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FRENCH OPEN: Go Gael!!! Monfils Prevails In 5 Sets, Into Quarterfinals

Monday, May 30, 2011

Frenchman Gael Monfils celebrates 5-set win over Spaniard David Ferrer.



ROLAND GARROS - Gael Monfils has a flair for the dramatic, and the last French contender in the men's singles certainly provided plenty of excitement in a charged-up 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 1-6, 8-6 win over Spanish seventh seed David Ferrer on Monday.


Monfils needed four match points to close the match out, but even though the Spaniard is known as one of the toughest men on tour, the 24-year-old out-gutted him when it mattered most.



He fought off a break point in the 13th game of the final set and after flubbing his first two match points with nervous ground strokes and watching Ferrer nail a flying down-the-line forehand winner on the third, Monfils played a brilliant final game and took the match with sliding forehand winner. The Parisian went wild, as did the sell-out crowd on Suzanne Lenglen.


"It's one of my best matches of my career," Monfils said. "Every time I have a tough fight here and I play five-setters here."



Rocky Road

The match was suspended for darkness after three hours on Sunday with Monfils leading 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 0-2. He had twisted his ankle in the final game but, after a rocky fourth set where he was not moving comfortably at all, he recovered nicely in the fifth.


Ferrer, who was attempting to reach his first Roland Garros semi-final, said that failing to convert the break point at 6-6 in the decider was crucial in the outcome of the match. "Maybe a bit of a stress and anxiety," said Ferrer. "I had three forehands that were off the court and also I was not perhaps focusing enough. I had this break point which unfortunately I couldn't control. I wanted to win this point, but I didn't do it."


Monfils had spent two months battling a wrist injury in the winter and early spring, but has been a force at Roland Garros almost regardless of his condition. He seems to have set up residence at Suzanne Lenglen court where he has pulled off some monumental victories.


"I don't know if it's my favourite court - I like them both - Chatrier and Lenglen," he said. "But whatever the time, whatever the court, whenever I'm in Roland, I love playing."



Big Test To Come

Monfils will face no.3 Roger Federer in the quarter-finals on Tuesday, to whom he lost in the semi-finals in 2008 and in the quarter-finals in 2009. While he knows that he has a huge task ahead, Monfils did score a win over the Swiss great last autumn in Bercy.


"It's a different match altogether," he said. "People don't talk about Roger a lot, but he's had very easy wins against all his opponents since the beginning of this tournament. So it's going to be a very difficult match, even more difficult than the ones I played in the past.


"It does matter for me, knowing I managed to beat him here in [Bercy]. It's going to be favourable because it's going to help me relax more. This is something I knew in the past, but I also thought he played better than I did. I was also younger in my head, so it's going to be a bit different this time."


Photos ©FFT

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REBUILDING: Former World No. 4 James Blake Playing Challengers

Sunday, May 29, 2011

written by Donald Heath


Photo by Burkhart/Savannah Morning 
James Blake sees only one challenge at a time. His ultimate challenge is to return to the upper echelon of men’s professional tennis.

Winning at the Savannah Challenger helps get him closer to that goal.

Blake made another positive stride Tuesday. He played solidly, wasn’t broken on serve and defeated qualifier Morgan Phillips from Great Britian 6-3, 6-4 in the opening round of the $50,000 tournament at the Franklin Creek Tennis Center at The Landings on Skidaway Island.

“It was a good match to get into (the tournament), and hopefully it’ll be even better (today),” said Blake, who advanced to meet Ricardo Hocevar from Brazil today on Center Court, approximately at 3 p.m.

“I was hoping for a win, so that was all that really matters.”

The former No. 4 player in the world before being set back by a knee injury is using the Challenger series to build his ranking. He won the $75,000 Sarasota Challenger on Sunday and looked to continue his momentum in Savannah. He is currently the 109th-ranked player in the world. He is the No. 8 seed in the 32-player main draw in Savannah.

