(June 11, 2016) LONDON, England – “Don’t look,” cautioned the man bearing the silver bowl.
Tennis conspiracy theorists always think tournament draws are fixed. Sometimes – for example, the 1996 US Open, when the players threatened to boycott unless the draw was remade – there are good reasons. In that case, the seedings had been announced after the draw had already been announced, and because they didn’t strictly follow the rankings, there were legitimate questions asked about whether the tournament was favoring American stars. A 2011 study of ten years of men’s and women’s singles Grand Slam draws found that the other Slams did indeed seem to produce random draws, but that that the US Open draws showed anomalies.
More common claims are that the draw is fixed to ease one or another player’s path or that the placing of seeds 3 and 4 is fixed in order to keep a particular pairing apart until the final. Every time a new draw for one of the majors is announced, you’ll find someone in a tennis discussion forum complaining that Roger Federer always gets an easy draw and Rafael Nadal a hard one, or Novak Djokovic a tough road and Nadal an easy one…or some variation of that with whatever players the poster cares about.
Others would just like to tinker with the rules governing how draws are made. Over the years people have suggested that the semifinal pairings should always be 1-4 and 2-3, or that the entire draw should be remade before the quarter-finals to rebalance the gaps left by defeated seeds. Another favorite suggestion is that the majors should go back to seeding 16 players instead of 32, the rule until 2001. Doing so, the argument goes, would make the early rounds a little more tantalizing. I incline toward this latter idea myself, but it’s unlikely to happen because seeding 32 players was a concession Wimbledon made as part of a settlement of player complaints. The Spanish players were offended by the All-England’s habit of revising the seeding list to take into account past results on grass, which sometimes dropped the Spaniards out of the seeding list. This, they felt, was unfair: sure they often lost in the early rounds, but, they reasoned, they got no reverse consideration at the French Open, where they could be expected to do well but Pete Sampras was still top seed despite his habit of losing in the first two rounds.
Back to the man with the silver bowl. We are in the Presidents’ Room at Queen’s Club, surrounded by oil portraits, one of which is a dead ringer for Kaiser Wilhelm (it’s actually the Rt Hon Lord of Dalkeith, the club president from 1874 to 1879). The room is full of journalists and various people involved with running either the club or the tournament. (You can easily tell them apart. The people involved with the club are dressed for a cocktail party; tournament staff are wearing sponsored sports stuff; and the journalists look like they’ve been dragged in off the street.) At the front, next to a populated head table is a large screen with a blank 32-slot draw, and a load of numbered plastic tokens. We are introduced to three people who together have bid £250,000 (to be given to a children’s charity) for the right to be here today. Also on hand: Marin Cilic, the 2012 champion of this event. All of this, including the presence of a player, is fairly standard, though the exact mechanics vary.
The ritual begins with slotting the name of the top seed – Andy Murray – on line number 1 and second seed Stan Wawrinka on line 32. Next, the tokens for 3 and 4 are placed in the bowl and Queen’s man in the grey suit asks one of the dignitaries to pick one. This is where “Don’t look!” comes in. The one that is drawn – fourth seed Richard Gasquet – is placed on line 9, and the other, McEnroe-enhanced third seed Milos Raonic, on line 24. That settles the projected semifinal pairings. Next, the tokens for seeds 5 to 8 are placed in the bowl, and the man bowl is offered to three different people to fill the quarterfinal spots. Finally, the rest of the tokens are placed in the bowl, and the man goes around offering it to various people in the audience, even soliciting volunteers. Each person draws out one of the remaining numbers and the team at the front places it in the next empty line of the draw. There are tokens for qualifiers, whose names won’t be known until tomorrow (assuming the rain delay ends in time). These will also be drawn randomly to fill the empty spaces left for them.
