would really like to work on my second serve, but I need the time to do it.’ Let’s say I want to be more aggressive on the second serve, one week after working on it, you play a tournament and you hit 10 double faults in a row. Then you quit that attempt to improve. You just lost and you say, ‘Ah, but my ranking!’ You have a lot of pressure with that. 

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It’s never easy to find the time to work when you are young once you are on the Tour because it’s one tournament per week. When you have a bit more time like this, it’s the time to say, ‘Okay, I can work on this for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks and practise, test it in practice, test it in a match or in practice for one more month before you bring it into the match.’ That helps a lot sometimes. That’s what I would do if I was younger.

For people like me, for the older players, I think the key in this period is to work a lot with the body. It is most important to stay healthy and to try to work enough to stay in good shape, but not working too much, and take the time to prevent injuries. Your body is not the same as when you were 20. Then you were able to go four hours every day no matter what you are doing and have no problem. For us older players, it’s a bit different now.

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You can also use the time to work on court and what I said before is still true. But managing the body is even more important. You know a big injury when you are 35 or 36 may be the last injury and then your career is over. When you have this in mind, to stay healthy is more important. It’s also the hardest part of the practice. Try to practise, try to be ready, but don’t push too much. Don’t get injured in a stupid way.

It’s almost impossible for anyone to make some drastic changes to their game at this moment. In general it’s really hard to make significant changes, because when you come on Tour and you are 21 years old, it’s already 15 years you have been playing tennis. You are new on Tour, but you are already doing what you were doing for a long time. When you do something for a very long time, it’s always hard to change it. When you are 35, it’s 30 years you’ve been playing tennis.

One example: my volley is not great. I tried to improve this all my career, so I can still work on it now. It’s not a problem, but it’s never going to be a great volley. It’s just something that I don’t feel as good with as some other things on the tennis court. It will be a very big surprise if suddenly in three months I come back and I have the best volley on Tour and I play serve-and-volley and return-and-volley. It has to be realistic at some point.

Of course I’m improving and I know a lot of things that I can improve, but it’s not that much anymore about the tennis. It’s still about me being more relaxed, being more confident, trying to use the time to maybe see things differently and maybe having a different approach. Then the results will be very different on court, but without working that much on the tennis itself. The tennis is there for 30 years now, so that’s it.

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Is Shapovalov Returning To The Rap Game?

  • Posted: Aug 05, 2020

Is Shapovalov Returning To The Rap Game?

The #NextGenATP rapped at the 2019 BNP Paribas Open

Is #NextGenATP star Denis Shapovalov making a return to the rap game?

Judging by the 21-year-old’s social media activity, he is. The Canadian recently started a new Instagram account (@shapo.music), where he posted the teaser of a song called ‘Night Train’.

 

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“Night Train 🚂… coming soon?” Shapovalov wrote in his post.

The lefty has entered the rap scene before. At last year’s BNP Paribas Open, Shapovalov beat Steve Johnson in his opening match. The #NextGenATP star agreed with the Stadium 3 emcee that if he won his next match on that court, he’d rap. After defeating Marin Cilic in the Round of 32, the Canadian kept his word.

“Definitely not ready, but I’ll give it a go,” Shapovalov said to a cheering crowd.

“I’m here in Cali with the fans gettin’ hella lit. Happy with the win today, now I gotta float a spit. Lovin’ the support, I leave it all on the court. Fightin’ like a wolf, I’ll be back for more so take care and good night. Know this the good life. Hot tubs and court time. Thursday we back, ight!?”

It was all in good fun. Even though Shapovalov was more focused on his match than being prepared to rap, he enjoys writing lyrics in his free time.

“That was cool,” Shapovalov said in his press conference that day. “It’s something I have been doing as a hobby. It’s just a fun little part of me.”

If Shapovalov does come out with produced music, perhaps he will soon have a new nickname; not ‘Shapo’, but ‘MC Shapo’.

