Author Archives: pat davis

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Join in by writing comments and we’ll respond in real time.

Today the weather interfered with life at the Big W in a major way. Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova moved easily through their matches just before the deluge but a whole flock of other players are backed up on the runway.

On Friday we saw the shedding of the first real blood. James Blake lost in four sets to Juan Carlos Ferrero. A bit of a surprise perhaps but Ferrero played Blake well last summer in Cincinnati and Blake has been all over the place this year. A bigger upset occurred when number 5 seed Fernando Gonzalez lost a rough five-setter to yet another Serb, Janko Tipsaravic. And just when I started to think Ivan Ljubicic might have a chance to enjoy another round or two, he lost in four sets to Paul-Henri Mathieu.

Mathieu has started to make good noises this year. He is another one of those crossover French guys who can play on surfaces other than just clay. His compatriot Richard Gasquet is still in the draw and moving easily through his matches too. On the women’s side, Martina Hingis was not expected to do that well here after some weeks off due to injury but I did not expect her to go out in the third round to….Laura Granville?

We keep hyping upcoming matches that promise good stuff only to have them peter out into rather ho-hum affairs. From my perspective at the end of the first week, it has not been a thrilling tournament this year. The Williams sisters blew hot and cold in their initial offerings. Venus especially had to maintain her poise before she was nearly booted out while Serena looked a bit scratchy. Now they are getting themselves in gear and their opponents are paying the price. So are we. ESPN2 is rubbing our noses in their slaughters, over and over again.

Ditto the Henman-Moya classic five-setter, which really was a classic when it happened. But now we’ve been so beaten over the head with the repeats of it during rain delays that I frankly don’t care if I ever see these two again – playing each other or anyone else for that matter. ESPN2, we love you!

We were also salivating at the prospect of Roger Federer meeting his first real challenge from Marat Safin. Someone should have told Safin I guess. He tried to make a bit of a run in the third set but the train had left the station by that point. Federer rolled through him in three straight sets.

In fact, if anything has generated heat here at Wimbledon it’s been all the flaming comments from fans who don’t exactly adore ESPN’s coverage right now. I added my own snide comment on a rival site about Dick Enberg, saying the remote buttons of the world were probably designed with him in mind. When he comes on the mute button is my stalwart ally; I keep the TV muted for long stretches. It’s not worth turning it up to hear the ping and pong of the ball hits because Enberg is talking right over them. Have we ever heard such a useless stream of drivel? It used to be that most commentary stopped when the play began; now it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

The level of public uncouthness has spread to the commentary booths, so now it’s pretty much continual babble that we get to hear. And those little tidbit stories of “entertainment” the network tosses out to fill time really have little to do with tennis but we’re going to get them anyway, so shut the hell up and act like you’re enjoying the tennis. And they wonder why the rankings of the sport have plummeted over the years.

Wimbledon.org gives you a nice package online for about $25 to watch the whole tournament and next year I may sign up for it and just bypass ESPN2 altogether. Unless of course The Tennis Channel does us all a big favor and acquires a few more rights to tournaments. I would much rather hear their guys because they tend to be far more technical and less interested in the trivia.

Roger Federer’s wardrobe has been another source of heat. A lot of people hate it, they think it reflects an arrogance. Has anyone looked at the wardrobes of Americans lately? I’m not even talking the gang banger styles, just those of normal people. We’re all so incredibly dressed down now – and it’s all, like, kind of gross. So to see a guy like Fed waltz out in the white long pants and matching blazer with the gold trim, well, we’re in another world. I think it looks hot as hell. One thing some of us females like about Roger: we won’t ever have to take him shopping, like we would Vince Spadea. Federer could take us shopping, truth be known.

We did get one nifty match on Friday. Jelena Jankovic and Lucie Safarova played a tense three-setter that felt like a semi-final. Jankovic pulled it out but just barely. When I saw her draw I knew Safarova could be a real challenge to Jankovic who has pretty much buried her opponents here. Lucie played attacking tennis early on, she had lots of errors but also a lot of winners. Jankovic found herself playing a ton of defense. After grabbing a tight first set 7-5, Jankovic figured she’d better not count on Lucie making mistakes and she started going for her shots more.