“(The knee) felt OK,” Blake said. “It was a little tougher moving my feet today. The wind was tough, and it can get a little tricky. It’s important to move your feet.”

A crowd of about 400, the biggest weekday crowd in the three years of the Savannah Challenger, came out to see probably the biggest name from men’s tennis to ever play here.

Blake gave a show in professionalism, playing at relaxed pace and rarely looking flustered on the breezy afternoon with temperatures in the mid-80s.

Blake broke Phillips in the fourth game of the first set and the third game of the second set.

He used crisp ground strokes to keep Phillips off balanced and mixed in big serves and a power game with finesse drop shots.

“I served well, that was good, and that’s one thing that can translate from one court to another,” Blake said. “Otherwise, I need to move my feet better, and if I do that, I think the rest of my game will follow my footwork.”

Phillips admitted being nervous until the fifth game of the match.

“I never played someone in the top 10 so it was a big match for me,” he said. “It took me a little time to realize I didn’t have to be so fine.”

Blake remained in control and even took some time to have a playful interaction with the chair.

After pointing out a ball mark to show a shot “wasn’t even close,” the official came down to check the spot.

“It’s out, but not that far out,” the official said.

Taking a closer look, Blake rethought his original position.

“You’re right, you’re right,” he said, laughing before getting ready to play the next point.

“I give umpires enough of a hard time when they say it’s not even close,” Blake said after the match. “He gave me back what I give to umpires.”



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FRENCH OPEN: Monfils Takes A Tumble As Play Is Suspended For The Night

 Frenchman Gael Monfils
(Photo by Clive Brunskill /Getty Images)


Spaniard David Ferrer
ROLAND GARROS - 9:30 p.m. Play Suspended - But what drama before. Monfils took a tumble at deuce on his own service, twisting the front of his left foot as he got caught up in the clay. Ferrer asked if he was ok, LaMonf gave him the thumbs up, got up, served and Ferrer broke. So we'll come back tomorrow at 2-1 Monfils in sets, but Ferrer serving at 2-0.




 

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DREAM BIG: U.S. Open National Playoffs Registration Is Now Open - Remember Blake Strode? It Can Happen!

 For complete Playoffs information, click here.


Blake Strode won the inaugural US Open National Playoffs last year, earning a spot in the US Open Qualifying Tournament and a shot at the main draw of the 2010 US Open.

This year Strode is doubling his chances at reaching the grand stage. Strode took the first step toward repeating his US Open National Playoffs title by winning the New England Sectional Qualifying Tournament men’s singles and, for good measure, also took the mixed doubles title with partner Whitney Jones. Strode’s fellow USTA Pro Circuit regular Lena Litvak claimed the women’s title.

With the victories, Strode, Jones and Litvak earn a return trip to New Haven, Conn., the site of both the New England sectional qualifier and the US Open National Playoffs – Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles Championships. The championships will be held in conjunction with the New Haven Open at Yale, the last event of the 2011 Olympus US Open Series.

In all, there are 16 sectional qualifying tournaments, with each sending its winners to the championship round. The winners of the men’s and women’s US Open National Playoffs titles earn a wild card into the US Open Qualifying Tournament, while the mixed doubles champions earn a wild card into the main draw of the 2011 US Open mixed doubles event.

Strode is a former All-American at the University of Arkansas who deferred Harvard Law School to pursue professional tennis. He was never tested in New Haven, dropping just 18 games in six matches and defeating Evan Tindell, a Hartford resident who played collegiately at MIT, 6-1, 6-4, in the final.

In the mixed doubles, Strode and Jones—a touring pro currently ranked in the Top 400 in the world in doubles and who, like Strode, hails from the St. Louis area—did not drop a set in four matches, dispatching the Connecticut tandem of D.J. Geatz and Tina Tehrani, 6-4, 6-3, in the final.

