2014/04/19

Hall of Fame rings presented to Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Ivan Lendl at World Tennis Day Showdon in London

 

NEWPORT, R.I., March 3, 2014- Tennis fans around the globe celebrated World Tennis Day at a huge array of special events on March 3, and a highlight of it all was the World Tennis Day Showdown in London, featuring Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Ivan Lendl, and Pat Cash. Between matches, the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum hosted a special ceremony to present official Hall of Fame rings to Agassi, Sampras, and Lendl. All three former world No. 1′s have been enshrined in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of their tremendous tennis achievements and the Hall of Fame rings are a symbol of this success.

 

 

The rings were presented by Hall of Fame Chairman Christopher Clouser, ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti, and Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer, who serves as Vice Chairman of the Hall of Fame’s Enshrinee Nominating Committee.

 

“Andre, Pete, and Ivan have accomplished all that one can dream of in tennis – they are former world No. 1′s, Grand Slam champions, Davis Cup champions, and Hall of Famers,” commented Clouser. “These one-of-a-kind rings are a symbol of all that they have accomplished and their legacy in the sport.”

 

In addition to the rings, the ceremony paid tribute to the Hall of Fame Class of 2014, which was announced earlier in the day. John Barrett, British tennis journalist and historian, and Chantal Vandierendonck, a wheelchair tennis champion and 5-time Paralympic medalist, both of whom were named to the Class of 2014, participated in the ceremony.

 

The personalized rings were introduced in 2011 and are being presented to Hall of Famers at tennis events around the world over the next few years as a special symbol of their Hall of Fame enshrinement. The rings bear a green stone set in gold, to complement the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s brand colors. In addition, the rings are etched with each honoree’s name and the Hall of Fame logo crest. Ivan Lendl, an 8-time Grand Slam tournament champion, was honored with Hall of Fame enshrinement in 2001. Great American tennis rivals Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were enshrined in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

Francesco Ricci Bitti, John Barrett, Andre Agassi, Chris Clouser, Ivan Lendl, Chantal Vandierendonck, Pete Sampras, Ingrid Lofdahl Bentzer

 

Photos by Dave Shopland

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Agassi, Sampras, Lendl and Cash Participate in World Tennis Day with London Showdown

 

World Tennis Day – London

By Chris Power

Twitter @scoobschris

(March 3, 2014) LONDON – Monday March 3rd brought us the Second Annual World Tennis Day, with marquee events in Hong Kong, London and New York.  Designed to showcase and promote the sport of tennis from the grassroots to the very top of the professional game, this year, off the back of a successful inaugural event, The World Tennis Day got bigger still.

 

Whether by accident or design, this year’s the star-filled showdowns evoked the theme different eras.  The Hong Kong gathering suggested the future, based as it is in a region where tennis is growing rapidly in popularity.  Li Na from China headlined, a current Grand Slam champion who is leading the explosion in interest, but it seems inevitable that she will merely be the first in a line of legends from the region of Asia.  She was joined by other stars of the Asia-Pacific region, Australia’s Sam Stosur and Lleyton Hewitt, as well as Tomas Berdych.

 

Meanwhile, the showdown in New York City showcased tennis in the present, with Novak Djokovic and Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray squaring off in Madison Square Garden, as well as the current doubles world number one team, the Bryan brothers, who faced off against the McEnroe brothers in a sibling setpiece.

 

London therefore reminded us of tennis’s past, with rivalries of the 80s and 90s brought back to life in the present day by four unique and iconic players – Pat Cash, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.   Cash and Lendl competed on numerous occasions throughout the 1980s, but perhaps most memorable was the 1987 Wimbledon final, won by Cash in 3 straight sets.  However their overall H2H in their playing days was 5-3 in favour of Lendl, indicating the Czech usually found a way to neutralize the attacking style of Cash, at least away from the grass.