In the second set she stepped it up. The key game was at 3-3 where Lucie finally held serve through eleven deuces. Did Jelena go away in disappointment? No way. She fought back, broke Lucie, even had a set point, but then gave the break back to. Jelena won the tiebreaker then clinched the match with a break in the third set that held up. Safarova should be near the top ten by the end of this year. She’s a lefty with a good powerful serve and deep, well-paced shots off both wings. She still gets a little tight in big moments but she’ll get over that. I like her game a lot. These two will have a good rivalry.

Good matches on tap for Monday include David Nalbandian facing Marcos Baghdatis. I look for Marcos to take that in four sets. He is starting to look consistent now and, besides, he is one of my Fantasy Tennis picks. Rafael Nadal also takes on Sweden’s Robin Soderling. This may be one we have vast hopes of being competitive when we all know it will turn out to be anything but.

The Pit Bull Contingent should take up some slack for us, namely Lleyton Hewitt who will face off against Guillermo Canas. I keep forgetting Canas is even in the draw. He has had mixed results since his earlier two triumphs over Federer this year, and I guess no one really expects much from him on this surface. It’s a battle of two counter-punchers but Hewitt will probably spend a fair bit of time at the net where he can use those attacking moves. I think this one will go the distance with Hewitt pulling it out.

Now, let’s all pray for a heat wave.


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See also:
Wimbledon 29 Years Back
Wimbledon Joins the Hard Court Season
B**tch and Sing Dept: Grass Munching Time
ATP Fantasy Tennis: Wimbledon Picks

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 154 user reviews.

Join us for the men’s Wimbledon final! We’ll be blogging live on Sunday, July 8th at 6am PST/9am EST/2pm BST. Leave a comment and we’ll respond in real time.

Wimbledon Gets Under Way – A Little Rain, A Little Sun, So Far So Good

Day One began at Wimbledon yesterday with the usual intermittent rain delays and the clammy-looking crowd of Anglo-Saxon faces peering out from under their rain gear. Pale dumplings in search of a nice warm broth. Were we ever in Rome? Seems like ages ago.

The grass courts are almost preternaturally lush and beautiful this year. The green courts and the all-white clothing of the players provide a striking contrast. Particularly when Roger Federer took to the court yesterday for his opener. My God, Da Man not only acquired a new white blazer this year but he added long white pants as well! If I could whistle, I would. And they weren’t just for show, either. It’s pretty bloody cold in London today.

The good news for Federer is that he whipped through his opponent Gabashvili in straight sets. He finished before the rain came and lowered the boom on a whole bunch of players yet to play. The bad news for Federer is that those lush courts may be…well, TOO lush. They appear groomed so they are thicker, and consequently the balls are not staying low like they normally do on grass. They are riding high and moving more slowly. For Rafael Nadal it’s nearly perfect. Maybe that explains why a lot of guys were using kick serves out wide. If we can’t use our slices as effectively, we’ll try and make the ball hop over your racquet, and take that, fella!

Nothing too outrageous occurred on Day One. The Yanks had mixed results, which seems to be the way of their world this year. Andy Roddick looked the best in his win over buddy Justin Gimelstob and Serena Williams looked spotty in her close first set before she ran off with the second set and the match.

Robby Ginepri had the toughest assignment in his opener against Fernando Gonzalez. ESPN2 must have shown a total of three minutes of this match so we had to rely on the second-hand commentary. Ginepri won the first set and was up 4-2 in the second set tiebreaker, had an easy smash for 5-2, but missed it badly. That was followed by an abrupt right face from Ginepri and into the sauce he went losing in four. Ouch! Sam Querrey, a big-serving Californian who should have done well on grass, went out rather meekly in three sets to a clay courter, of all things. As of Tuesday night, we had three American males left: Roddick, James Blake and Amer Delic.

Leave it to the Geriatric League to provide the best show of the day. Carlos Moya (age 30) and Tim Henman (age 32) fought it out in a very high quality match that was still going on Tuesday, having been called late Monday because of darkness. When they resumed play in the fifth set, Moya served and volleyed better than Henman at some points while Henman actually dominated some of the baseline rallies.

