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From 3 M.P. Down In Qualifying, Millman Reaches First ATP 500 Final In Tokyo

  • Posted: Oct 05, 2019

From 3 M.P. Down In Qualifying, Millman Reaches First ATP 500 Final In Tokyo

Aussie advances to second ATP Tour final on Saturday

Entering Saturday, four qualifiers had reached ATP Tour finals in 2019. And after a solid performance at Ariake Tennis Park, John Millman became the fifth.

A week after saving three match points in the first round of qualifying at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, Millman defeated Reilly Opelka 6-3, 7-6(4) to reach his first ATP 500 final. After losing his first set of the main draw, the Aussie has won eight consecutive sets en route to his second tour-level championship match.

“That was a pretty good match. It’s always difficult playing against someone like Reilly, who has got such a massive serve. I was really happy to take the few little chances I had and took care of my own service games pretty well,” Millman said. “Managing to get through to play a final in Tokyo, that’s pretty special for me.”

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Millman wasted no time putting pressure on this year’s New York Open champion, breaking in his first return game of the match. That was a key moment, as Opelka had only dropped serve once from 31 previous service games in the tournament.

Despite landing only 50 per cent of his first serves in the first set, Millman faced few difficulties in maintaining his advantage. When he served for the opener, Opelka blasted away from the baseline, eventually cracking a massive inside-out forehand to earn his first break point. But Millman saved that chance when the American hit a backhand return into the net.

Opelka saved the two break points he faced in the second set with booming serves, and that paid dividends when he earned a set point on the Aussie’s serve at 5-4. But once again, Millman went to the American’s backhand, and Opelka was unable to put the ball in the court.

Millman won the final four points of the second-set tie-break to clinch his victory after one hour and 29 minutes.

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“When he’s got such a big serve and they’re coming down so quick, even if you are leaning towards the right way, it’s still very tough to put that ball back,” Millman said. “Really happy, really nice to also get off in straights.”

It has been a tremendous stretch of tennis for the 30-year-old, who won his 12th ATP Challenger Tour title two weeks ago in Kaohsiung. He also made the quarter-finals of the Winston-Salem Open the week before the US Open, where he faced eventual champion Rafael Nadal in the first round.

Awaiting in the final will be World No. 1 Novak Djokovic or 2017 Tokyo titlist David Goffin. Millman trails Djokovic 0-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and he lost to Goffin in their only previous meeting.

“It doesn’t get any easier, does it? Those two guys are both incredible players, obviously. Both so strong from the back of the court. That’s what I like to bring into my game, so I’m sure it’ll be physical, lots of baseline exchanges,” Millman said. “I get to play a final of an ATP 500 in such a special place like Tokyo. For me, that’s why you play. That’s why you go through the graft and some of the tougher times, to give yourself an opportunity like this. It’s pretty special.”

Opelka was the first American to reach the last four in Tokyo since Mardy Fish did so eight years ago. An American has not captured the title here since Pete Sampras in 1996.

Did You Know?
The last qualifier to lift a trophy on the ATP Tour was Daniil Medvedev, who did so here in Tokyo last year. At the time, it was the biggest title of the Russian’s career.

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Draw Preview: Defending Shanghai Champions Kubot/Melo Face Stacked Draw

  • Posted: Oct 05, 2019

Draw Preview: Defending Shanghai Champions Kubot/Melo Face Stacked Draw

Top seeds Cabal/Farah, Djokovic/Krajinovic among other notable teams

Defending Rolex Shanghai Masters champions Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo will need to bring their best tennis if they want to prevail once again in the eighth ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. The second seeds start their week against Borna Coric/Runhao Hua and could face Russian duo Karen Khachanov/Andrey Rublev in the second round.

Top seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah begin their campaign against Oliver Marach/Jurgen Melzer. The reigning Wimbledon (d. Mahut/Roger-Vasselin) and US Open (d. Granollers/Zeballos) champions have won 22 of their past 26 matches.

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Third seeds Marcel Granollers/Horacio Zeballos open against Radu Albot/Nikoloz Basilashvili and fourth seeds Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus battle Wesley Koolhof/Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round. Several Grand Slam-winning doubles pairings also headline the draw, including fifth seeds Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies, seventh seeds Jean-Julien Rojer/Horia Tecau and Henri Kontinen/John Peers.

Novak Djokovic is among the top singles players who round out the doubles field. He teams with fellow Serbian Filip Krajinovic to face Krawietz/Mies opening-round action.