 

Perhaps more compelling still was the matchup between two Americans with diametrically opposing game styles and personalities, in the shape of Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.  These hall of famers *were* 90s tennis, though their mutual respect never risked developing into friendship, and their post-retirement relationship has been famously prickly, culminating in uncomfortable scenes at a charity tennis exhibition at Indian Wells a few years back.  They competed in 34 pro matches against each other, with Sampras edging it 20-14, but dominating 4-1 in their Grand Slam finals.  They tended to divide the fan base – the charismatic, extroverted yet more erratic Agassi tended to win over the crowds, but the disciplined, quiet winning machine that was Pete Sampras won over the purists with his classic serve-volley style, poker-faced demeanor and insatiable appetite for success.

 

In their pre-event news conference, the players were relaxed and joking, offering thoughts on playing pro tennis then vs now.

 

Sampras, on playing Agassi: “If I wasn’t on my game, if I wasn’t serving well, I felt like it was going to be a long day for me.”

 

Agassi: “He was the only guy I ever played where I felt like if I actually played my best tennis I actually still could lose.”

 

Pat Cash lamented the general slowing down of playing conditions in this era, feeling that hitting good groundstrokes and particularly good volleys, is just not rewarded anymore.  Lendl felt that the strings as much as court speed were responsible for this change – the amount of spin a player is able to impart on a pass or return makes volleying such a dangerous proposition.  Asked if he had any interest in joining the band of ‘celebrity coaches’, Agassi expounded on his current life being a barrier to the level of commitment required, but didn’t rule it out in the future – though his target would be a player not reaching full potential rather than a top player who already has all the tools he needs.

 

Ivan Lendl struggled to answer the question which player he most enjoyed beating, but eventually settled on Brad Gilbert, to the amusement of the other players on the panel.

 

With a few photo opportunities to round off the press conference, things wrapped up, setting the stage for a fascinating and entertaining evening.

 

Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl got proceedings underway with a super set match – first to 8 games.  Both players showed off the sort of tennis that took them to the top of the game in their heyday.  Cash fired down the big serves and followed up with some deft touches at the net, while Ivan Lendl demonstrated his back-court skills – finding sliced passing shots, delicate lobs, and some chipped backhands to make Cash’s life at the net very difficult.

 

The match was played in good humour, with plenty of banter between the two players and the near capacity crowd to keep it light.  It was a nip-tuck affair until 6 games all, when Lendl threw in a poor service game, with a double fault and some unforced errors to hand Cash the crucial break.  The Australian duly served it out, and remarked after the match how nice it was to play Lendl again.  The Czech reciprocated, and revealed that his charge Andy Murray revealed after Acapulco that he’s feeling the best he has so far since the back surgery, eliciting a cheer from the audience.

 

After a demonstration of wheelchair tennis in the interlude between matches, with World #3 Gordon Reid showing off his impressive skills that look likely to see him to the top of the wheelchair game, it was time for the main event.

 

Agassi and Sampras were introduced to the crowd to a rapturous ovation, and quickly got down to business.  Andre started much the brighter of the two, racing out to a 3-0 lead as Pete struggled with all aspects of his game.  Soon enough, though, the booming Sampras serve, looking none the worse for wear for 12 years off the tour, was firing missiles, and Agassi was struggling to make much of an impression on the return.  However, while Pete’s serve and forehand slowed many flashes of their former excellence, the backhand continually misfired throughout the match, and Andre, never slow to spot a weakness to exploit, began to target that wing with regularity, reaping dividends.

 

Agassi duly served out the first set 6-3, and was beginning to rasp winners off both wings with his trademark style, taking the ball early and thumping it flat over the net out of reach of his opponent.  Pete would need to respond if he had any expectation of winning.   He did raise his game in the second set – the serve held Agassi at bay throughout, but his return game continued to let him down, as Agassi dragged him into baseline exchanges that would end with a flashing winner from the Las Vegan, or a Sampras error.