Henman caught a lucky break when Andy Murray pulled out because his wrist is still not one hundred percent. Suddenly Henman was, once again, the great hope for the Brits. Fortunately he pulled the match out when Moya double-faulted on match point. The huge crowd assembled on Henman Hill went crazy. Yes, it’s gone back to being HIS hill again, thank you. Who would have thought they could turn to Henman, instead of Murray, for their thrills and spills?

As Tuesday began, Venus Williams faced the toughest task when she had to overcome a one-set, 2-0, deficit against Russian youngster Alla Kudryavtseva. She came out and socked it to Venus hitting deep and powerful shots off both sides, seemingly without nerves. How did Venus come back? We could state the matter two ways: Venus kept her nerve and hung in there well, or women on tour get a really bad case of the heebie-jeebies when crunch time comes around, and what does that say about the state of the women’s game? Probably it was lots of both. I did not think Venus could aright herself, and yet she did.

God only knows how this victory improves her disposition and her game. I don’t subscribe to the idea that you can enter a Slam and play your way into fitness so I have mixed feelings about the Williams sisters when they do this. Yet they do it, and that probably gives fits to the other players in the locker room.

For some reason Federer’s side of the draw seems mundane and predictable. He will probably get Roddick in the semis. Nadal’s half is the wild and woolly side. I don’t even have Nadal making it into the semis: my pick there is Marcos Baghdatis to face Tomas Berdych. Yes yes, I know, two of the bigger head cases on the men’s side, but I don’t quite trust in Novak Djokovic yet, and I don’t really like Nikolay Davydenko’s chances on grass. Nadal could have his hands full with someone like Robin Soderling, who serves big and plays attacking tennis, or with Berdych later on in the quarterfinals. So I see Ivo Karlovic entering the fray on this side of the draw. This is Dr. Ivo’s favorite time of year, he blossoms from 6’7” tall to something like 7’6” on this surface.

Brad Gilbert was singing Karlovic’s praises yesterday; he thinks Ivo can make a dent here. He also likes the chances of my man Nicholas Mahut. I wanted to pick Mahut for my Fantasy Tennis team but because he was ranked outside of the Top 100 when the draw began, I could not use him. He wasn’t even listed. So I held my nose and picked Richard Gasquet instead, although he has caused nothing but heartbreak this year to his fans.

Gilbert and I part company on Nadal’s chances. Brad thinks “Ralph, ” as he’s taken to calling Rafa, will beat Federer in four sets in the final. I think that’s a leap into the void but that’s what I like about Gilbert. Most of his picks are right on usually, but he likes to throw in one that screws with our heads and makes everybody wonder, what planet did he breeze in from?

Unfortunately I have a feeling the Roddick-Federer semi-final will BE the final, and I don’t give Roddick much of a chance. Federer in the final against whoever would not be much of a match, I’m betting. Not on the green stuff.

The women are much more mundane: the quarters seem like a cakewalk for Amelie Mauresmo to face Nadia Petrova, Kuzie gets Shrieker, Justine Henin faces Serena again, and Jelena Jankovic should have an interesting duel with Martina Hingis.

Cheers all,

Grass is good.

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 211 user reviews.

You’re a 30 y.o. tall dark and handsome tennis pro whose knees are shot but your other parts work just fine – so what now? Why reality TV, of course!

Rev up those libidos, folks, because last night – many thanks to NBC, or curses be upon them, depending – Mark Philippoussis began what the advertisers are calling “the match of his life.” Whew, and they ain’t kiddin’. The Scud, or Poo, or Flipper, as he is alternately called, began a life somewhat removed from tennis. He’s embarking on a new TV show about 30-something males romping with 40-something females. Can they make it work, is the premise. “Age of Love” is what they’re calling this heap of goodness.

Can we survive it, is what I’m wondering, perhaps uncharitably. Not that there is anything wrong with the Older/Younger ticket. Sounds pretty darn good to me, but then I’m a cradle-snatcher myself who happened to meet my partner when he was 30 and I was fourteen years older. So I would be first in line to pass my blessing upon the latest Poo Potpourri. It’s high-time this kind of hanky-panky made it onto the airways. After all, this Aussie was one of those blokes who got noticed off the courts too. He had a hunky charm that women liked, a basic shyness coupled with a certain intensity. Women eat that up, trust me, and let’s face it, his playing days are just about finished.