For Litvak, the trip to Yale’s campus for the sectional qualifier brought back memories of her college days, when she competed for Harvard for a season before turning pro. And her results were similarly successful. She dropped just 16 games in four matches en route to the title, defeating fellow New York native Julia Elbaba, an up-and-coming junior player, 6-1, 6-2, in the final.

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MEDIA ADVISORY: USTA Launches 10 And Under Tennis Home Court Championship Sweepstakes

MEDIA ADVISORY

 USTA LAUNCHES 10 AND UNDER TENNIS HOME COURT CHAMPIONSHIP SWEEPSTAKES



In Support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” Campaign, the USTA Will Be Giving Away a Free Home Tennis Kit Daily
from April 1, 2011 through September 15, 2011


Grand Prize Winner to Receive Ultimate Family Trip for Four to the 2012 US Open

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., April 8, 2011 – The USTA announced today an online sweepstakes to promote the game of tennis to the parents of young children. The 10 and Under Tennis Home Court Championship Sweepstakes launched on April 1 and will conclude on September 15, 2011.

The USTA will be giving away one free home tennis kit daily during the 168-day-period. Additionally, the Grand Prize winner will receive the ultimate family trip for four to New York City, including four tickets to the 2012 US Open in Flushing Meadows, Queens. To enter, please visit www.10andUnderTennis.com.

The 10 and Under Tennis initiative is part of an ongoing effort to encourage young people across the country to get active and start playing the sport. Similar to other youth sports where equipment and playing fields are scaled-to-size for kids, 10 and Under Tennis, utilizing the QuickStart Tennis play format, gives children age 10 and under the chance to achieve immediate success.
These monumental changes to the sport make tennis more fun for kids by allowing them to learn and develop their skills in an enjoyable way, increasing the likelihood that they will continue to play and continue to improve. With lower-bouncing balls and shorter, lighter racquets sized right for each child, one can play in the driveway or on the blacktop – no courts required. 

WHO: The United States Tennis Association

WHAT: Enter the 10 and Under Tennis Home Court Championship Sweepstakes for a Chance to Win a Free Home Tennis Kit and the Ultimate Family Trip for Four Including Four Tickets to the 2012 US Open

WHEN: April 1, 2011 through September 15, 2011


# # #
The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level -- from local communities to the highest level of the professional game. A not-for-profit organization with 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game. It owns and operates the US Open, and launched the Olympus US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open. In addition, it owns the 90-plus Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S., is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games. USTA Serves, the National Charitable Foundation of the USTA, provides financial support for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities through tennis and education programs. For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

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Roland Garros 2011: Getting To Know Dustin Brown

Saturday, May 28, 2011

German Dustin Brown, 2011 French Open
Photo ©FFT


Dustin Brown is one of those players who doesn't quite fit the mould. After recently playing under the Jamaican flag, the German world number 109 hired best friend and car-crash survivor Daniel Puttkammer to be his coach as he prepares for his first ever French Open appearance.

With his red vest and flying dreadlocks, 26-year-old Dustin Brown looks slightly out of place training out on court no.14. Complete with shaved head and baggy basketball shorts, Coach Daniel Puttkammer strikes an equally unorthodox figure, so it is hardly surprising the pair have built up a reputation on the tour for standing out from the crowd. Puttkammer admits the accusation: "It's true, but Dustin's the one who's really different. With the way he looks and plays on court, he's got something new. Dustin likes being a showman, not just for the fans, but for himself. He needs it. And tennis needs more people like him!"

The player with the huge talent, big attitude and frequent outbursts also goes by the nickname Dready, and he also pleads guilty as charged. "I like getting people worked up, I like feeling the energy from the stands. I feed off it. It's good, because I get the feeling that's what the French crowd likes."

After making it to the quarter-finals in Johannesburg and Newport, and defeating Stanislas Wawrinka in Munich this year, Brown, ranked world no.109, now feels he is ready to break through into the highest echelons of the game. It is even written on his website: "A man with the desire to do something… can do anything!"