 

The pattern of the second set resembled so many of their matches of old, as both held serve, and the crowd waited for one or the other to betray a moment of weakness.   It took a tiebreak to separate the two, but once there, Agassi ran away with it, racing out to a 5-0 lead, hitting searing winners off both wings but particularly the stunning backhand, and taking the match 63 76(2) on a Sampras double fault.

 

Although the loser of the match, Sampras pronounced himself well satisfied with his efforts, and his enjoyment at being back on court in London was clear.   For his part, Agassi seemed somewhat surprised at how well grooved his ground game proved to be, and thanked the fans for their support of the players, and the World Tennis Day initiative.

 

Posing with commemorative bottles of champagne, the two players took a lap of honour of the court, and handed the baton over to New York City for the last of the World Tennis Day showdowns.

 

For London’s part, the past came back to visit, and it was a welcome visit indeed.  May there be many more.

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Tennis Stars and National Associations Prepare for World Tennis Day

wtd

(February 24, 2014) The ITF’s member National Associations will join some of the world’s leading tennis stars in celebrating the second World Tennis Day on Monday 3 March. World Tennis Day aims to promote tennis and increase participation among players around the globe, with over 60 nations already confirmed to take part.

 

This year’s World Tennis Day will be centred around three special events, organised by the promoter StarGames, in three different time zones in Hong Kong, London and New York. The events will feature current and former professionals together with junior and wheelchair demonstrations, including the ITF’s Tennis Play and Stay campaign.

 

Tomas Berdych, Lleyton Hewitt, Li Na and Samantha Stosur will be in action in the BNP Paribas Showdown at the Hong Kong Velodrome; Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Pat Cash and Ivan Lendl will contest the World Tennis Day Showdown at London’s Earls Court; and Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Bob and Mike Bryan, and John and Patrick McEnroe will take part at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

 

Alongside these events, the ITF has encouraged its National Associations to support World Tennis Day with their own grassroots and club activities to attract new participants to the sport. These include the United States Tennis Association (USTA), which has already established the successful Tennis Night in America in conjunction with the BNP Paribas Showdown in which clubs are asked to open their doors as part of a month-long drive to get children playing the sport. To date, more than 6,500 youth tennis events have been held as part of that initiative.

 

Click here to view the latest list of nations hosting World Tennis Day activities.

 

Many nations will be promoting the Tennis Play and Stay campaign, the ITF’s global initiative launched in 2007 aimed at increasing tennis participation worldwide. The campaign centres around the slogan of ‘Serve, Rally and Score’ and seeks to promote tennis as an easy, fun and healthy sport through the use of slower and lower bouncing balls, shorter and lighter rackets, and smaller courts. Under the Tennis Play and Stay banner, the Tennis10s programme makes it easier for children to take up the game, while TennisXpress is an easy, active and fun coaching programme for adults.

 

“The inaugural World Tennis Day proved to be a very successful initiative, using high profile special events to bring attention to the developmental activities of our member nations on every continent,” said ITF President Francesco Ricci Bitti. “The enthusiasm and commitment of our National Associations to World Tennis Day in its first year was inspiring and we expect an even greater take-up in 2014 and beyond. March 3rd will be an important day in the international tennis calendar with huge focus on our sport on World Tennis Day.”

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Djokovic Defends the Season Ending Championship Title with win over Nadal

 

 

London-Final-Email-Djokovic

(November 11, 2013) LONDON – It was not quite the epic that the crowd had expected, but No. 2 Novak Djokovic overcame some spirited shot-making from No. 1 Rafael Nadal towards the end of the match to defend his title at the ATP World Tour Finals 6-3, 6-4.

 

It was perhaps a nervous start from the Spaniard, who was broken in his first service game before he seemed to settle enough to dish Djokovic a taste of his own medicine with a break to get things back on serve.

 

It was shortlived as he played a second game with a pair of double-faults – this time handing Djokovic a chance to serve for the first set, which he duly saw off with an ace to wrap that up in 44 minutes.