The last time Poo was in a tennis match of consequence was his 1999 quarterfinal with Sampras at Wimbledon. He’d already broken into the Top Ten in late March of that year for the first time and it looked like he would take Sampras out. But the big guy landed wrong on his left knee, and it all came crashing down around him. He suffered a cartilage tear and had surgery and, being a knee, he was never quite the same after that. I’ve always thought that size hindered Philippoussis, not just in terms of his movement but because he is so big, i.e. rather long-waisted and with a lot of heft to his upper body. So his lower body and the knees in particular bore the brunt of this weight. I’ve wondered if it would help him to slim down more, but it’s not like the guy is fat. He’s just big and long.

Given his physique and talent, Poo should have gone farther in his career, apart from the injuries. But he wasn’t always smart about his career. In fact the guy just didn’t seem too smart. My co-writer Nina and I discussed this one day. I rose to his defense, he is a Hunk after all, and he probably got the dumb label laid on him more than once in his career. I reminded Nina that women respond to his hunkiness and the last thing they want is brains getting in the way. I know all about this rant too, being blond myself, and having to cope with all the Driving While Blond jokes. So I can feel for Poo as a Hunk.

It’s interesting the ongoing love affair Americans have with Aussies. We’ve grown up with the notion that Aussie men are the REAL men. First we had Bryan Brown, then Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee, then Mel Gibson in just about anything he did during his Australian period, and finally Russell Crowe in anything anywhere anytime. That’s a lot of hunkiness. Is their water better than our water?

So Mark Philippoussis comes out of a good tradition. He’s made People Magazine’s list of the top sexiest men twice. One year he had to share the limelight with his associates Lleyton Hewitt and Patrick Rafter. I suppose Hewitt is cute but he’s too much of a weasel on steroids for my taste. Rafter was much more like it. He could have done a reality TV show for sure. But Rafter ran like hell from the Hunk label. He wanted nothing more than to hang out with his family and surf. He’ll probably knock back a slab of tinnies and have a good hoot over his countryman’s new career tonight. Assuming they dare to show this show Down Under.

So how did our lad fare last night? Well, surprisingly he wasn’t too shabby. Polite, natural-seeming, a perfect boy toy. Unfortunately I had to fight my way through the show, which is actually a series. God help us. I can sit through five hours of Federer-Nadal no-sweat, but five minutes of Age Of Love and I was ready to hurl myself out the nearest open window. Mark, I’m frankly sorry your knees didn’t hold up.

A curious note: Poo is 6’5” and of Greek heritage, so I guess that inspired him to get a tattoo of Alexander the Great on his arm. It’s just that Alexander was barely 5’6”, and rather fair, and from Macedonia rather than Greece.

But I don’t have the heart to tell him. Neither should you.


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Of the City, Not the Girl

Was Roland Garros good for you too? I hope so, but then I’m just happy I survived the two weeks. Covering a Grand Slam often feels to me like covering the circus, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. The critters blow into town and set up the tents, do their thing for two weeks, then move on. The day after I look back and wonder how it all began; it seems like a million years since we got under way.

Overall this year’s French Open had a certain lugubrious quality about it. Like a meal you’ve eaten that doesn’t quite get digested, it kind of sits there causing a vague feeling of heartburn. We started off with a few good surprises and lots of rising expectations, but the further we got the less exciting it became.

Marcos Baghdatis put together a modest run. Filippo Volandri picked up where he left off after Rome and had a big win early over Ivan Ljubicic. In fact Roger Federer could have faced Volandri, then Guillermo Canas and finally Rafael Nadal. This was an early prospect I was salivating over but then other people had other ideas. Fernando Gonzalez got bumped in his opening round by the crafty Radek Stepanek, an upset on paper but not in actuality. Gonzo has been erratic this year and Stepanek is now injury-free and ready to play. Carlos Moya reminded everyone he’s nearly the oldest guy now out there, but he can still kick ass. A fine run into the quarters here for Moya.

