Sunday, March 27, 2016

Wk.12- Your-ami is My-ami

Yep, it's Miami... where what goes up must eventually come down, and vice versa.

Of course, what else is new?


Before Miami: Martina Hingis & Sania Mirza failed to defend their 2015 Indian Wells title in the desert

Miami: A year ago, Hingis/Mirza defended the 2014 Miami title won by Hingis with German Sabine Lisicki, which had been the first WD title won by the Swiss Miss in seven years. Thus far in 2016, as Hingis attempts to become the second woman to three-peat (Arantxa Sanchez 1995-97) in Miami and the pair try to become the first duo to defend the crown in eight years (Raymond/Stosur 2006-07), the Dream Teamers have advanced to the 2nd Round.

After Miami: If Hingis/Mirza fail to win the title, it will be the first time in their year-long partnership that they have gone three straight hard court events without taking home a title. Their current HC two-event drought (Doha/I.W.) was equaled by a two-event title-less streak last summer (Toronto/Cincinnati), but they've been crowned champion at every one of the other twelve hard court events in which they've been entered as a team. The possible three-event title drought wouldn't be the longest of their partnership, though, as they failed to win a title in a five-event stretch last spring on clay (4 events) and grass (1).
Before Miami: Karolina looked ripe for something big

Miami: Umm, nope. But some familiar names, after prevailing over potential calamity, have thrown their hats BACK into the ring...

After Miami: Hmmm... should she have a go at this hat-throwing thing?

Of course, to do so Elina Svitolina might need to naturally integrate a few more of Justine Henin's traits into her gameday S.O.P. since, surely, if she'd been more consistent (and consistently aggressive) in her 3rd Round match vs. Caroline Wozniacki it might not have turned into a marathon 5-7/6-4/7-6(1) battle that didn't end until nearly 1 a.m. Easter Sunday in Miami. The Ukrainian served for the 1st set, but dropped it to the Dane. After failing to put away set points in the 2nd, she finally served it out to force a 3rd after dropping just two points on serve in the set. Still, she looked to be on her way out serving down 4-5, love/30 before turning the momentum her way one final time in the wildly-swinging contest by winning eleven of the final twelve points.

While Ian Hughes is Svitolina's main, match day coach it's impossible not to look at her 2016 stats and put down an imaginary Before LPT and After LPT dividing line. Since Henin officially became part of the Svitolina team after Melbourne, the 21-year old has played fourteen matches. She's gone 11-3 and won a title. She'd been 6-8 in her previous fourteen "Before LPT" matches.
Before Miami: Someone notes the possibility of the future birth of a daughter possibly altering Novak Djokovic's thought process on equal prize money: "I expect he'll see the error in his ways one day. Maybe about the time, if he ever has a daughter, when she asks her dad why she can't make the same amount of money as her brother Stefan for doing the exact same thing."

Miami: Someone else makes the same logical leap...

You and me, Serena...

And an "apology" is issued...

After Miami: We move on. But everything has been filed away for safekeeping, and as a reminder of the difference between "what one actually believes" and "what one says in public," especially after a day or two to "construct" a more sponsor-friendly statement.
Before Miami: In her absence, Maria Sharapova saw Victoria Azarenka's title run in Indian Wells knock her out of the Top 10 after a tour-best 259-week run, dropping the Russian to #11

Miami: #6 Carla Suarez-Navarro fails to defend her 2015 finalist points as she loses her opening match, while #10 Belinda Bencic's back injury leads to her retiring without posting a victory

After Miami: With CSN's slip outside the Top 10 in the upcoming rankings, and Bencic's failure to pick up points, #11 Sharapova is currently "live" at #9 in the world and will likely return to the Top 10 when the updated post-Miami singles rankings are officially released the first week of April
Before Miami: Bethanie Mattek-Sands teamed with CoCo Vandeweghe to win the Indian Wells doubles title

Miami: BMS reunited with Lucie Safarova, with whom she won four titles (including two slams) in 2015

After Miami: With the #2 slot in WD up for grabs again (see below, thanks to the suddenly slumping Chans), The Dynamic Duo -- 2015's "Team #1b" (with a short-lived chance for promotion before Lucie got sick) -- is suddenly back in play

Let the fun begin (again)...
Before Miami: Andy Murray's comments on the Sharapova case sounded a bit "preachy" to these ears

Miami: The Scot managed to maintain his ATP Patron Saint of Women's Tennis moniker on the equal prize money issue, though

After Miami: He and his mum will be able to share a chuckle


As for the rest of the talents still playing (or not) in South Florida and all parts beyond in Week 12...

