2014/08/21

A Conversation with Varvara Lepchenko

Lepchenko

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 17, 2014) MELBOURNE – Varvara Lepchenko was left feeling very weak and light-headed after losing her second round Australian Open singles match on Thursday in the blistering 111 degree heat. She spent an hour after the match lying down in the locker room before making a media appearance, admittedly still feeling a little dazed and dizzy.

 

We caught up with Lepchenko the following day to see how she has been holding up and heard about her feelings toward the Extreme Heat Policy.

 

We talk tennis, citizenship, career goals and… figure skating.

 

Alana Mitchelson: Do you think you were fully recovered from yesterday to play doubles today?

Varvara Lepchenko: No, I think it’s too soon. Unfortunately, I don’t know why our organisers don’t look into this kind of thing. They make it worse for you rather than accommodating for you and giving you the best chance. I’m a little bit better today but I’m a little bit under the weather.

 

AM: Yeah, you made a few comments about the Extreme Heat Policy yesterday.

VL: Well I think, first of all, it’s already been a couple of days like this and they only started doing something about it when people started talking about it. They shouldn’t be waiting for people to start talking. Even though there are some doctors saying this is not dangerous, it is dangerous for the players. I see a lot of players struggling, and even just for the fans to sit around and watch, it’s hard. I mean, can you imagine us being down on the court in I don’t know how many degrees more. Nobody even shows up and we’re running in the heat all the time under the sun, so it’s definitely one of those things that the organizers of the tournament and the committee need to address and have meetings to know what exact temperature it is unbearable to play under.

 

This was very unfortunate because I had to go through this two days in a row and even today was the third day all up really and it’s not going to hurt anybody to start a little bit later in the afternoon or earlier in the morning to avoid peak heat.

 

AM: What did you do after you left Melbourne Park yesterday?

VL: I just rested up and I had ice all over my body, trying to stay really cold. I was pretty much laying down the whole time and didn’t do anything because I was just too hot. I didn’t sleep so well, you know what I mean? It was tough.

 

AM: Did you find it hard to cool down?

VL: It was really hard because I took an ice bath right after the match and it wasn’t easy to stay cold and keep my temperature down. It was only good for a couple of hours and then I started feeling like I was getting hot again during the night.

 

AM: When you came into the press conference yesterday, you said you still felt quite dizzy and that was an hour after your match. How long did it take for that feeling to pass?

VL: Yeah, I had a headache all day long yesterday and I was kind of worried about what was going to happen to me the next day, if I was going to wake up with the same headache as I had yesterday. Thankfully my body recovered a little bit so that I was able to perform today but it’s definitely something that pushes you all the way to the edge, testing your body limits when it shouldn’t be that way. It should be a test of your physical ability, not health wise of how well you can withstand the heat. It’s more about the medical preparation of your body for how long people can stay in the sun really and how many degrees it can get to and you still being able to compete.

 

AM: If we wind back the clock a fair bit now, I was wondering how you were first introduced to tennis?

VL: Well back in Uzbekistan, the tennis club was only a five minute walk away from our apartment building and that’s how I started. My dad brought me there and gave me a tennis racquet and ball. All I wanted to do was obviously just go and play with the other kids but he promised me if I hit so many shots against the wall, he would give me bubble gum which was a luxury for me at the time. So that’s how I pretty much started.

 

AM: And your father coaches you. Is it difficult trying to maintain a professional relationship with your father?

VL: Definitely, it’s very hard to have this kind of a relationship and we try to mix it up. He’s not coaching me full-time, I’m training with other coaches, so we try to mix it up a little bit to maintain our father-daughter relationship as well. But at the same time, there’s a lot of good things that come out of it. No one will work with you with as much heart as your father. You can definitely feel it. Until I can find another coach who can put all of that heart into coaching me then I’ll stick with my dad.

 

AM: Around last summer, you reached a career-high ranking of 19. What is it like when you best your own ranking record?

VL: It’s definitely one of those things that you’re just working and working on, and you don’t really think about the ranking at that point. You just keep working hard and then you’re all of a sudden at this level and you’re like ‘wow, how did this happen?’, you know, and then you just sit down and think ‘oh yeah, I’ve been working really hard in both the off season and this season.

 

AM: A couple of years ago, you upset former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic. Not many players can say they have beaten her. What do you remember about how you felt in that moment?

VL: Yeah, it’s definitely one of those amazing moments when you beat someone you kind of look up to. You’ve seen them succeeding in a lot of tournaments and then, all of a sudden, it’s you who’s beaten them. I just battled through that match and didn’t think about anything else. And when I won I was really excited about it.