We ended up with the four best male players in the game playing in the semi-finals: Federer, Nadal, Nikolay Davydenko and Novak Djokovic. What more could we ask for? Well, sorry to say, it didn’t feel like even that was enough. Nadal completely dominated Djokovic in three sets and while Davydenko had his moments of opportunity against Federer, he could not take them. The gap between Number One and Two and Everybody Else was painfully evident so both semis felt rather lackluster. Even the quarters felt that way although they promised plenty of action. Davydenko and Canas was a disappointment, Igor Andreev and Djokovic could have been a blast but Andreev finally ran out of steam. No one expected much of Tommy Robredo v. Federer or Moya v. Nadal.

As for the women, they disappointed as well. The hot air generated around the Williams sisters could have warmed us all up during that cold first week of weather. They came and went rather swiftly. The supposedly big show between Serena and Justine was hyped out of existence. The other quarterfinal matchups were big letdowns too. The most riveting women’s match was probably Maria Sharapova and Patty Schnyder, but not so much for the quality of play as for the drama surrounding it. In fact in the cosmic sense I would say this match had everything going on that I hate right now about women’s tennis. One player was not playing that well but she was still dominating, and the other one played a really good match up until she lost her nerve and and lost the match. I hate being associated with females when I see a match like that. Grrrrr.

So, what else was not right about this tournament since we’re obviously segueing into major complaint mode now? One of the most unpleasant memories of this year’s French was seeing those large sections of empty seats in the later rounds. Much was made of the President’s box looking quite empty other than the presence of Guillermo Vilas, who seems to need very little sleep during these events. This doesn’t happen at Wimbledon with the royals’ box so are we to assume that the British aristocracy has more free time on its hands than the French and they say to each other, “So let‘s go down and watch the lads and lassies smack balls around today?” You can bet those empty seats are going to be filled next year, by hook or by crook. This was a rather large embarrassment.

The Americans weren’t right at this event either, the men all died in their opening rounds. Once they were gone no one seemed to care anyway. We’ve sunk that low into the red clay. As luck would have it, though, the advertising world marched on, oblivious to the scores. So we got to see Andy Roddick lose his shirt over and over again in the Lacoste commercials. The French were lapping at their heels. Richard Gasquet went down in a rather surprising display of ineptitude. Amelie Mauresmo went into fragility mode nearly immediately although Lucie Safarova played a good tough match against her.

We could care less though, we had the Serbian Contingent and they took up the slack just fine. For such a small country to crank out two women and one guy into the semi-finals and then Ana Ivanovic into the women’s final, is quite an achievement. Djokovic said later that he expects one of them to win a Grand Slam within the next eighteen months. That timetable is definitely doable. I just know Novak thinks it’s going to be him first but for my money I think it will be Jelena Jankovic. The Serbs have much to crow about and crow they did. The trio arrived in Belgrade to a tumultuous welcome.

One big winner out of this event was Andreev, who climbed over Roddick, Massu, Mathieu and Baghdatis to hammer his way into the quarterfinals. He got to take home Maria Kirilenko as well, so we can see he’s a greedy bastard and this will probably psyche him up like crazy and he’ll pull the rest of his year together in hopefully artful fashion. The other big winner was, of course, Nadal, who went about his business in straightforward fashion, not dropping a set until the final.

As for the state of Federer, I keep reminding myself that he’s only the second best clay court player in the world. And that’s still nothing to sneeze at. There’s no doubt the pressure may have gotten to him in the end and it is sad that we started to talk about him as the greatest ever. He may be starting to believe it himself. Is it entirely fair of us? Maybe not, and yet we’ll keep on doing that because he is the best player around. Dammit, I WANT to see him hold up that trophy, just because it seems so difficult for him to win this one. If anyone out there could appreciate what Paris really means, it’s Roger. You will have Paris someday Roger. Just not this year.


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Big hype but no surge today

Justine Henin beat Serena Williams today in rather straight-forward fashion in two sets, 6-4, 6-3, denying fans what looked initially like a barnburner of a quarterfinal match. This match showed us exactly where the two players are this weak in their respective games.

Williams got here by the seat of her pants, working her way through lesser players by dint of her greater physical strength and her competitive zeal. Henin, by contrast, showed off her variety and her consistency, the two elements that have helped her dominate here at Roland Garros. She was dialed in from the beginning, she held her ground steadily and did not allow Serena a way back into the match.