 

The Serbian kept the momentum with another early break at the start of the second set and this time he was looking the more dominant, but just not able to capitalize on a championship point.

 

It was around this point that Nadal was throwing caution to the wind and coming up with the kinds of winners we had seen throughout the tournament, but it was a case of too little too late, as Djokovic was rewarded on his third match point with a wayward shot from Nadal.

 

Nadal said the key to the match was the serve. “I think the level of tennis was similar, my opinion,” Nadal said.  “The level of serve was not similar.  That’s first thing when I think about the match, first image that I see.  If I can say about one thing that makes the difference in today’s match was the serve,  that I didn’t serve well, he served well, I didn’t.  So in this kind of court, first shot is very important, and he did that first shot much better than me.

 

“For the rest I felt that when I was playing, I was not far away off his level.  But he, you know, played with advantage almost all the match because I give him opportunities with my serve.”

 

Djokovic whose current win-streak is up to 22 spoke about his run:  “Well, next to the run that I had in 2011, this is definitely the second best I’ve had.  Just for me, the most positive thing that I can take from this two and a half months is the fact that I managed to regroup after a few big losses after Nadal, especially Roland Garros, US Open final and Wimbledon final.

 

“As I said, work harder and play better, become an even more skillful player.  I think I’ve worked on a few things in my game and serve that has helped me win a lot of matches in last two months.  This is definitely the best possible way that I can finish the season, of course, the official ATP season, not including the Davis Cup final that I have in a few days’ time, where of course I hope we can bring another title to our country.”

“This can serve as a great platform for 2014 season.  I’m extra motivated and inspired to work and get myself, first of all, rested and recovered in the off‑season, and then work on my game and get ready for Australian Open.”

 

For Nadal, it is now officially the end of his season, but Djokovic will have to pick himself up and get ready for the Davis Cup Final, where he will be expected to win both his rubbers if the Serbians want to have any chance of beating the Czech Republic.

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Novak Djokovic pushes Stanislas Wawrinka aside to reach the ATP World Tour Final

 

Djokovic

(November 10, 2013) Novak Djokovic made short work of his sometime nemesis Stanislas Wawrinka in the evening session semi-final on Sunday, as he swept past the Swiss in straight sets 6-3 6-3.

 

Wawrinka certainly made the more spirited start, breaking Djokovic early but the defending champion responded immediately with a break back, before punishing Wawrinka for a sloppy game with a break to serve for the first set.

 

Djokovic kept the pressure on by breaking early in the second set, and there was always a sense that Wawrinka was just over-hitting as the Serbian stayed in control.

 

After the match Wawrinka said: “I was little bit late physically.  Against him, that’s make a big difference.  I didn’t find a way how to move really inside the court when he give me a few balls.”

 

The defending champion is relishing the challenge, as the World Nos. 1 and 2 will contest the season ending finale against the game’s elite players, which seems a fitting end to the year.

 

Djokovic said: “This is probably the most competitive tournament that we have after Grand Slams in our sport, and we both want to crown this season in the best possible way and end it with a title.”

 

Tennis Panorama News is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals.  Follow our twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN.

 

Results

Singles – Semi-finals
[1] R Nadal (ESP) d [6] R Federer (SUI) 75 63

[2] N Djokovic (SRB) d [7] S Wawrinka (SUI) 63 63

Doubles – Semi-finals

[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [2] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) 46 64 10-8
[6] D Marrero (ESP) / F Verdasco (ESP) d [3] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) 76(10) 75 

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Rafael Nadal Halts Roger Federer in London

Rafael Nadal

 

(November 10, 2013) LONDON – Rafael Nadal booked his place in the final of ht ATP World Tour Fianls after ending Roger Federer’s run in Saturday’s semi-final, in straight sets 7-5, 6-3.

 

The quality of tennis in the first set was breathtaking from the first ball with Federer opening up proceedings with an ace and neither man giving an inch.