FRESH FACE: Elena Gabriela Ruse/ROU
...the 18-year old Swarmette has reached her third straight ITF singles final in the $10K event in Hammamet, Tunisia. She'll play Italian Claudia Giovine on Sunday looking for a third consecutive title and to extend her current winning streak to fifteen matches. Already 4-0 in career ITF singles finals (all in the last four months), Ruse is so far showing promise in a pro career (#421 last week) that is following a junior run (high #7) that included reaching the Wimbledon girls semis and Eddie Herr final in 2014.
UPDATE: Ruse saw her 14-match streak come to an end, losing the final to Giovine, 6-4/6-0.
...former world #14 and doubles #1 Peng's comeback from a back injury that cost her nearly the entire '15 season finally began to get its footing in Miami. Coming in ranked #664 in singles, Peng notched her first win since February of last year (Dubai - Vesnina) with a 1st Round victory over Alison Van Uytvanck. Peng lost in three sets (6-0 in the 3rd) in her next match to Monica Niculescu in what was her first singles three-setter since losing to Tsvetana Pironkova in Dubai thirteen months ago.

In doubles, Peng, 30, is teaming with longtime (and former) partner Hsieh Su-Wei in Miami. The pair got a 1st Round win over Vandeweghe/Groenefeld (both won titles in Week 11 with different partners), their first victory as a duo since the semifinals of the 2014 WTA Finals (they subsequently lost in the final to Black/Mirza, then Mirza and Hsieh briefly became partners at the start of the '15 season). Hsieh/Peng won't face the #2-seeded Chans sisters next, though. It'll be Makarova/Strycova, who upset the Taiwanese siblings, on the other side of the net in the 2nd Round.
...the 24-year old, who made a splash in Melbourne in January with a 1st Round upset of Sloane Stephens, claimed the title at the $50K challenger in Quanzhou, China. The Chinese woman claimed career circuit title #11 with wins over Shuko Aoyama, Elise Mertens, Luksika Kumkhum and 20-year old countrywoman Liu Fangzhou in a 6-2/6-2 final. Wang's career-best ranking of #82 came in February of last year, and this win will get her up to around an unofficial #85 or #86 one week before the WTA's next updated rankings.
...the Grade 1 Sarawak Chief Minister's Cup in Malaysia was decided between the #1 seed (#9-ranked girl Charlotte Robillard-Millette, 17, of Canada) and unseeded 16-year old Du. While CRM has been ranked as high as #4 and reached three Grade 1 or Grade A finals (going 2-1) in her junior career, it was the #160-ranked girl Du who prevailed in a 6-3/6-3 final. Du's previous best efforts had been titles at a Grade 3 event Shenzhen in January and a pair of Grade 4's in 2014. But the teenager burst from the pack in Sarawak, knocking off, in succession, the #16, #2, #12, #10 and #1 seeds in the event en route to the title.
DOWN: Sloane Stephens/USA, Anna Karolina Schmiedlova/SVK and Kristina Mladenovic/FRA
...once again -- three-strong this week, though it could have been four, at least -- this category is loaded with (squandered) opportunities.

Stephens was ousted in her first match in Miami by Heather Watson, losing eleven straight games to close the match after having taken a 3-1 lead over the Brit in the 1st set. Sloane's 2016 season has been a consistent feast-or-famine affair. She's gone 10-0 in the two tournaments she's won this year (tied w/ Vika for the most titles on tour), but 0-3 in the other three tour events she's played, including a winless U.S. hard court swing in Indian Wells/Miami.