As they go, the on-screen board fills in and profiles of the players and their match pairings pop up alongside. Some of the matches sound much tastier than the first round at Wimbledon will be. Cilic, interviewed, noted that the cut-off for the main draw this week was 44, which he thinks is the highest for any tournament on the tour. Murray, seeking his record-breaking fifth title here this year, draws Nicolas Mahut in the first round. Definitely a tough one: Mahut has grass cred. Besides being, famously, the loser in 2010’s three-day first-round Wimbledon encounter with John Isner, he’s a former finalist here who might have won the title but for an unlucky netcord, and recently the world’s number one doubles player. Other first-round contests that catch the eye: Nick Kyrgios versus Raonic sounds like an old-style serving contest; John Isner will have to contend with just-back Juan Martin del Potro; and Cilic faces Feliciano Lopez, the good-on-grass Spaniard who has troubled plenty of players here over the years.
Most draws, while not attended with quite as much ceremony, are pretty much like this: public events, with at least one player, some press, and various others in attendance. While it might be possible to fix the draw somewhere sometime, the intent is to make the process transparent and trustworthy. Conspiracy theorists should look elsewhere.
(June 9, 2016) Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal will be absent from the tournament this year, withdrawing with the same wrist injury which forced him to withdraw before his third round match at the French Open. He posted his announcement on social media:
Hi everybody. I’m sad to announce that after talking to my doctors, and receiving the results of my last medical… https://t.co/BBl4BOtL45
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) June 9, 2016
Hola a todos. Quería anunciaros que tras consultar con mi médico y vistos los resultados de la pasada revisión médica, no podré participar en la próxima edición de Wimbledon.
Como podéis imaginar es una decisión triste pero la lesión sufrida en mi muñeca en Roland Garros necesita tiempo para sanar. Tampoco podré participar en el evento previo #TheBoodles en Stoke Park donde ya participé en anteriores ocasiones.
Gracias a todos por el apoyo, sobre todo a mis fans que siempre me envían notas de cariño.
Hi everybody. I’m sad to announce that after talking to my doctors, and receiving the results of my last medical revision, I won’t be able to play at Wimbledon this year.
As you can all imagine, it’s a very tough decision, but the injury I suffered at Roland Garros needs time to heal. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to join in the pre-tournament event #TheBoodles at #Stokepark that I attended in previous years.
Thank you all for your support, especially my fans. Your kind messages mean so much to me.
The world No. 4 will be replaced in the draw by Spanish countryman Albert Montanes. Nadal, who last won Wimbledon in 2010 has only been able to reach the fourth round of The Championships once since his last Wimbledon title.
Wimbledon announced other withdrawals on Thursday – Spain’s Tommy Robredo (elbow injury) and Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis (shoulder injury). Taking their place in the draw will be Portugal’s Gastao Elias and Facundo Bagnis of Argentina.
Novak Djokovic Wins French Open Title to Complete “Career Grand Slam” and win Fourth Straight Major Title
(June 5, 2016) Novak Djokovic became the first man since Rod Laver won a calendar Grand Slam in 1969 to win four straight major titles, winning the French Open on Sunday over Andy Murray 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Sunday to complete a career Grand Slam. Djokovic is just the third man to hold all four majors titles at the same time which includes Don Budge 1938 and Rod Laver in 1962 and 1969.
The title gives No. 1 Djokovic his 12 major titles, tying him with Roy Emerson on the all-time list, behind Roger Federer with 17, Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras with 14. The Serb is the eighth man to complete a career “Grand Slam” joining Don Budge, Fred Perry, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal. The 29-year-old is now 12-11 in major finals.
“It’s a thrilling moment,” said Djokovic. “One of the most beautiful I have had in my career. “It’s incredibly flattering to know that Rod Laver is the last one that managed to do that. There are not many words that can describe it. It’s one of the ultimate challenges that you have as a tennis player. I’m very proud and very thrilled. It’s hard for me to reflect on what has happened before and what’s going to happen after. I’m just so overwhelmed with having this trophy next to me that I’m just trying to enjoy this moment.”
“Perhaps the greatest moment of my career.”
After completing the victory, Djokovic took a page out of former Roland Garros champion Gustavo Kuerten’s book, by drawing a heart in the clay and laying on his back inside it to celebrate.