 

The crowds in London have always been very supportive of Federer but the roof of the massive complex at the O2 was lifted off with roar after roar of approval as Federer found himself with three break point opportunities on Nadal’s serve. But the Spaniard saved the first with a thundering forehand, while Federer had his forehand to curse as the other two points went begging.

 

But if he was irritated by squandering those chances, he certainly made up for it by blasting through the next game to love. The first chinks in the Swiss armor started to show though when three breaks in a row pushed Nadal ahead, as he took the first set for the second time of asking.

 

It was just a simple error of judgment on Federer’s part to make a lackluster approach shot which simply begged for a Nadal winner to fly past him, securing the single break he needed to win the match.

 

After the match Federer said: “The margins were more on his side. He was playing more consistent. He was playing more solid. I just couldn’t come up with the shots when I needed them, forehand or serve, moving forward.

 

Nadal has won all his matches so far, and looked ahead briefly to the final:

 

“I think if I don’t play my best tomorrow, I [won’ t] have chances. I need to play more aggressive. It’s true that today I tried to play aggressive from the beginning, but is very difficult to play aggressive against a player who try to go for the shots in every ball.”

 

Tennis Panorama News is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals.  Follow our twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN.

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Despite Loss to Djokovic, Gasquet Finishes with a Flourish

 

Richard Gasquet

Richard Gasquet

(November 9, 2013) LONDON – After what had perhaps been a lackluster performance for the Frenchman at the World Tour Finals, Richard Gasquet put up a fight in his final round robin match at the ATP World Tour Finals on Saturday.

 

Facing defending champion and Wolrd No. 2 Novak Djokovic, who had already qualified for Sunday’s semi-finals, started quickly establishing a break, but Gasquet dug in to force a tie-break for the first set, but was edged out by Djokovic.

 

It did not deter the Frenchman, who worked hard to swing the momentum his way perhaps surprising the Serbian, who would have been hoping for an easier match ahead of his semi-final.

 

Djokovic quickly imposed himself on the deciding set, and once he had established a quick break, he never looked in danger of being caught, as Gasquet leaves London with perhaps a disappointing 0-3 record having worked so hard to qualify this year. Victory to Djokovic 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3

 

There are plenty of positives for the Frenchman to take away though – he started and finished this season well, as well as reaching the US Open semi-final for the first time. It should provide him a useful platform for 2014.

 

Gasquet found out on Friday that his coach Riccardo Piatti resigned without giving notice.  Gasquet will work with part-time coach Sebastien Grosjean until he finds a new coach.

 

Djokovic now heads into the semi-final on Sunday on a 20-match winning streak, when he faces Stanislas Wawrinka.

 

Tennis Panorama News is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals.  Follow our twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN.

 

 

Results

Singles – Group B Round Robin
[2] N Djokovic (SRB) d [8] R Gasquet (FRA) 76(5) 46 63
[6] R Federer (SUI) d [4] J del Potro (ARG) 46 76(2) 75

Doubles – Group A Round Robin
[1] B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) d [8] M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) 46 63 10-5
[3] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) d [5] A Qureshi (PAK) / J Rojer (NED) 75 36 11-9

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Roger Federer Sets Up a Semi-final Clash with Rafel Nadal

Federer-001

(November 9, 2013) LONDON – In easily one of the best matches seen at the World Tour Finals this year, Roger Federer clinched a place in the semi-final after a hard fought match against Juan Martin Del Potro on Saturday.

 

Six-times a champion at the season-ending champions. Federer had to come back from 0-3 down in final set after going down a set to Del Potro, closing out the victory 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-5.

 

It has not been the greatest year for the Swiss and although he has been playing himself into form over the past couple of tournaments, when the tall Argentine went ahead, many feared this would be the end of his run in London.

 

But it was an impressive comeback in the second set despite being broken by Del Potro again early in the second set. Federer dominated the tie-break as the pair did battle for the third time in as many weeks.

 

Federer had to kick himself into gear after going down another break at the third of the start set.