Meanwhile, Schmiedlova should be willing to accept help from anywhere she can find it. The Slovak lost in her opening Miami match to Madison Brengle in straight sets, giving her six one-and-out results in the seven events she's played in 2016. 1-7 on tour (2-8 overall, including Fed Cup), with all four losses of the two-set variety (she dropped the 1st set in her two wins, as well), AKS has failed to win a set (0-10) since she defeated Arina Rodionova in FC play in 3:02, coming back from a 7-5/4-1 hole to do it. Amazingly, Schmiedlova has failed to feel the effects of her three-month slump in the rankings, opening up at #26 and only now ready to fall out of the Top 30 in the next rankings (April 4) and risk going unseeded at Roland Garros in a couple of months. That'll change soon, though, as her points defenses from last spring's nice run in Katowice (champion) and Marrakech (SF), not to mention a successful summer clay stretch that included Bucharest (champion) and Bad Gastein (SF) loom.

And while Kiki has all sorts of opinions about everyone else, one can't but wonder if her attentions should be a bit more focused on her suddenly flagging singles career. Her Miami 2nd Round loss (in straights, her fourth consecutive such defeat) to Nicole Gibbs drops the accusatory Pastry to 3-8 on tour this year (she's additionally 1-1 in FC), with four straight losses, as she's losing the battle of trying to hold onto a Top 32 ranking heading into her home slam in Paris. Additionally, on Saturday, Mladenovic & Caroline Garcia were awarded early tickets out of town by the all-Ukrainian duo of Kateryna Bondarenko & Olga Savchuk, losing 6-3/6-7(6) [10-5] to drop their third straight match.
DOUBLES: Ashleigh Barty/Arina Rodionova (AUS/AUS)
...Aussie Barty's comeback has already produced loads of doubles success in five challenger outings in Perth, Port Pirie and Canberra. The 19-year old has reached four finals, winning three titles and compiling a 15-2 record with three different partners. This week in Canberra, she and Rodionova teamed up for their second title this season in a run in the $25K in Canberra that included a 10-7 3rd set TB win in the final over Japan's Eri Hozumi & Miyu Kato.


Plans are being made...

[Miami Week 1, through Saturday]
1. Miami 3rd Rd. - Makarova d. Kvitova
Kvitova led 4-1 in the 1st, but saw Makarova save four BP from love/40 to hold for 4-4, then break the Czech for 5-4 and seize control of the match. It's the Hordette's first Top 10 win since defeating Halep at the 2015 Australian Open. Kvitova is now 6-8 in career MD matches in humid Miami, though her last trip to the event did result in a QF result in 2014. Kvitova managed to avoid the "DOWN" category this week despite this early exit, as she at least did notch a 2nd Round win to give her a 4-2 combined I.W./Miami record after getting off to a woeful 2-6 start in 2016.

2. Miami 2nd Rd. - Muguruza d. Cibulkova
Hmmm, a bright light at the end of the tunnel for Garbi? Maybe. She battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the 3rd to steal this victory from Cibulkova, who got as close as two points from the win before Muguruza got the key break for 6-5 and served out the match.
3. Miami 2nd Rd. - Garcia d. Petkovic
Well, hopefully this nearly 3:00 match -- in which she led 121-111 in total points -- will be enough to get Petko in fighting shape for her return to South Carolina.


4. Miami 2nd Rd. - Halep d. Kasatkina
The two exchanged multiple breaks in the early going, but Halep grabbed the momentum and led 6-3/5-2 before calling for coach Darren Cahill (why??). When she served for the match, after being confused by a let/out call that had resulted in a double-fault, not a 2nd serve do-over, Halep suddenly lost concentration and was quickly broken for 5-3. With a potentially lethal seed of doubt planted, and The Kasatkina's stomach growling for more action on the other side of the net, there was a moment of indecision about where this match was heading. But Halep pulled her head together and closed it out without having to go to an unnecessary 3rd set. Another positive sign for the Swarmette Queen, who also overcame another nearly-sketchy moment at the end of the 1st set in her 2nd Round win over Julia Goerges. Good stuff.

On a side note, I'm liking the new (stained-glass) duds, too.

5. Miami 2nd Rd. - Begu d. Lisicki
An early nominee for "Choke of the Year?" Umm, yeah. Lisicki won eleven straight games from 1-0 down in the 2nd to take a 5-0 lead in the 3rd set. Despite holding a MP, the German saw it all slip away as she lost six straight games. But then she broke Begu to force a deciding tie-break, only to quickly fall behind there and... wait for it... DF on match point. Oh, Sabine.