"Dready" and his camping car

That has been Brown's motto from an early age, and the 26-year-old has shown remarkable determination on his path to the ATP circuit.

After learning the game in Jamaica, Brown criss-crossed Europe in a camping car for years in search of ranking points. According to his coach, who is also his best friend, "He had no support, no money. It was rough."

Puttkammer and Brown met at a tennis academy near Hanover. At the time, 18-year-old Puttkammer was one of the top 100 players in Germany, dreaming of a professional career. That dream was shattered one fateful day, when the youngster was involved in a terrible car crash, tore his spleen and ended up with three litres of blood in his stomach. "I nearly died. The doctors said it was a miracle," he explained. Three weeks of hospital and a year of physiotherapy later, he picked up his racket, but not where he left off...

A reunion of old friends

Meanwhile, Dready was making progress. After taking the Futures tournaments by storm in his camping car, he progressed to the Challengers and entered the top 100 with something approaching flamboyance. It was then, in September 2010, that he decided to put his prize money to good use and give his old friend Puttkammer a call. "I'd never had a coach before, and I thought maybe it was time to get one," recalls Dustin. "Who better to call than an old friend?"

Puttkammer's dream is now becoming reality - even if it is vicariously. "It's great to experience this with Dustin. And two pairs of eyes are better than one. I see things he doesn't see. He has so many strong points, it's easy to build an arsenal. No-one is faster than him when he hits off one of his cannonballs. He just needs to be more consistent."

Brown's racket speed is out of this world, and his volley more than acceptable. He has a feel for the game, and always gives it everything. Now he just needs to keep his focus, and with a tough match against Argentinean Leonardo Mayer on Monday, he will be put to the test. "After that, the draw is open - anything's possible," says Dready. For this very Jamaican German, it is about living up to his motto.



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Roland Garros 2011: Getting To Know Sloane Stephens

American Sloane Stephens, French Open 2011 
Photo ©FFT

Smiles and easy conversation go hand in hand for Sloane Stephens. The Floridian with the sunny disposition has qualified for her first main singles draw in a major event. As luck would have it, not only is it a Grand Slam, it is also her favourite tournament. "Americans usually don't like clay but I like it a lot. Also, here, I have to share my good moments with my worst moments and that stays with you," explains Sloane. For example, this year "it's my high school prom, which breaks my heart. I am missing so many important events, but I guess the more I miss, the better it is for my career"

Patience and confidence

Two years ago, Sloane had to deal with the death of her father who had been absent from her life until she was 13 years old, and this has made her even more sensitive to missing important family events. "I am missing my brother's baseball games, which makes me sad but that's the way it has to be," she confides.

After studying at Evert Academy, she decided to concentrate on her tennis and is now coached by former pro Roger Smith, who like her is a doubles specialist (Sloane has three wins in the juniors at Grand Slams). She is new on tour and approaches everything with excitement, like talking to the media ahead of her first round tie against Elena Baltacha. She answers questions with humour and an ease that lets one imagine that she would be just as comfortable doing stand-comedy up on a stage as she is hitting her two-handed backhand on the French clay.

Straight-talking

Being confident does not mean that Sloane Stephens is not realistic. She is a fan of Kim Clijsters and the Williams Sisters, and the Belgian recently complimented the world no.138. Sloane simply talks about patience and hard work. "Fulfilling my potential may take time, but it will happen. There is a lot of pressure and expectation, but this is true for all the other young American players. Right now, no one really believes in us, and we know it. I also know that when I start having good results, the same people will say that they supported me from the start and they knew I could do it." She is travelling with her aunt, who she says is "my good luck charm because since she's been with me in Europe, I haven't lost."