 

“I was probably slightly angry more than thinking it’s going to be over soon,” said Federer, “It’s one of those moments today, because I kind of fought back the whole match – the first, second set. Here we go again.”

 

He certainly finished with a flourish, sending down an ace to set up the day session semi-final with Rafael Nadal.

 

Del Potro was left to rue his chances missed.

 

“I think I got two chances to win the match,” said del Potro. “I broke his serve in the second set and in the third one. But he played great when I was up, and he deserved to come back in both sets.”

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With Nadal Win, Wawrinka Moves into Semis of ATP World Tour Finals

Nadal

(November 8, 2013) LONDON – When Stanislas Wawrinka defeated a finally fully-wearied David Ferrer, all the talk in the post-match interviews was all about a place in the semi-final. And with good reason as his qualifying place depended on the outcome of the evening match between Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych.

 

As the match started with a typically driven Nadal was drilling through break points with ease, and no-one was really surprised when he kept that single break advantage in the first set 6-4.

 

Perhaps what was less expected was the revival from Berdych in the second set, racing ahead to a 5-0 lead before Nadal was allowed to register a game on the board.

 

By now the crowd was alive because they had wanted a thriller to savor, Wawrinka was perhaps sweating a little, and Berdych was playing like he had absolutely nothing left to lose.

 

If the crowd watching thought the final set would see a capitulation to the World No. 1 (as can so often be the case) they were sadly mistaken as the pair beat themselves up to holds, with thundering blows in every game.

 

Berdych blinked first – two double-faults handing Nadal a 5-3 advantage. A blitz of unforced errors sealed the deal – something that Berdych would be the first to admit in his post match press conference:

 

“It’s difficult to say I would do it different.  I mean, from the beginning of the second set, my level of game was quite high and I kind of felt that I’m going really on the edge, especially on my serve.  With him, it’s always very tough.”

Nadal finishes Group A with a perfect 3-0 record. He’ll face the winner of the Roger Federer – Juan Martin Del Potro Group B round-robin match in the semi-final on Sunday.

Tennis Panorama News is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals.  Follow our twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN.

 

More to follow…

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Stan Wawrinka Fights Off a Spirited David Ferrer for a Chance to Qualify

Stan Wawrinka

(November 8, 2013) LONDON – Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka fought off a spirited battle from David Ferrer in their final round robin encounter to cling on to a hope of qualifying for the World Tour Finals semi-finals.

 

Many thought that it would be a round-robin too far from the Spaniard who has played an astonishing final schedule in the closing stages of the year, but the afternoon crowd were treated to a competitive first set which saw Ferrer surge ahead in the tie-break to put the Swiss on the back foot.

 

Even though Wawrinka managed to edge ahead in the second set, the passion from the Spaniard was evident as he killed a racquet stone-dead in sheer frustration while Wawrinka gave himself an all-important shot at a semi-final qualification as he leveled the match.

 

The initiative stayed with Wawrinka as Ferrer’s season came to a close, but with two round-robin wins, Wawrinka is dependent on the outcome of the match between Rafael Nadal and Tomas Berdych and all hinges on a Nadal win.

 

Wawrinka knew he had to capitalise on Ferrer’s tiredness, as he explained after the match:

“For me, the most important was to fight with myself to keep the ball in, to try to stay with him, to show him that I’m gonna play some long rally, that I’m going to try to be aggressive, but not rushing too much. That’s what I did better at the end. That [made] a big difference today.”

 

Ferrer acknowledged that his schedule this year had been tough:

“I played seven tournaments [in] seven weeks. But after last year I want to play in Stockholm because I didn’t play too many matches. Well I did final in Stockholm, final Valencia, final Paris and three matches here. Is too much.”

 

For Ferrer his season is now over, but Wawrinka will be cheering on Nadal as he will progress through to the semi-final on that result.

 

Tennis Panorama News is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals.  Follow our twitter updates from the tournament @TennisNewsTPN.

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