6. Miami 2nd Rd. - Vandeweghe d. Suarez-Navarro
CSN, back from an ankle injury that forced her out of Indian Wells, reached the final in Miami a year ago. With her winless "year after," she'll slip from a career-best #6 to outside the Top 10.
7. Miami 2nd Rd. - Gibbs d. Mladenovic
Gibbsy's second Top 30 win in 2016.
8. Miami 2nd Rd. - Pereira d. Haddad
That feeling when there are only two Brazilians in the draw in Miami, and they draw EACH OTHER in the 1st Round.

9. Miami Q1 - Swan d. Davis
The 16-year old #521 gets her biggest-ever win over #102. She lost her next match in three sets to Samantha Crawford, but still got to play Swan-in-the-Box for her 17th birthday later in the week.

10. Miami Q1 - Parmentier d. Riske
Riske twice served for the match vs. the veteran Pastry at 6-2/5-4 and 6-5 in the 3rd, holding one MP.
11. Miami Q2 - Sakkari d. Krunic
The Bracelet didn't reach the Miami main draw, but she's back! She won her first match of 2016 (vs. Sevastova) after having been 0-2 (with January losses to A-Rad and Bouchard) before having surgery to remove a benign thyroid tumor.

12. Miami 2nd Rd. - Azarenka d. Puig
You're only going to encourage her, people.



1. Miami 2nd Rd. - Serena Williams d. McHale
Once again, McHale had a strong showing. Williams led 6-3/5-3, serving for the match at 5-4 and holding a MP. But McHale got the break for 5-5, saved three BP to hold a game later and then broke the world #1 again (!!) to force a 3rd set. McHale staved off break points to hold in game #1 of the 3rd, but Williams claimed control of the match from that point forward.

2. Miami 2nd Rd. - Babos d. Karolina Pliskova
Babos notched her fourth career Top 20 win, but it wasn't easy. The Hungarian led 5-2 in the 3rd and served for the match three times, holding two MP. But Karolina forced a tie-break... only to then get bageled there 7-0. Sigh. On the same day, twin Kristyna advanced to the 3rd Round when Belinda Bencic retired from their match with a back injury.

Not only this, but Karolina's Czechy (i.e. brilliant-to-maddening from match to match, or sometimes in the blink of an eye) inconsistency flared up in doubles, as well. Days after she and Julia Goerges reached the Indian Wells final, they lost their 1st Round match in Miami to King/Kudryavtseva.
3. Miami 2nd Rd. - Vesnina d. Venus Williams
Venus had "that look" while struggling through the 1st, but suddenly rebounded late in the 2nd after Vesnina reached MP at 5-4. In the subsequent TB, the returner won the first eight points, but Williams prevailed 7-5. The Russian jumped to a quick 3-0 lead in the 3rd, but soon found herself back on serve when she sprayed a forehand wide (then even whiffed on a ball that she was attempting to simply nudge back to the ball kids before she walked to the changeover area). It was easy to wonder if another Vesnina collapse was about to take place. But it didn't. Go figure.

4. Miami 2nd Rd. - Aga Radwanska d. Cornet
Alize's return didn't last long, but she did get one win in Miami before being unceremoniously ousted by Aga. And when you were staring at the possibility of missing six months with a back injury a few weeks ago, you'll take that result and run with it into the clay court season.
5. $25K Canberra QF - Bondar d. Lu Jia-jing 6-2/6-1
$25K Canberra QF - Kato d. Arina Rodionova 6-3/6-7(1)/6-4
$25K Canberra SF - Bondar d. Varatchaya Wongteanchai 6-1/6-0
the road to the Canberra singles final was paved with tennis siblings. In the end, Kato defeated Bondar in the final, so I guess a single Rodionova beats a pair of Asian siblings.
6. $25K Naples FLA Q2 - Chiara Scholl d. Schnyder
No matter, Sneaky Patty's week still included a wild card into the WTA level event in Charleston, which will be the 37-year old Swiss' first tour event appearance since Roland Garros in 2011. Schnyder is a two-time singles ('02,'06) and two-time doubles ('99,'09) finalist in Charleston, but has never won a title there.