Click here to view the full draw.

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Osaka ends Andreescu's 17-match winning run to reach China Open semis

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Naomi Osaka fought back from a set down to defeat Bianca Andreescu at the China Open on Friday – ending the US Open champion’s 17-match winning streak.

Former world number one Osaka advanced to the semi-finals with a 5-7 6-3 6-4 victory in just over two hours in Beijing.

Japan’s Osaka, 21, will face defending champion Caroline Wozniacki in the last four.

Top seed Ashleigh Barty will take on Kiki Bertens in the other semi-final.

Teenager Andreescu charged into a 5-1 lead in the first set, but Osaka fought back to draw level on 5-5.

The 19-year-old Canadian then broke Osaka’s serve to clinch the first set.

World number six Andreescu went up 3-1 in the second set before Osaka won five consecutive games to level the match and the Australian Open champion proved too strong in the third set of what was the first meeting between the pair.

“I forgot how it felt and honestly it sucks, I didn’t miss it,” Andreescu said after her first loss since the Miami Open in March in a run that included her stunning victory over Serena Williams in the US Open final last month.

Osaka became the fifth player to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China after Barty, Karolina Pliskova, Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and Andreescu.

Australia’s world number one Barty also battled from a set down to beat Czech Republic’s seventh seed Petra Kvitova 4-6 6-4 6-3 on Friday to set up her meeting with eighth seed Bertens, who upset third seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (8-6) 6-2.

Dane Wozniacki beat Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-3 7-6 (7-5).

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Is The Search For Djokovic’s Greatest Fan Over?

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Is The Search For Djokovic’s Greatest Fan Over?

World No. 1 shares special moment with followers on Instagram

As the No. 1 player on the ATP Tour, Novak Djokovic has no shortage of fans at any event he visits. But after an encounter with a Japanese fan at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships in Tokyo, the 75-time tour-level titlist may be able to call off the search for his greatest fan.

“I have met many people travelling, but I don’t know if I have met anyone more passionate and enthusiastic than this guy on the tennis court,” said Djokovic on Instagram.

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Introducing Iori Yoshida, the Japanese fan who moved to Serbia for four years after watching his idol rise to the top of the ATP Rankings in 2011. After being given permission to move across the world by his father, who saw the passion his son had for Djokovic’s game, Yoshida learned to play tennis and speak the language during his time in Serbia. But it was in his home country of Japan that he finally met the 16-time Grand Slam champion.

After spotting Yoshida’s videos on YouTube, Djokovic got in contact with him during his debut appearance in Tokyo. The World No. 1 invited Yoshida to one of his matches and took to the court with him afterwards. Keen to capture the moment, Djokovic shared a video of their meeting for his 6.3 million followers on Instagram.

“It was a truly remarkable experience, one that really fills my heart with joy and happiness. Seeing the passion he shared while we were together was fascinating,” said Djokovic.

It wasn’t just Yoshida’s passion that impressed Djokovic. The 32-year-old also praised Yoshida for his impressive Serbian language skills and humour.

“He speaks Serbian so well and is a very funny guy,” said Djokovic. “[He] made me laugh so hard. I had a blast and these are exactly the situations that remind me how grateful I need to be every day to have the position to positively impact many lives. [It is] a true blessing.”

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Djokovic will next face 2017 champion David Goffin for a spot in the championship match. Time will tell if he is able to find his greatest level, but he may have already found his greatest fan.

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Can You Pass The Rolex Shanghai Masters Quiz?

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Can You Pass The Rolex Shanghai Masters Quiz?

Test your knowledge of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai

How much do you know about the Rolex Shanghai Masters, the eighth ATP Masters 1000 tennis tournament of the 2019 season?

You may be aware that Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray have each won multiple titles at this tournament, but do know who has reached three straight finals here? Or do you remember the only player not part of the Big Four to win the Rolex Shanghai Masters? (Hint: It was at the inaugural edition in 2009.) We test your knowledge in this quiz!

Need a little assistance? Check out these Shanghai resource pages:
Tournament Profile | All You Need To Know

Click here to stay informed all year with tennis news from the ATP Tour.

Done with the quiz? Scroll back up to the top to see how you did!

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Murray: ‘I Can Keep Improving’

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Murray: ‘I Can Keep Improving’

Brit discusses progress after Beijing quarter-final run

After falling to top seed Dominic Thiem in his ATP Tour quarter-final since his second right hip surgery on 28 January, former World No. 1 Andy Murray took time to reflect on a positive week of improvement at the China Open.