 

AM: Of all the matches you’ve played in your career so far, which one has been your favourite?

VL: I would definitely look back and say round of 32 in the French Open 2012 against Francesca Schiavone. I was down in that match and I came back and won.

 

AM: Can you tell me a bit about your background. You only just became a US citizen a few years ago.

VL: Well, it wasn’t the easiest road to where I am right now. For many years, I was playing strictly Challengers because I couldn’t travel because I didn’t have any documents and I was waiting for my status to clear in the United States. Just waiting and waiting, and my tennis level was pretty much the same because you can’t really go far playing Challengers. Once I’d gotten my documents in November 2011, I started travelling more and started to improve my tennis a lot more.

 

It wasn’t the easiest time obviously, and I’m just grateful to be where I am right now, just because I started out playing tennis travelling and sleeping in the car during the early days and not being able to afford a hotel and other things. A lot of determination and just being lucky to have made it to where I am now from where I’ve been, not seeing my mum for four years. This kind of thing makes you tougher. Once I’d gotten the freedom of moving and playing the bigger tournaments, competing against tougher opponents and playing better tennis, I started seeing where my tennis could improve and what I can do better.

 

AM: So why the US?

VL: I came to the US to play Junior tournaments. I was playing some Challengers there and then I decided to play Orange Bowl. I’d entered into the event and my federation basically just pulled me out of the tournament because they needed to give approval to the US federation and they said that they didn’t want me to play.

 

That was a key moment for me being in the US who were not going to stop anybody from playing. There were so many opportunities for me there. Even though it wasn’t the easiest way, I was able to travel by car with my dad and sometimes we would get some housing and stay with some friends and some people would help us out with accommodation. That’s pretty much how we fell in love with USA and so we decided to stay there. I’ve been there for about 12 years now.

 

AM: You’ve said in a previous interview that you enjoy watching figure skating. Do you notice any similarities between figure skating and tennis?

VL: No, there’s not really much. I just like how the figure skaters move on the ice and their nice outfits. They have to do these really difficult lifts and they’re so fast. They’re under so much pressure and I think this is what I like because it’s one performance. You don’t get another chance and it’s really hard to put everything into one performance.

 

AM: Have you ever tried skating yourself?

VL: I know how to ice skate but I don’t know how to do all the jumps or all the little tricks they do. There’s no way I can do that. I’ve never tried and it’s too hard because I can’t even skate in a circle.

 

AM: Yeah, let’s try to avoid any injuries.

VL: Exactly.

 

AM: And I believe you’re a fan of karaoke as well?

VL: Oh yeah, I love karaoke. You don’t want to hear me sing though, I’m definitely one of the worst singers. But it just releases that energy and you feel free and it’s fun. I haven’t done that in a while but I prefer to go in a group. I need someone there to push me but once I start it’s hard to stop me, but it’s definitely one of the things I love to do.

 

AM: Back to talking tennis, what are some essential items you can’t live without having at court side during a match?

VL: I definitely need a towel, my drinks and my gels. I need my ice towel (laughs), especially for this tournament. I need to have a hat, I can’t play without a hat otherwise I just feel uncomfortable. Oh, and I always need to have new grips for my racquets – just in case.

 

AM: Do you feel the standard of women’s tennis has lifted dramatically since Serena Williams has come along?

VL: Yeah, definitely. She’s just such a great champion and she took the game to the next level. I think everybody is trying to play more aggressive – doing bigger serves and just physically better. I think she and Venus set such a huge example of what your level has to be to be one of the best players. You used to get players who didn’t hit the ball hard enough and now you never get that. It’s all about the speed, the power, the agility and the stamina. She’s been taking tennis to another level and everybody’s looking up to her.

 

AM: You played doubles this morning. What aspects of the doubles game do you like that you don’t necessarily get to experience in singles?

VL: I think what I like about doubles is that it’s a lot less pressure. You can enjoy it a lot more. I don’t put a lot of responsibility on myself, I just try to play the best that I can. So I think I like that I relax a lot more. It’s interesting, you have to have a really good reaction so it tests your reflexes. It’s almost like playing a chess game. You really have to think about what you have to do in order to win a match or a game. It’s interesting to have this combination of the court and tactics, it’s good for the game.

 

AM: What other tournaments do you have lined up for the summer?

VL: At the moment I’m signed up for Pattaya, Thailand, and this is what I’m looking forward to.

 

AM: What are your goals for this year?

VL: I really want to be seeded at my next Grand Slam. This is my goal.