7. Miami 1st Rd. - Makarova/Strycova d. Chan Hao-Ching/Chan Yung-Jan
The Chan sisters' attempt to solidify their #2 standing on the women's doubles tour during the spring U.S. hard court swing officially goes bust in the first week of spring, as this loss means they've gone 0-2 since back-to-back titles in Kaohsiung and Doha.
8. $25K Naples FLA Final - Haas vs. Elizaveta Ianchuk
on Sunday, Ianchuk seeks her fifth career title after notching good wins over Jarmila Wolfe, Grace Min, Amra Sadikovic and Sharon Fichman. Haas goes for #10, following wins over Ingrid Neel, top-seeded Maryna Zanevska, Francoise Abanda and Anne Schaefer.
UPDATE: Haas defeated Ianchuk 3-6/6-2/6-2 to win the inaugural edition of the Naples event.
HM- Miami 3rd Rd. - Serena Williams d. Diyas
Serena's 750th career win. That's good for seventh all time, just three behind Lindsay Davenport and nine away from Arantxa Sanchez.

1991 Monica Seles (L-W)
1994 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1996 Steffi Graf (W-W)
1999 Serena Williams (W-L)
2000 Lindsay Davenport (W-L)
2000 Martina Hingis (L-W)
2005 Kim Clijsters (W-W)
2006 Maria Sharapova (W-L)
2012 Maria Sharapova (L-L)
2013 Maria Sharapova (W-L)
Note: '16 I.W. finalists S.Williams/Azarenka still alive in Miami draw

1991 Monica Seles (W-L-W)
1994 Steffi Graf (W-W-W)
2000 Lindsay Davenport (W-W-L)
2000 Martina Hingis (L-L-W)
2012 Maria Sharapova (L-L-L)
NOTE: S.Williams (L-L) w/ all three in '16 if reaches Miami final
1990 Stefan Edberg (L-W-L)
1994 Pete Sampras (W-W-W)
1995 Pete Sampras (L-W-L)
1998 Marcelo Rios (L-W-W)
2001 Andre Agassi (W-W-W)
2006 Roger Federer (W-W-W)
2011 Novak Djokovic (W-W-W)
2015 Novak Djokovic (W-W-W)
NOTE: Djokovic (W-W) w/ all three in '16 in reaches Miami final

[as of March 28]
207...Serena Williams
131...Petra Kvitova
113...Simona Halep
43...Lucie Safarova
38...Garbine Muguruza
27...Aga Radwanska 14
26...Angelique Kerber
7...Belinda Bencic
6...Roberta Vinci
5...Carla Suarez-Navarro
2...Victoria Azarenka
[Top 20]
423...Aga Radwanska
285...Maria Sharapova
269...Petra Kvitova
236...Serena Williams
214...Angelique Kerber
160...Carla Suarez-Navarro
134...Simona Halep
90...LUcie Safarova
59...Karolina Pliskova
41...Garbine Muguruza
34...Belinda Bencic
29...Roberta Vinci
29...Flavia Pennetta
26...Venus Williams
12...Victoria Azarenka
9...Ana Ivanovic
6...Sara Errani
6...Elina Svitolina
5...Svetlana Kuznetsova
2...Timea Bacsinszky

12...Martina Navratilova (Chicago)
11...Martina Navratilova (Eastbourne)
9...Steffi Graf (Berlin)
9...Martina Navratilova (Dallas)
9...Martina Navratilova (Washington, D.C.)
9...Martina Navratilova (Wimbledon)
8...Chris Evert (Amelia Island)
8...Chris Evert (Hilton Head)

1442...Martina Navratilova
1309...Chris Evert
902...Steffi Graf
839...Virginia Wade
759...Arantxa Sanchez
753...Lindsay Davenport
739...Conchita Martinez
718...Venus Williams*
* - active
NOTE: Evonne Goolagong & Billie Jean King 700+ w/ pre-Open era wins

Whoa, slow down, Serena! Carpal tunnel! Carpal tunnel!

All for now.


Blogger jo shum said...

Good win , vika
Mugu pretty much back
Serena , mmmmmm
Aga, up a set and a break, unexpected

Tue Mar 29, 05:23:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

I'm even more impressed by the WAY Vika is winning than the simple fact that she's stringing wins together, too. ;)

Muguruza's next event will be very telling. Can she carry over the fight she showed in Miami into Europe? If so, especially if Serena doesn't snap out of it, something very big could happen for her before the tour heads back to North America.