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US Open Reveals 2020 Prize Money Distribution

  • Posted: Aug 05, 2020

US Open Reveals 2020 Prize Money Distribution

The US Open is set to begin on 31 August

The USTA today announced that the US Open will offer $53.4 million in total player compensation in 2020 – nearly 95 per cent of its total from 2019 – with $7.6 million dedicated toward player relief from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USTA, ATP and WTA Tours worked collaboratively to build a payment structure for the 2020 US Open that would feature critical financial balance and support for players. First-round prize money for men’s and women’s singles increased by 5 per cent over 2019 ($61,000 from $58,000), while second and third-round singles prize money was unchanged. Doubles prize money for the rounds of 32, 16 and the quarter-finals also remained the same as 2019.

Both the men’s and women’s singles champion will earn $3 million.

2020 US Open Prize Money

 Round  Singles  Doubles (per team)
 Winner  $3,000,000  $400,000
 Runner-up  $1,500,000  $240,000
 Semi-finalist   $800,000  $130,000
Quarter-finalist  $425,000  $91,000
 Round of 16  $250,000  $50,000
 Round of 32  $163,000  $30,000 
 Round of 64   $100,000  xxxxx
 Round of 128  $61,000  xxxxx

The USTA will also provide $6.6 million in additional relief grants and subsidies due to the decision to not hold qualifying and the reduction of the doubles draws. These funds will be allocated equally to the ATP and WTA, which will then make the determination of how to distribute and/or utilise them to provide replacement playing and ranking-point opportunities. Previously in 2020, the USTA contributed $1 million to an international player relief fund.

“We’re proud to be able to offer a player compensation package that maintains nearly 95 per cent of the prize pool from 2019,” said Mike Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “The prize money distribution for the 2020 US Open is the result of close collaboration between the USTA, WTA and ATP, and represents a commitment to supporting players and their financial well-being during an unprecedented time.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Western & Southern Open will also be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center this year. The main draw of the ATP Masters 1000 begins on 22 August.

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Are You Not Entertained?! Kyrgios' Tips & Deliveries In Washington

  • Posted: Aug 05, 2020

Are You Not Entertained?! Kyrgios’ Tips & Deliveries In Washington

Aussie delivers unforgettable moments in 2019 title run

There’s never a dull moment when Nick Kyrgios is playing, but arguably the most event-filled week of his career took place during last year’s title run at the Citi Open.

The Aussie saved a match point in his semi-final victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas and overcame back spasms to defeat Daniil Medvedev for his second ATP 500 title of the season. With ATP Tour trainers treating his body, Tournament Manager Mark Ein orchestrating an emergency delivery of racquets and helpful fans doling out advice, it took a village to get Kyrgios to his sixth ATP Tour crown.

ATPTour.com looks back at some of his memorable moments on and off the court that week in Washington.

Suggested Serving
There’s no on-court coaching on the ATP Tour, but that didn’t stop fans from giving Kyrgios serving tips.

Upon reaching match point in his last three matches of the week, Kyrgios asked a fan where to direct his serve. In his quarter-final match against Norbert Gombos, a female spectator suggested going out wide. He obliged and cracked an ace, jogging back to her in celebration before she kissed the Aussie on the cheek and hugged him.

He did the same thing against against Tsitsipas, following a fan’s recommendation to hit his serve out wide before cracking a forehand winner and rushing back to shake the spectator’s hand. Kyrgios repeated the trend on championship point against Medvedev and was once again told to serve out wide, leading the Aussie to hit an ace before collapsing to the ground in celebration.

Racquet Emergency
Kyrgios was down to one racquet the night before his Sunday final against Medvedev. His dad had sent five more from Canberra, Australia, but they were stuck in customs at FedEx’s Washington Dulles International Airport distribution centre and not due to be delivered until Monday. Making matters worse, the centre was closed on Sunday.

After texting Ein with his dilemma, the Tournament Manager sprang into action and reached out to an executive contact he had at FedEx. By Sunday morning, Kyrgios had the racquet delivery in hand with plenty of time before taking to court.

“[Ein] was able to pull some strings for me, and that was massive honestly for FedEx to make an exception and get me some racquets for the final, which was awesome. I’m super thankful to Mark and to FedEx,” Kyrgios said. “Everything happens for a reason. I got the racquets and got the ‘W’.”