Stephens certainly does not shy away from telling things like they really are. "I'm on a mission, but so are all of my friends because we all have to face the critics. In the US, no one believes in us and some have even questioned our work ethic. Some even say that there is no hope for professional women's tennis in the medium term..." said Stephens, firmly but without losing her trademark smile. "I'm really happy though," she continues, as well she might be after winning the 50,000 dollar tournament at Reggio Emilia on 15 May. She is reaping the rewards of a "really intensive week of work in Barcelona with Francis Roig (one of Rafael Nadal's coaches) in early May". Stephens has now entered the big leagues, but "one thing is certain, and that's that I'll be home on 4 July to celebrate the holiday with my family." In the meantime, she will have settle for going out to dinner with her aunt in Paris, with a thought for her father, as always since September 2009.



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Seen On The Scene: Tony Parker At The French Open

Tony Parker, captain of the French basketball team is a big tennis fan.  He spent the day on Friday at the French Open.  
Photo ©FFT

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Roland Garros 2011: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, "Which Player Would You Choose?..."



Which player would you choose…


To share a good bottle of wine with?
(Thinks for a while) Mika Llodra, he knows his stuff.

To take to your favourite restaurant?
Kei Nishikori, because my favourite restaurant is Minori in Paris. It's a great Japanese restaurant. I'll show him that French sushi is better than Japanese sushi (laughs).


To accompany you to the Cannes film festival?
Ana Ivanovic. She would be great arm candy.


To play in a film with?
David Ferrer. He'd play Forrest in Forrest Gump, and I'd play Bubba, his shrimp fishing friend.

To go out on the town with in Las Vegas?
La Monf' (Gaël Monfils), no question about it.


To play in a band with?
Dustin Brown, that would be great. We'd make beautiful reggae.

As master of ceremonies for your wedding?
Novak Djokovic, he would be great at that.


To take to a football match?
Jurgen Melzer. I played football with him in the United States, and he's really good. He loves it.

To go and see stand-up comedy with?
Andy Roddick.


To take fishing?
Rafael Nadal.


To open a bar with?
Marat Safin. Once night falls he's the guy to hang around with.

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Roland Garros 2011: Gael Monfils, "Which Player Would You Choose?..."




Gael, which player would you choose…


To share a good bottle of wine with?
I don't drink, so that puts a damper on things. But if it was to share a Magnum of Fanta with, I'd choose Jo (Tsonga).

To take to your favourite restaurant?
Can I say Jo again? No? Well then, I'll say Juan Monaco. He's such a cool guy, and so generous I'd be sure to have a good time.


To accompany you to the Cannes film festival?
I need a girl! Or multiple girls! I think the best would be to show up on the red carpet with five of them.


To go out on the town with in Las Vegas?
Dustin Brown. I love that guy, he's so cool. It would be incredible to go wild in Vegas with him.

As master of ceremonies for your wedding?
Well, if it's a wedding along the same lines as this interview, Mike Llodra, of course.


Never to train with?
I can't think of anybody. Lopez said Karlovic? No, I think it's good to train with someone who has a big serve. It's always useful to work on your return.


To take to a football match?
Richard Gasquet. He's a fan of Paris Saint German, so it'd be at their home stadium, the Parc des Princes.

To interview if you were a journalist?
(He thinks for a while). The Williams sisters. I know them a bit, but I'm sure they're really interesting. They're quite mysterious, so it would be good to ask them a few questions.


To take fishing?
Jo (Tsonga).

To take to see your favourite band?
Hmmm…I really wouldn't mind going to see some rap with Svetlana (Kutznetsova). She's a great chick, she's fantastic. I love her.

To play mixed doubles with?
Too much choice! I prefer to leave that one open.

To go and see stand-up comedy with?
Andrea Petkovic. She's a really nice girl, she's always smiling and laughing.

To open a bar with?
France's Davis Cup team.


To be your spokesperson?
Gilles Simon, he never stops talking.

To hit on girls with?
Jo, again. He's not the biggest flirt but we have an excellent track record (he laughs).


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FRENCH OPEN DAY 6: Monfils In... Tsonga Out

Frenchman Gael Monfils celebrating after defeating Belgian Steve Darcis on day 6.