Might that George Burns quote at the top of this post apply to Serena? One wouldn't think so, but "at this moment in time and space" that Vinci loss sure looks like one of those "Before/After" moments in a career, doesn't it? Well, until it isn't any longer, at least... we ARE still talking about Serena, after all. Until a whole lot more further evidence suggests otherwise.

Timea out-Radwanska'd Radwanska. A rare occurrence.

Tue Mar 29, 10:34:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

I'm looking (in no particular order) at Halep, Kerber & Muguruza for French Open success. I had CSN on my list for a while, but she just doesn't seem up to anything like that.

I also can't help but think about the before/after 2015 USO thing with Serena. Serena is way out of sorts. Sure, she's been that way before, but at some point, the mental fatigue that comes with age has to have an effect. Chris Evert, mentally tough beyond most players' wildest dreams, has talked about how difficult it became to focus--even for her--as she got older.

Tue Mar 29, 12:18:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

This season has seen so many of the tour's top players not competing at their best right now, not even counting Sharapova's suspension. At the same time, many of the in form players who have stepped forward in this vacuum haven't shown the ability of winning big titles on clay. This surface being Kuznet's best and considering her current level of play, I think this year's RG is her best shot for an elusive third career Slam. And having cemented her position as a hall-of-famer, possibly a fourth straight year with a Slam winner who wouldn't come back for more.

If she wins Miami (it is the 10-year anniversary of her mightily impressive run there, after all), she would be an inch away from re-integrating the top 10. Winning back-to-back matches in which she lost a first set tie-break against the likes of Williams and Makarova certainly fits in the spirit of that run. With only two significant results to defend for the rest of the season (Madrid RU and winner in Moscow), a year-end top 10 is certainly in her range. She hasn't been in the top 10 since 2010.

Wed Mar 30, 03:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Todd.Spiker said...

All true possibilities, but you know how dangerous it is to say such things out loud in regards to Sveta. ;)

Wed Mar 30, 12:08:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Ha! You see, Todd, the Kuznetsova Curse doesn't need you to feed it. It has a life of its own now.

Wed Mar 30, 01:27:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Zidane said...

I trust the memory of Miami '06 to break the curse, at least momentarily. Spring break forever...

Wed Mar 30, 02:09:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Eric said...

It's fitting that the three players to beat Serena in 2016 are the three players remaining in Miami.

Thu Mar 31, 07:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Already seeing tweets about Azarenka being the US Open favorite. Can't argue with the stats on the women's side, as the women that did the IW-Miami double have reached the USO final every time(Clijsters-05 W, Graf-96 W, Graf-94 L).

French Open will be wild. Won't expect Azarenka or S.Williams past the quarters, would put Timea as a slight favorite over Muguruza and Halep, although 6-8 more contenders will make themselves known over the next month and a half.

Sat Apr 02, 02:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Kerber, if she's healthy, is in that mix.

Sat Apr 02, 04:58:00 PM EDT  
Blogger colt13 said...

Left Kerber off on purpose. First slam after an inaugural slam win? People normally crash out. Also, I don't think she will be healthy unless she takes off half the clay season/skips Fed Cup. At this point, I would be happy if she made the 2nd week.

Sat Apr 02, 05:47:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Diane said...

Good points. I really have no idea about the French (which is my favorite of the 4). I mean, it "should" be Halep, but we know how that's been going. CSN is a dark horse. Right now, I'm looking at Mugu and Bacsinszky.

(And now, I will NOT invoke the KC.)

Sat Apr 02, 07:44:00 PM EDT  
Blogger jo shum said...

3 wins in 3 months, that's surely unexpected after more than 2 years of draught. But lost the most important one in AO. Ironic, isn't it?

What's the difference is thought post AO she was rxecuting her strategy to bring relentlessly agressive no matter the score line. Her wins against pliskova, Serena, muguruza and Kerber were pure grit and determination. Skill wise those matches could go either way. I'd say that the AO loss has toughen her mental toughness.

Sat Apr 02, 10:36:00 PM EDT  

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