“The most important thing for me is that I wrote down that heart, like Guga did,” Djokovic said after the match. “He gave me the permission to do this. The most important is that I felt the love, and drawing a heart means I will remain on this court with you every day.”
“This is Novak’s day,” Murray said during the trophy ceremony. “Winning all four Grand Slams at once is a great achievement. This is something that is so rare in tennis. What he’s achieved the last 12 months is phenomenal. I’m proud to be part of it today.”
Djokovic has now won 28 matches in a row in major tournaments dating back to last year’s French Open final.
His collection of majors: 6 Australian Opens, 1 Roland Garros, 3 Wimbledons and two U.S. Opens.
The French Open crown marks his 65 title, which puts him at number six on the all-time list behind Jimmy Connors (109), Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (88), John McEnroe (77) and Rafael Nadal (69).
Djokovic is now halfway through a calendar Grand Slam, winning the Australian and French Opens. The last time a man won the first two majors in a year was Jim Courier in 1992.
(May 27, 2016) Andy Murray did not need five sets to win on Friday at the French Open as he did in his first two matches. The No. 2 seed after playing five-set marathons in his first two rounds, beat big-serving Ivo Karlovic 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (3) Friday. Murray will play American John Isner for a place in the final eight. The 15th seed Isner beat 79th-ranked Teymuraz Gabashvili 7-6(7), 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Defending champion Stan Wawrinka beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in 6-4, 6-3, 7-5 to reach the round of 16.
No. 6 ranked Kei Nishikori needed five sets to survive Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 2-6, 6-4. Nishikori will play Richard Gasquet next. Gasquet straight-setted Nick Kyrgios.
No. 8 seed Milos Raonic overcame and painful hip to beat No. 133 ranked lucky loser Andrej Martin 7-6 (4), 6-2, 6-3.
No. 23-seeded Jack Sock fell 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to No. 55 Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a 4 hour, 11-minute marathon.
In women’s action, the last woman to reach the main draw by ranking cutoff, No. 108 Shelby Rogers upset No. 10 seed and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 6-0, 6-7(3), 6-0 to make the fourth round. For Rogers reaching the round of 16 is her best results at a major.
Seeds Garbine Muguruza, Simona Halep and Samantha Stosur all advanced. Halep had to rally to beat the 101st-ranked Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Last year’s finalist is out. Lucie Safarova lost to former French Open finalist Sam Stosur 6-3, 6-7 (0), 7-5.
No. 19 seed Sloane Stephens was dismissed by Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-1.
(May 27, 2016) Nine-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the tournament with an injured left wrist. The 14-time major champion called a news conference to make the announcement.
“I have to retire from the tournament because of problem in my wrist that I have had for a couple of weeks,” Nadal said.
“Yesterday I played with injection on the wrist. I could play, but yesterday night I start to feel more and more pain,” said the world No. 5.
“I did MRI. The results are not positive and the thing is it’s not 100 percent. If I keep playing it’s going to be broken the next couple of days. We took some risks with the injections. It is the tendon, and if I continue to play I would not be able to play the rest of the tournament.”
“If I go on playing, it’s going to break and that would mean months off the circuit.”
“Now is a tough moment but it’s not the end. I feel the right motivation and energy to be back at Roland Garros next couple of years.”
“We’re gonna work hard to be ready for Wimbledon. We expect to recover quick, to be ready for Wimbledon.”
He was scheduled to play his third round match on Saturday against Marcel Granollers, who will receive a walkover into the fourth round.
Nadal holds a 72-2 record in Paris.
(May 24, 2016) Top seeds Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic had easy opening victories at Roland Garros on Tuesday. Williams, the defending champion going for her fourth Paris title destroyed No. 77 Magdalena Rybarikova 6-2, 6-0 in 42 minutes. The 21-time major champion hit 25 winners and made only five unforced errrors.
Sister Venus also advanced in straight sets. The ninth seed defeated No. 82 Anett Kontaveit 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4).