 

AM: More generally speaking, where do you hope to take your game?

VL: Well, I would be a fool if I said I didn’t want to be up there with the top players because I’ve really got the game and I just need to pull a few things together. It’s just a matter of knowing that if I can pull it together, I can take my game to who knows where.

 

AM: Thank you for giving up so much of your time.

VL: No problem, thank you. Have a good day.

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Extreme Heat has Players Talking at Australian Open

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Extreme Heat has Players Talking at Australian Open

Maria Sharapova

Maria Sharapova

 

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 16, 2014) MELBOURNE – With players being treated for the heat throughout the morning and early afternoon at the Australian Open, the Extreme Heat Policy came into effect at about 2.50pm on Thursday. According to official statements, the conditions were not considered dangerous until this stage, but Maria Sharapova thinks the threshold point could be better explained to the tennis players.

 

The Extreme Heat Policy, in short, ensures that when humidity, temperature and wind speed reach a certain point, no new matches are to commence until further notice and that all sets already in progress must be completed in the same conditions in which they started. Thereafter, matches on outdoor courts will be suspended and the roof may be closed on major arenas.

 

On Thursday, Maria Sharapova and Karin Knapp had already begun their third, deciding set in the blistering heat when the policy was implemented. This meant the roof could not be closed until the conclusion of that set, however, in their case this would mean the end of the match.

 

Some of the players expressed their thoughts on the policy and made suggestions as to how they believed it could better serve the best interests of the athletes who carry the sport.

 

A light-headed Varvara Lepchenko had spent a full hour after her match lying down, trying to recover from the ordeal.

 

“The first thing I did was have an ice bath and I also drank a lot of water with salt. I just lay down in the locker room for the past hour and I just physically couldn’t get up,” Varvara said shakily.

 

“I’m feeling still a little bit weak and I just feel like I wanna sit down all the time and lay down.

 

“I think they definitely should have just not started the matches in the first place and the same goes a couple of days ago… I think they should’ve started the matches after the temperature cooled down a little bit because this is just too much.

 

“When the game kept going, I had many things in my mind. First of all, that I had a good chance and then I started feeling like that and I didn’t know how my body could recover from it during the match. The other thing I started thinking was, what if I’m just gonna drop right now. Then it’s going to take me even longer to recover from something like that.

 

“Obviously it’s very dangerous if somebody has a condition to the heart or anything like that. Being in this temperature’s almost like going to (a) sauna and it’s not good.

 

“It happened to me, for the first time in my life, that I was playing under these conditions… at first, I didn’t understand what was going on. But then my legs and my arms just started to get heavier and I couldn’t focus. And at one point I started feeling dizzier and dizzier.

 

“At 5-1, I started feeling a little bit weak but I thought that I was just feeling tired and I tried to push myself.. In the second set I couldn’t focus on my returns, I couldn’t see the ball… everything started going so fast like I felt like the time in between the points. I started feeling really hot on the top of my head and then at one point I completely lost it.

 

“I just couldn’t focus on the point. I felt like my arms weighed a ton and I started feeling dizzy and this one last point on her serve, I don’t remember what was the score, I started feeling really dizzy and I just didn’t know how to handle that.

 

Having experienced the hot, heavy air on court herself, Lepchenko had a lot of admiration for Sharapova’s ability to at last claim victory in her brutal three-setter under the scorching Melbourne sun, open roof in the Rod Laver Arena.

 

“Just watching Maria, I thought ‘wow’. She played under the same conditions.

 

“The temperature was rising every minute and every second of the hour.”

 

Sharapova acknowledged the fact that it would be difficult for anyone to pinpoint the exact limit for when conditions should be considered ‘extreme’.

 

“​It’s a tough call,” Sharapova said.

 

“I mean, I think the question I have is that no one really knows what the limit is, not the players. Even the trainers themselves, when you ask them, ‘when will the roof be closed?’ ​No one actually knows what that number is in comparison to humidity or the actual heat. Sometimes you wish you know, because it just depends on, I’m not sure who, a referee or the meteorologist and there are just a lot of questions in the air that maybe should be solved.

 

“I would love to know a bit more detail before, not even before I get on the court but just in general, it’s good to know. I didn’t even know there was no play when I left the court. I mean, I had no idea. But it seems a little strange that the WTA Tour trainers don’t know what that threshold is.

 

“​We have never received any emails or, you know, warnings about the weather or what to do.”

 

The world No. 3 suddenly paused in recollection, with a bittersweet smile.