For the first time this season, the Brit scored back-to-back tour-level victories to reach the last eight in China and showed signs of his best level throughout his clash against BNP Paribas Open titlist Thiem. Following wins against US Open finalist Matteo Berrettini and countryman Cameron Norrie, Murray is now confident that he can challenge all players on the ATP Tour.

“I’m playing well enough to be competitive at this level against all of the players,” said Murray. “Maybe not quite consistent enough just now to beat maybe the top players. But I think against guys that are No. 10 or No. 20 in the world, I can compete well against them just now.

“I think I need a few more weeks of playing matches like this. [I need] two, three or four matches in a week, trying to play consistently well in all of those matches to say I’m playing Top 20 tennis or something like that. But I’m getting there.

“This week is better than last week. I hope next week is better than this week. That’s how I have to try to keep going to see where my limit is. I don’t think I’m at that limit now. I think I can keep improving. That’s what this week has shown me.”

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Since Murray’s return to singles action at the Western & Southern Open in August, the 32-year-old has showcased his signature fighting spirit on the court. Murray earned his first tour-level victory since his return in Zhuhai last week before an encouraging three-set battle against eventual champion Alex de Minaur.

With two wins and a competitive showing against Nitto ATP Finals contender Thiem this week, Murray is positive that his level is continuing to rise with each passing week.

“I think this was maybe the best in terms of how I played since I came back. It was great for me. I played three matches in four days, which is quite a lot,” said Murray. “Actually, I felt better than I expected today, as well… It was just another step for me. I wasn’t expecting to go from here to my highest level or winning tournaments straight away. Everything has kind of been a pretty gradual progress for me. This week was another step in the right direction.”

Murray also sees room for improvement after his loss to the World No. 5. The 45-time tour-level titlist, who admitted to feeling tired before the match, reflected on his change of approach to the contest after losing a marathon opening game to the Austrian on Diamond Court.

“I was feeling a little bit tired this morning,” said Murray. “We talked about, ‘If you are feeling that way, try to finish off some of the points’.

“I feel like I was playing the right way in the first game. When I lost that, I felt like I needed to try and finish the points a little bit quicker. I wasn’t that happy with the way I went about the match after the first game. I went a bit off track there at first in terms of how I was playing.”

But while Murray seeks to improve in certain areas, the three-time Grand Slam champion also recognises the progress he has already made in other areas of his game. Murray has noticed a marked improvement in his movement, which has proven to be one of his major strengths throughout his career on the ATP Tour.

“Last week felt like quite a big step for me. The matches I played, just in terms of my movement around the court, I actually felt quite confident by the end of the week. I’m actually moving pretty well,” said Murray.

“When I was over in the States, and when I played the Challenger in Mallorca, I was a little bit concerned with that. I just didn’t feel that comfortable moving around. When I watched videos of the matches, I just didn’t really like how I looked in terms of my movement.

“Whereas last week – and I think it was the case here as well – my movement on the court is not like it was before, but it’s enough to be very competitive at this level. Hopefully that can continue to improve over the next couple of months.I think I’m doing pretty well. I would say I’m quite happy with that.”

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Throughout this year, Murray has had to overcome many challenges to be back on court competing against the top players in the ATP Rankings. But he has always been able to rely on the support and encouragement of his team and his family.

This week proved no different. His brother, Jamie, is through to the semi-finals in the doubles draw alongside Neal Skupski and his mother Judy has also been in attendance to support activities at the tournament.

“My team and my family have been very supportive of me. [In the] times when I maybe wasn’t feeling like I wanted to keep going or keep trying, they were also pushing me a little bit to keep going,” said Murray. “My mum is here this week doing a little bit of work for the tournament. Obviously I have got my brother here, as well. It’s nice for me to see them.

“When I’m traveling, when you’re away from the rest of your family, to have some of them here is nice. They have always been very supportive of my tennis and my career. I’m very thankful for all of the help they have given me.”

Murray will now travel to the Rolex Shanghai Masters to compete in just his second ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. The 32-year-old is one of only four men to lift the trophy since the inaugural edition of the event in 2009, claiming three tournament victories (2010-‘11, ’16).

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Goffin Reveals The Keys To Facing An In-Form Djokovic

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Goffin Reveals The Keys To Facing An In-Form Djokovic

Belgian bidding to reach third Tokyo final

One of the words World No. 1 Novak Djokovic used to describe his performance in his 50-minute Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships victory against Lucas Pouille was “flawless”.