Djokovic is seeking to win his first French Open title to complete a career Grand Slam. The Serb defeated No. 95 Yen-hsun Lu of Taiwan 6-4, 6-1, 6-1. Also reaching the second round easily was nine-time champion Rafael Nadal who blasted past Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1, 6-1.
No. 2 seed completed his first round match which was held over due to darkness, surviving qualifier and former Top 10 player 37-year-old Radek Stepanek 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.
“It’s unbelievable what he’s doing,” said Murray in an on-court interview. “He had an extremely bad injury last year and was our for eight or nine months. At 37 years old and coming out and fighting like that, playing that way, is unbelievable. I don’t expect to be doing that myself at that age! I’m just glad I managed to get through.”
Australian Open champion and third seed Angelique Kerber was the biggest upset on the day. The German suffering from a left shoulder injury lost to No. 58 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands. 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Bertens is fresh off winning a title over the weekend in Nürnberg, where she was a qualifier.
Another major surprise on the women’s side saw No. 5 Victoria Azarenka lose to No. 118-ranked Karin Knapp when she was forced to retire with a knee injury down 6-3, 6-7(6), 4-0.
2010 French Open champion, unseeded Francesca Schiavone lost to Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-4. It was announced on court that Schiavone was retiring, but she set the record straight during her news conference.
“Roland Garros announced my retirement but I didn’t.”
“So you can stand up all of you and go back to work in the office because I didn’t say that. I will announce when I will want to stop.”
More to follow…
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 20, 2016
(May 20, 2016) The French Open men’s and women’s singles draws were made in Paris on Friday and No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 4 seed, nine-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal could be on a collision course to meet in the semifinals. Nadal moved into the No. 4 seed position when No. 3 Roger Federer withdrew from the tournament on Thursday.
Djokovic comes into Roland Garros seeking the only major tournament he has not won. He’s looking to become the eight man to have a “career slam,” winning each of the four major title at least once. Should the Serb win the French Open, he would hold all four major championships at the same time.
Djokovic has lost in the final of the French Open three out of the past four years. He will begin his quest for the Roland Garros crown against No. 100 in the world Lu Yen-hsun in, while Nadal will play big serving Australian, Sam Groth.
On the other side of the men’s draw, a pair of two-time major champions could meet in the other semifinal – No. 2 Andy Murray and No. 3 seed and defending champion Stan Wawrinka. Murray will play a qualifier in the first round, while Wawrinka will face-off against
The top seed in the women’s draw, Serena Williams is going after her 22nd career major, which would tie her with Steffi Graf on the all-time list, the most in the Open Era. She’s coming off her first tournament win in nine months, winning the Italian Open trophy last weekend on the clay courts of Rome.
A hurdle for the American could come in the quarterfinals, where she is projected to meet No. 5 seed and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka. Williams may also have play 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic in the fourth round and reigning Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber in the final four. Williams lost to the German in the Melbourne final.
Williams will open against No. 76 Magdalena Rybarikova.
Williams is the defending champion and is going after her fourth Roland Garros trophy.
In the bottom half of the women’s draw, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska could play fourth seed Garbine Muguruza in the semifinals.
Play begins on Sunday, May 22.
(May 13, 2016) Novak Djokovic came back from a break down in both sets and set points down in the second set to fight off Rafael Nadal 7-5, 7-6(4) to reach the semifinals of the Italian Open on Friday in Rome. The dramatic match lasted almost two-and-a-half hours. The world No. 1 has now beaten the 14-time major champion seven straight times and has raised his record to 26-23 over the current No. 5. The Serb has now won 15 straight sets against the Spaniard.
Nadal grabbed opening breaks of serve in both sets and had five set points in the second set serving at 5-4, but Djokovic kept coming back from adversity.
“I held my nerve at the clutch moments,” Djokovic said in an interview after the match. “Even though I had nervy beginnings to both sets, with some good games and good play in the crucial moments, I managed to win. It’s a straight-sets win, but it feels like we played five sets.