 

“Actually, I did receive one, I think, while I was in the ice bath a few minutes ago,” Sharapova laughed, “and I was like, that’s a little too late. It was a little late. It was probably when they were stopping the matches like, oh, maybe it’s about time we sent out a warning.”

 

She also thinks time violations handed down for lengthier water breaks, given the circumstances are a tad harsh and that breaks should either be extended or altogether suspended.

 

“I think it should be. For the safety of the players, definitely.

 

“On one hand you’re trying to get as much rest in between points as you can, but then you have an umpire who is giving you a time violation. Then you’re asking yourself whether that’s fair in whatever degree weather that was. So there is that mixed emotion of, okay, I need to get in the shade but then I need to be there when the time is up to be able to serve or return or whatever it is. There is a bit of pressure on the line as well in those conditions. Anywhere else it’s fine, if that’s the speed of the game, that’s absolutely fine. But in these conditions, let it go.”

 

Her main concern was that for a final set decider, in both the men’s and women’s draw, there should be special consideration given when there is no tie-break to put a quick, definitive end to the set.

 

“Everyone knows there is no tiebreaker in the third set. So once you start that set, you’re going to be out there until you’re done. That’s the question I have.

 

“I think in the third set for the women and the fifth set for the men, if you know that there is no tiebreaker, officials can’t just rely on maybe that the set will go fast, the set will be over and we will be off court because we have no tiebreaker in that last set. So that’s what you have to consider.”

 

Agnieszka Radwanska also made a comment about her thoughts on the heat rule after her match and offered insight into what the word of consensus was going around in the locker rooms at the moment.

 

“Today was really, really hard. Even (playing) indoors was ridiculous.

 

“I think everybody’s saying that sometimes it’s even too hot. Some of the girls can’t even talk after the match or practice.”

 

Friday is forecast to be another scorcher, with an expected high of 111 degrees F.

 

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website.

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Bank of the West Preview/Picks for Wednesday July 24, 2013

By Kevin Ware

Bank of the West Preview/Picks for Wednesday July 24, 2013

Tamira Paszek

Tamira Paszek

Tamira Paszek v Varvara Lepchenko [6]

Head-to-Head: Tied at 2-All

The most relevant matches in their head-to-head are the last two matches played on carpet (’11) and outdoor hard (’12). Paszek won the first in a 3-set match that lasted 3 hours. Lepchenko won the second in a 3-set match that last nearly 3 hours. If the pattern holds true, get set for another long one!

2013′s been a tough year for both players. Lepchenko has struggled to maintain the level she achieved in ’12, while Paszek struggled to even get past the first round at any tournament through most of ’13. The lack of confidence might show in the quality of shot-making, but their prior history should provide for a fairly competitive match. I’ll stick my neck out on this one for Lepchenko in three sets.

Coco Vandeweghe

Coco Vandeweghe

Sorana Cirstea v [Q] Coco Vandeweghe

Head-to-Head: Tied at 1-All

Vandeweghe won the first time they played in ’11 in a 3-set match lasting almost 2.5 hours. Their next meeting at this year’s Australian Open was pretty much a whitewash for Cirstea in straight sets. Given the status of both in their respective seasons, it’s unclear whether this match will look like either of those previous two.

Cirstea ‘s had a tough year, making it past the R16 at only one hard court tournament. Though she always has potential to be dangerous, her 19-17 record coming into Stanford can’t provide her with an excess of confidence.

Vandeweghe’s status as a qualifier pretty much says it all, since she’s spent much of the season qualifying for main draws in WTA events. But even though she’s a qualifier, she’s also one of last year’s finalists: which probably helped immensely in coming through the qualifying rounds. She’s on comfortable ground, and on a roll in terms of match wins.

I’ll give the edge to Vandeweghe in this one. If her shots are landing cleanly, it goes two sets. If she’s making a ton of unforced errors, it goes three.

Francesca Schiavone

Francesca Schiavone

Agnieszka Radwanska [1] v Francesca Schiavone (Featured Match)

Head-to-Head: Schiavone leads 4-3

This match, which could easily be titled “I Can Be Craftier than You”, features two of the best thinkers/strategists on the pro tour, and has the potential to be one of the most entertaining of the week.

Radwanska doesn’t have the power of Serena or Maria, but reads the ball well and defends with the best of them. She has an uncanny ability to use her opponent’s power to her own advantage, which helped her to overcome Maria in the ’12 Sony Open final, and take Serena to three sets in the ’12 Wimbledon final.