So if Djokovic replicates that level in his semi-final Saturday, how will 2017 Tokyo champion David Goffin, who owns a 12-1 record at this ATP 500 event, find a way to overcome that challenge?

“You want to do your job… it doesn’t matter what’s the score. You want to stay in the match and try to do your job. And then sometimes you have some chances, some opportunities you have to take to maybe do some damage, because you don’t have a lot of opportunities when you play those guys,” Goffin said. “You just have a couple of small ones and you have to take it. Hopefully that will be the case tomorrow.”

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Goffin trails Djokovic 1-6 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. And in their most recent meeting, in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon this year, the Belgian managed to win only six games despite feeling that he did not play poorly.

“Sometimes you try different things when you play the best ones many times and you lost a few times, so you have to change sometimes. Sometimes you find a little solution, but it was close. Sometimes you try a different one, but it was not the right one,” Goffin said. “Sometimes you’re not feeling great, sometimes you’re feeling well, so it depends. But for the moment, it’s always better to go onto the court with some confidence. That’s the case for the moment for me, so it’s always better [that way] before playing against Novak.”

Goffin put forth his own strong performance in the last eight, taking just 54 minutes to eliminate 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals champion Hyeon Chung. The third seed believes one part of his game in particular is shining right now, and he thinks that can be a key against the top seed.

“For the moment, if you saw tonight, it’s the serve. So I’m going to have to serve like that tomorrow. But it’s not easy, because he’s the best returner in the world,” Goffin said. “I have to serve well, I have to serve smart and try to have some free points. Normally he doesn’t give a return [away]. At least he makes it, and then it’s tough to make the point after.

“If I have free points sometimes in my service games, it will help. And then I have to play well on my baseline, try to stay with him, try to stay solid and when I have a small chance during the rally to be aggressive and to take the opportunity in the game, to be aggressive and go forward, I will have to take it.”

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Goffin won 90 per cent of his first-serve points (27/30) against Chung, and he also made 77 per cent of his first deliveries to make it even tougher for the South Korean to work his way into points. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up knows that staying on top of Djokovic will be important.

“He puts pressure on every point. He’s returning everything very long, just next to the baseline. And then during the point he puts pressure. He takes the ball early, he makes you run a lot, so you never feel comfortable when you play against him because he’s always playing really fast and really precise all the time,” Goffin said. “It’s not like playing Roger when you feel like you receive winners all the time. But when it’s Novak, you have the feeling that it’s very solid.

“He doesn’t miss, he doesn’t give anything. [His shots are] long and he’s moving so well, so it’s tough to find a solution because you’re always in a bad position to play a shot. So that’s why it’s not easy to play against him.”

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Mahut & Roger-Vasselin Move Into Tokyo Final

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Mahut & Roger-Vasselin Move Into Tokyo Final

Kubot/Melo reach Beijing championship match

Frenchmen Nicolas Mahut and Edouard Roger-Vasselin own six ATP Tour doubles titles as a pair. And on Sunday, they will have a chance to make it seven.

The second seeds advanced to the championship match of the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships with a 6-4, 7-5 victory against Brit Dominic Inglot and American Austin Krajicek on Friday evening. In the final, they will face this year’s Monte-Carlo champions, Nikola Mektic and Franko Skugor, or defending champion Jan-Lennard Struff (w/McLachlan) and his partner, Frenchman Lucas Pouille.

“[We are] one step away from the trophy and the title,” Mahut said. “It’s going to be really hard either we play Lucas and Struffi or a great Croatian team, so we have one day to be ready.”

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The fans were out in full force for the first doubles semi-final at this ATP 500 event, cheering loudly for the great action at Ariake Tennis Park.

“It was great. We saw a couple of French flags in the crowd supporting us, so that was really nice. The atmosphere was great, almost a full stadium for a semi-final,” Roger-Vasselin said. “It’s great for doubles, it’s great for us. Really happy to get to a final.”

Mahut threw his arms in the air in celebration when his team clinched its triumph after one hour and 14 minutes. The Frenchmen saved the two break points they faced, converting on two of their four opportunities.

“Every time I play here I have so much support… today playing a semi-final in front of this crowd is the first time [I’ve played in front of such a crowd], I can say that,” Mahut said. “I hope they come back on Sunday for the final as well.”