“Winning against Nadal is the ultimate challenge on clay courts and one of the toughest challenges we have in sport. I have to be very pleased with the way I handled myself in the big moments today. I won against one of my biggest rivals on his preferred surface. We must not forget he’s in form. He won Monte-Carlo and Barcelona and has played well the past couple of weeks. That gives me confidence for the rest of this tournament.”
Djokovic said that it was special to be on court playing against Nadal.
Nadal said that he was not disappointed and felt that he played well against the best player.
Djokovic will face-off against Kei Nishikori in his semifinal on Saturday. The sixth seed Nishikori beat 13th seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-5.
No. 2 seed Andy Murray moved into the final four with a 6-1, 7-5 win over David Goffin. Murray will play French lucky loser Lucas Pouille for s spot in the final on Saturday. Pouille advanced when Juan Monaco withdrew with a left hip injury.
On the women’s side, No. 1 ranked Serena Williams, getting a little revenge from her loss in Miami, when she demolished Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-2, 6-0 in 51 minutes. She’ll play Irina-Camelia Begu next who beat Misaki Doi 6-2, 7-6 (3).
On the bottom half of the draw, Garbine Muguruza beat Timea Bacsinszky 7-5, 6-2 and will play Madison Keys, who defeated Barbora Strycova 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
INTERNAZIONALI BNL D’ITALIA – ROME, ITALY
9-15 MAY 2016
RESULTS – MAY 13, 2016
Women’s Singles – Quarterfinals
 S. Williams (USA) d  S. Kuznetsova (RUS) 62 60
 G. Muguruza (ESP) d  T. Bacsinszky (SUI) 75 62
I. Begu (ROU) d M. Doi (JPN) 62 76(3)
M. Keys (USA) d B. Strycova (CZE) 64 46 63
Women’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
 M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) d R. Atawo (USA) / A. Spears (USA) 64 62
I. Begu (ROU) / M. Niculescu (ROU) d  T. Babos (HUN) / Y. Shvedova (KAZ) 76(4) 63
 A. Hlavackova (CZE) / L. Hradecka (CZE) d  C. Garcia (FRA) / K. Mladenovic (FRA) 64 64
 E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS) d A. Klepac (SLO) / K. Srebotnik (SLO) 62 64
Men’s Singles – Quarterfinals
 N. Djokovic (SRB) d  R. Nadal (ESP) 75 76(4)
 A. Murray (GBR) d  D. Goffin (BEL) 61 75
 K. Nishikori (JPN) d  D. Thiem (AUT) 63 75
[LL] L. Pouille (FRA) d [PR] J. Monaco (ARG) w.o. (hip)
Men’s Doubles – Quarterfinals
 B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA) d  J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA) 63 64
 R. Bopanna (IND) / F. Mergea (ROU) d P. Kohlschreiber (GER) / V. Troicki (SRB) 63 64
 V. Pospisil (CAN) / J. Sock (USA) d P. Cuevas (URU) / M. Granollers (ESP) 64 76(4)
[PR] J. Benneteau (FRA) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) d O. Marach (AUT) / M. Matkowski (POL) 46 75 10-8
ORDER OF PLAY – SATURDAY, MAY 14, 2016
CENTER COURT start 12:00 noon
WTA –  G. Muguruza (ESP) vs M. Keys (USA)
Not Before 2:30 pm
ATP – [LL] L. Pouille (FRA) vs  A. Murray (GBR)
Not Before 5:00 pm
WTA –  S. Williams (USA) vs I. Begu (ROU)
Not Before 8:00 pm
ATP –  N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  D. Thiem (AUT) or  K. Nishikori (JPN)
ATP – [PR] J. Benneteau (FRA) / E. Roger-Vasselin (FRA) vs  B. Bryan (USA) / M. Bryan (USA)
PIETRANGELI start 12:00 noon
WTA –  A. Hlavackova (CZE) / L. Hradecka (CZE) vs  E. Makarova (RUS) / E. Vesnina (RUS)
Not Before 1:00 pm
ATP –  V. Pospisil (CAN) / J. Sock (USA) vs  R. Bopanna (IND) / F. Mergea (ROU)
WTA – After Suitable Rest –  M. Hingis (SUI) / S. Mirza (IND) vs I. Begu (ROU) / M. Niculescu (ROU)
(May 8, 2016) Novak Djokovic won his second Madrid Open title on Sunday beating Andy Murray 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 for a record 29th Masters title and 64th career ATP World Tour title. The world No. 1 is now tied with Pete Sampras and Bjorn Borg for sixth place for titles won in the Open Era.