Basically what cost Serena was that she hasn’t played that much high-quality tennis. And when she meets a quality player like Henin, the gaps in her preparation start to show. It was not a flattering match for Serena. While she can play her way into things with most of the other players, she couldn’t do that against Henin. There would be no repeat of their meeting in Miami when Henin blitzed Serena 6-0 in the first set only to see Williams come back and win the match in three.

Serena started slow, gave up the early break, then embarked on a game plan that took her away from her normal aggressive style. It’s one thing to learn how to be patient when playing on clay. It’s another thing when you try to convert your game in midstream to that of a clay court player. Serena took a detour, in other words, from her offensive style. She tried to rally with Henin too much, attempting a lot of slice off her backhand side, and the errors started creeping in. Fortunately her serving game looked pretty good. A lot of first serves landed in but Henin had all the defensive answers she needed.

We kept waiting for Serena to make a move, but the surge never came. Surely Serena would get it going in the second. They traded breaks, then Justine got her fourth of the day and it was enough. Serena needed more fitness and more match play. The top women are too competitive now for her to coast along. Hopefully we will see better from her at Wimbledon, although personally I think that could be Venus’s tournament. Today the clay was not at all to Serena’s liking.

“I didn’t do anything I was supposed to like move up and the other things I was supposed to do, ” said Serena after the match. “I stood back and let her take advantage of me.” She spoke of how she felt violated, but it was more at her own hands.

Sharapova-Chakvetadze

A few other people played today too, and one of them, Maria Sharapova, may actually stand a chance of winning her first ever clay final. Her bruising match with Schnyder sent Sharapova a definite wake-up call, and today she upped her game big time. Serving problems, what serving problems? Her forehand pushed her countrywoman Ana Chakvetadze every which way. The final score was 6-3, 6-4.

Kuznetsova-Ivanovic

Maria is a monster competitor, maybe the best in the women’s game. She’ll need all her stuffing to cope with the other Anna still alive here, Anna Ivanovic. She beat up on Svetlana Kuznetsova in three sets, surrendering the second set before blitzing the Russian in the third, 6-0, 3-6, 6-1. A Sharapova-Ivanovic semifinal would be an interesting pairing of similar styles. Both hit big forehands, Maria’s travels quicker through the court but Ana hits a heavier ball. Ana’s serve is a little bigger and heavier too, and more consistent. But if Sharapova can continue to improve her serving, she could out compete the Serb.

Jankovic-Vaidisova

Jelena Jankovic, variously known as Jelly or the Alien (and both are meant affectionately, by the way), had relatively little trouble with the big blond bomber, Nicole Vaidisova. This match was won/lost on their respective styles of play too. Jankovic was far steadier, played well within herself, and retrieved nearly everything hurled at her. Vaidisova wanted to cream every ball every which way. She takes her serving very very seriously and can even kick a big serve out wide that few women on tour can match. She can open up angles and go for shots. That’s the problem though, she doesn’t know how or when to rein herself in. God help the women on tour if she ever figures out a way to harness that power.

Jankovic now faces Henin in the semis. They’ve had interesting matches before but Henin has held sway. She holds a 5-0 record. Jelena will have to serve well, especially on her surprisingly timid second serve, or Henin will be feasting on her all day. If she can play without fear and keep her mind under control too, Jankovic has got a shot.

And now, Les Girls:

Henin in three over Jankovic (I want Jelena, but she may not be quite ready yet for a first slam win)

Sharapova in two over Ivanovic (While I would love to see a first-time all-Serbian final, I think Maria is sinking her teeth into life now, and Ivanovic is going to be her next victim).

The Final:

Sorry to say, I can’t stand these two women. Pardon me while I hold my nose and grit my teeth for a Henin win. Given my druthers I want the Serbian girls. Oh well. Their day is coming.


See also:
How Far Will Maria Sharapova Go?
B**tch And Sing Dept: At the French Open
Suicide Pools and Richard Gasquet
B**tch and Sing Dept: Springtime in Paris
Serena, Roger and Posh Spice
Familiar Final at the French Open (French Open preview)

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