Mahut, a 25-time tour-level doubles titlist and Roger Vasselin, who has captured 18 tour-level crowns — including a 2013 victory in Tokyo with Rohan Bopanna — are not just enjoying their wins. They have embraced the city, too.

“Enjoying the tournament, enjoying the city as well. Enjoying the people who are really nice. It’s always nice to have some support on the practice courts. They are coming asking for autographs. It is always nice,” Roger-Vasselin said. “Really happy and of course when you have a good week, it’s always much better.”

Kubot/Melo Return To Beijing Final
Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo reached their second straight final at the China Open on Friday, beating Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev 7-5, 7-5.

The defending champions broke serve on six occasions to record their seventh straight victory at the ATP 500 event after one hour and 33 minutes. Kubot and Melo have not dropped a set en route to the final.

The Polish-Brazilian tandem will face Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski or Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek for the title. The unseeded pairings will contest the second semi-final on Saturday.

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Murray loses in straight sets to Thiem at China Open

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Britain’s Andy Murray was beaten 6-2 7-6 (7-3) by top-seed Dominic Thiem in the quarter-finals of the China Open.

The 32-year-old, in his first singles quarter-final in over a year following career-saving hip surgery in January, was broken early in both sets.

Murray broke back to force a tie-break when the Austrian was serving for victory at 5-4 in the second set.

But the 26-year-old, who is ranked fifth in the world, dominated the tie-break to secure victory in Beijing.

Murray moved encouragingly freely during an evenly balanced match and produced a number of signature drop shots and volleys.

Thiem will play Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the semi-finals after the 23-year-old beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini 3-6 6-3 6-1.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev will play Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the other semi-final after the pair overcame Americans Sam Querrey and John Isner in their respective quarter-finals.

Murray’s last ATP Tour singles quarter-final appearance was a defeat by Spaniard Fernando Verdasco at the Shenzhen Open in September 2018.

The Scotsman will continue his singles comeback at the Shanghai Open this weekend after accepting a wildcard entry.

He has won the title in Shanghai on three previous occasions – in 2010, 2011 and 2016.

Meanwhile world number two Rafael Nadal, 33, who won his 19th Grand Slam title at the US Open in September, has pulled out of the tournament in Zhuhai from 5 October owing to a wrist injury.

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Zverev Improves London Hopes, Beats Querrey In Beijing

  • Posted: Oct 04, 2019

Zverev Improves London Hopes, Beats Querrey In Beijing

German plays Tsitsipas in Beijing

Alexander Zverev boosted his chances on Friday of qualifying for the third consecutive year to the Nitto ATP Finals, where he is the defending champion.

The second-seeded German was solid on serve and withstood 15 aces from American Sam Querrey for a 7-6(3), 6-2 quarter-final victory over 73 minutes at the China Open. In his opening three matches, Zverev has consistently found success on serve in the Chinese capital. The 6’6″ right-hander has claimed 61 per cent of second-serve points (27/44) and committed only five double faults. 

Having started the week in 11th position in the 2019 ATP Race To London, Zverev has risen to eighth position on 2,255 points — 140 points behind seventh-placed Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut. David Goffin, who will compete in the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships semi-finals on Saturday, is 20 points behind Zverev in ninth place.

Last year, Zverev beat Novak Djokovic for the Nitto ATP Finals crown, the only biggest title of his career.

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The 22-year-old, who is now 37-19 on the season that includes his 11th ATP Tour title in Geneva (d. Jarry), will next play Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. Tsitsipas leads Zverev 2-1 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, having won their past two meets in three sets at the 2018 Rogers Cup in Toronto and the Mutua Madrid Open in May this year.

“I am very happy to be in the semi-finals,” said Zverev. “I am very happy with the way I am playing and tomorrow is going to be a very interesting match against Stefanos. A lot of spectators are looking forward to that and I am as well.

“He is my Laver Cup team mate. We got a little bit closer at the Laver Cup as well. We understand each other very well now, so I hope it is going to be a fantastic match.”

Zverev struggled to breakdown Querrey’s serve in a hard-fought 45-minute opener, but the German broke clear at 2/2 in the first-set tie-break. Zverev hit 17 winners and committed just five unforced errors.

From 2-2 in the second set, Zverev won four straight games. In keeping the ball low, Zverev forced Querrey to move up the court and at 2-3, 30/40 in the second set, the American made a forehand approach error. Then, in the final game, Zverev’s consistency from the baseline helped him to a second service break.

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