This win raises the Serb’s record against the Brit to 23-9, victorious in 12 of the last 13 matches.
“This came at the right time,” Djokovic said. “I had an amazing opening four months of the season. Then an early exit in Monte-Carlo, but it happened for a reason, because I needed some time to really recharge my batteries. Three weeks was more than enough to get some freshness and new breath and get ready for Madrid. I came here early, got used to the conditions, and played a really fantastic tournament that will definitely serve as a great confidence boost before Rome and the French Open.”
“I started very well,” Djokovic explained. “Played terrific tennis in the first set. Couple of close games in the second, beginning of the second set, and then I made some unforced errors and double faults in the game when I dropped my serve in the second set. I couldn’t get back.
“He started serving very well, especially down the T and deuce side. Very precise and very strong, and he was backing that serve up with aggressive first shots, and then just about an hour it was split sets.
“Then the match really could have gone either way, but we exchanged some breaks of serves early in the third. Then when it seemed like I was closing out the match and having a match point at 5-2, he came up with some big serves again. The last game obviously got myself out of some trouble with some good serves, with some good forehands, but was very, very close. Very close.”
“I obviously fought hard today,” Murray said. “Yeah, disappointed because from like two games, like 2-All to 4-2, 5-2, I was making him work hard in the second set and then beginning of the third and then at the end of the third set.
“I just think I’m definitely moving better. That’s for sure. It makes a huge difference. Like I said, on the other surfaces it’s a massive strength of mine, a big part of my game, and for a number years I didn’t move well on the clay. It was a hindrance, and that makes you uncomfortable. If you took Ivo Karlovic’s serve away he would feel uncomfortable going on the court. For me, take my movement away.
“When I was having the problems with my back it was difficult for me when stepping on the court; whereas now my body feels great. I feel like I’m moving a lot better. So I’m not going on the court sort of a little bit nervous or apprehensive. I believe I can play well on clay now.
“There was a period there – if you watch it back – the game I got broken [in the third set], I made three unforced errors in that game. That was disappointing. Then obviously the last game I don’t know how many break point chances I had, but must have been six or seven.
“Both of us were pretty clinical on the break points up until the last game for me. That’s why he’s No. 1 just now. He fought very hard in that game and served well when he was a bit nervous. At the end he came up with some big serves and got himself some free points and did well.”
“Then the match really could have gone either way, but we exchanged some breaks of serves early in the third,” noted the world No. 1. “Then when it seemed like I was closing out the match and having a match point at 5-2, he came up with some big serves again. The last game obviously got myself out of some trouble with some good serves, with some good forehands, but was very, very close. Very close.”
“I’m very pleased that I have developed a great rivalry with somebody that I’ve known since very long time and somebody that I have a very good and friendly relationship with on and off the court,” Djokovic said.
Since Murray did not defend his Madrid title from last year, he will slip to No. 3 in the world on Monday. Roger Federer will move up to No. 2.
In the men’s doubles final Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau won their first Masters 1000 title as a team, beating defending champions Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea 6-4, 7-6(5). It was their 12th trophy overall.
“They are a great team, and also friends,” Rojer said. “It’s never easy to play these matches and it’s difficult for all four guys.”
“I want to thank my partner for having another great week,” said Tecau. “We were struggling for a few weeks, couldn’t win a lot of matches… It feels great to play well together and get another title.
“We’ve been chasing this one for almost three years. We’re really excited to get this one because it comes after having a few early exits in Masters 1000 events this year. So it means a lot to us.”