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Special Delivery
Kyrgios wasn’t only receiving deliveries that week. Early in the third set of his semi-final with Tsitsipas, the Greek had difficulties with one of his shoelaces. A ballboy rushed the shoe up to Tsitsipas’ father, Apostolos, who quickly went to work in repairing it.

When the problem was fixed, Kyrgios took the sneaker from Apostolos and jogged over to his opponent’s chair, presenting it on bended knee and with his head bowed. A bemused Stefanos smiled and gave a thumbs-up.

“Some people love him. Some people hate him. I believe we need people like him in the game,” Stefanos said afterwards. “Otherwise, everything becomes too serious. He’s fun.”

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Sinner Headlines Strong Cincinnati Qualifying Field

  • Posted: Aug 04, 2020

Sinner Headlines Strong Cincinnati Qualifying Field

Last year’s semi-finalist Gasquet to also compete in qualifying

Jannik Sinner will be among a trio of #NextGenATP stars competing in the Western & Southern Open qualifying draw later this month. The reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion will make his second ATP Masters 1000 appearance, following his debut at the level at last year’s Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome.

Sinner will be joined in qualifying by fellow #NextGenATP stars Corentin Moutet of France and Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Moutet made a fast start to his 2020 ATP Tour campaign, winning six matches from qualifying to reach his maiden tour-level championship match at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha (l. to Rublev). Davidovich Fokina, who qualified for last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals, will try to reach his second Masters 1000 main draw.

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Richard Gasquet, who made the 2019 Western & Southern Open semi-finals, will have to qualify this year. The World No. 50 owns a 15-13 tournament record. Two-time quarter-finalist Gilles Simon will aim to make his 12th appearance in the main draw.

Alexander Bublik and Mikael Ymer will attempt to make their main draw debuts at the Masters 1000 event. Bublik will hope to build on his strong start to the year. The 23-year-old has claimed 10 victories from 17 tour-level matches in 2020, highlighted by a run to the Open 13 Provence semi-finals in Marseille (l. to Tsitsipas). Ymer will try to extend his perfect record in qualifying events this year, after reaching main draws in Doha and Auckland in January.

In the women’s qualifying draw, former champions Victoria Azarenka and Vera Zvonareva will compete for a place in the main draw. Former World No. 1 Azarenka defeated Serena Williams to win the 2013 edition of the event, while Zvonareva overcame Katerina Srebotnik to claim the title in 2006.

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Djokovic Leads US Open Field

  • Posted: Aug 04, 2020

Djokovic Leads US Open Field

USTA announces entry list today

Three-time champion Novak Djokovic will lead this year’s US Open playing field, featuring younger ATP Tour stars Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who will be eying an opportunity to make their Grand Slam breakthroughs.

Djokovic, who won the US Open in 2011, ’15 and ’18, will be attempting to win an 18th Grand Slam title. The Serb was on an unbeaten 18-match winning streak to start 2020 before the ATP Tour was suspended due to COVID-19 in March. That run included his eighth title at the Australian Open and him steering Serbia to victory in the inaugural ATP Cup.

Younger ATP Tour stars will look to snap the ‘Big Three’ stranglehold at the majors, with Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer combining to win the past 13 Grand Slam titles. Federer will not play this year’s US Open as he recovers from knee surgery. Nadal was not named on the entry list released today by the USTA.

Thiem is a three-time Grand Slam finalist, having fallen to Djokovic in this year’s Australian Open and to Nadal in the 2018-19 Roland Garros finals. Medvedev reached his first and only Grand Slam final last year in New York, when he pushed Nadal to five sets.

Tsitsipas, the reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, reached the 2019 Australian Open semi-finals after beating Federer in the fourth round. Zverev, a winner of three ATP Masters 1000 titles, achieved his best Grand Slam result earlier this year at the Australian Open, where he reached the semi-finals (l. Thiem).

Also in the US Open field is Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, who reached the semi-finals last year (l. Djokovic). World No. 10 David Goffin will also be at Flushing Meadows, as will 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic.

Former finalist Kei Nishikori is also entered, as is 2019 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov.

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