An nearly perfect day for French players turned a little cloudy when Stanislas Wawrinka came back from two sets down to stun Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-7)(3), 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-3.

Before that, Gael Monfils had crushed Steve Darcis 6-3, 6-4, 7-5 and Richard Gasquet dispatched Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Those two wins bookmarked a fantastic effort by their WTA counterpart Marion Bartoli, who edged Julia Goerges in three sets.

Unfortunately for the partisan home crowd, it was not to be for Tsonga, who played so well in the first two sets against the flying Swiss, controlling the match with a booming serve down the tee, a big forehand and effective net approaches. Wawrinka began to play more inside the court from the third set onwards however, cutting off hard balls to his one-handed backhand, serving big himself and staying strong in forehand rallies.

Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga grimaces as he loses to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka

He broke Tsonga to 5-3 in the final set when the Frenchman erred on a forehand, and then he won the contest on his third match point with a screaming inside-out forehand winner. Tsonga said that Wawrinka simply zoned on him in the last three sets. "I felt that he was making no mistakes at all. If I wasn't hitting the ball very strong and putting it in the corner, I would not win a single point," the no.17 seed said. "And then the ball didn't bounce anymore, so I hit the ball as hard as I could. I couldn't make any winning points. The one who loses the third set is in a much more difficult situation. I put everything in the battle in the third set to try and close the match. That's what tennis is about. It's a mental thing, and today he clearly was stronger than I was throughout the match… He simply played a superb match."

2008 semi-finalist Monfils played a near-faultless match against Darcis, despite the fact that, as is often the case at his home tournament, he is coming in lacking in match practice due to illness and injury.

"It was not easy in terms of my game," said the no.9 seed. "And now this is a new week, a new tournament. Of course I'll play against stronger players. Otherwise, I'll perhaps change the way I play a little. I'll have to be much more aggressive, but apart from this, I'm happy."Monfils knows that against David Ferrer in the Round of 16, he faces a tussle against an accomplished clay courter. "I'll turn the page immediately, because as I told my coaches, I think I have survived. I've lived on what I know - how to defend myself on the court. But next week I'll have to go up a level and enhance my performance. Even today I was not totally relaxed when I was hitting the balls - I was not fluid enough in my forearms. The winning shots were not good enough. Too many of these little things that I don't have at present (if I want) to go further."

Photos ©FFT

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French Open 2011


ROUND 1


WOMEN

Singles

Stephanie Foretz Gacon, FRA defeated by Heather Watson, GBR
66-78, 1-6

Sloane Stephens, USA defeated by Elena Baltacha, GBR
5-7, 2-6

Doubles


Raquel Kops-Jones, USA and Abigail Spears, USA
defeated by
Kristina Barrois, GER and Johanna Larson, SWE
1-6, 6-3, 1-6


Stephanie Foretz Gacon, FRA and Claire Feuerstein, FRA
defeated by
Yung-Jan Chan, TPE (13) and Monica Niculescu, ROU (13)
6-2, 4-6, 1-6


MEN

Singles

Gael Monfils(9), FRA defeated Bjorn Phau, GER
4-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-0

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(17), FRA defeated Jan Hajek, CZK
6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Dustin Brown, GER defeated by Leonardo Mayer, ARG
6-3, 65-77, 2-6, 2-6


ROUND 2


MEN


Singles

Gael Monfils(9), FRA defeated Guillaume Rufin, FRA
6-3, 1-6, 6-1, 6-3

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(17), FRA defeated Igor Andreev, RUS
6-3, 77-64, 6-3


ROUND 3


MEN


Singles

Gael Monfils(9), FRA defeated Steve Darcis, BEL
6-3, 6-4, 7-5

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(17), FRA defeated by Stanislas Wawrinka(14), SUI
6-4, 77-63, 65-77, 2-6, 3-6


ROUND 4


MEN


Singles

Gael Monfils(9), FRA vs. David Ferrer(7), ESP

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