I’m not sure that skill will help Radwanska against Schiavone, a player who specializes in spin over power. She can hit with an extreme amount of spin from both her forehand and single-handed backhand wings. And her slice is one of the most formidable on tour. It’s no surprise that Schiavone’s biggest title came on clay at the ’10 French Open.

Schiavone needs a fair amount of racquet prep for her shots, especially her forehand.  This can get her into trouble on faster hard courts with the big hitters.  Radwanska’s shots don’t have the same pace, so Schiavone’s 4-1 record on hard courts show’s that she’s not nearly as troubled by Radwanska’s game on this surface.

The problem for Schiavone in this match-up is that she’s on the backside of her career, while Radwanska is on the upside of hers.  Radwanska’s game has improved, and dramatically so since ’10. Schiavone’s game has plateaued and declined since her peak moments in Paris. It’s no coincidence that Radwanska has won their last three matches: one each on hard court, clay, and grass.

Though it’s been two years since they last played, I don’t see Schiavone overcoming this new and improved Radwanska; and I’m not talking about the blonde hair. Radwanska has pushed herself to be more aggressive to win points outright instead of waiting for errors. Schiavone will throw the kitchen sink at her, but it won’t be enough to stop Radwanska from winning in two sets.

Kevin Ware is covering the Bank of the West Classic as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak and site kevware.com/tennis/.

BANK OF THE WEST CLASSIC
Stanford, CA, USA
July 22-28, 2013
$795,707/Premier
Hard/Outdoors

Results – Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Singles – Second Round

Olga Govortsova (BLR) d. (2) Samantha Stosur (AUS) 62 64

Singles – First Round
(6) Varvara Lepchenko (USA) d. (Q) Michelle Larcher de Brito (POR) 62 64
(7) Urszula Radwanska (POL) d. Christina McHale (USA) 61 63
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) d. Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) 62 46 60
Tamira Paszek (AUT) d. (Q) Alla Kudryavtseva (RUS) 61 67(4) 30 ret. (heat illness)
(Q) Vera Dushevina (RUS) d. Marina Erakovic (NZL) 62 61
(Q) Coco Vandeweghe (USA) d. Monica Niculescu (ROU) 60 63

Doubles – First Round
(4) Chan/Dushevina (TPE/RUS) d. Dabrowski/Fichman (CAN/CAN) 64 60
Grandin/Rosolska (RSA/POL) d. Lepchenko/Tomljanovic (USA/CRO) 46 75 106 (Match TB)
Muhammed/Will (USA/USA) d. (WC) Gibbs/Vandeweghe (USA/USA) 75 63
Cako/Pluskota (USA/USA) d. Llagostera Vives/Schiavone (ESP/ITA) w/o (Schiavone: viral illness)

Order Of Play – Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Stadium (from 11.00hrs)
1. Cibulkova/Niculescu vs. Goerges/Jurak
2. Tamira Paszek vs. Varvara Lepchenko (NB 12.00hrs)
3. Sorana Cirstea vs. Coco Vandeweghe
4. Kops-Jones/Spears vs. McHale/Paszek
5. Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Francesca Schiavone (NB 19.00hrs)
6. Hantuchova/Raymond vs. Burdette/Cirstea

Court 6 (from 13.00hrs)
1. Govortsova/Kudryavtseva vs. Miyamura/Puchkova

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Vesnina Stuns Ivanovic in Eastbourne

Elena Vesnina

Elena Vesnina

By Ros Satar

 

(June 17, 2013) EASTBOURNE, England -

 

Elena Vesnina def. Ana Ivanovic 2-6, 6-4, 6-3

Elena Vesnina overcame the seventh seed Ana Ivanovic in the first match on Centre Court as the women had to regroup and restart when rain halted the beginning of their match.

 

Ivanovic certainly started well, racing to the first set, but soon after she started to struggle with key aspects of her game – the ball toss and also crucially her first serve deserted her long enough to give Vesnina an all important break.

 

The loss of the second set seemed to deflate the Serb, as she handed over a break at the start of the deciding set on a double fault.

 

The wind was occasionally gusting, sometimes perhaps guiding the odd ball on its way out, and it certainly seemed for a while that the South Stand side was the problem side for both.

 

For a while it looked like Vesnina would defeat herself after delivering a shocker of a game with three double-faults and a lot of frazzled yelling.

 

Somehow, the Russian regrouped, edging ahead before a long, tortuous Ivanovic service game where even the umpire lost where she was.

 

Three match points later – Ivanovic was left to consider what she would need to do ahead of the start of Wimbledon next week.

 

“I think on grass it’s very hard to get rhythm,” she said.

“It’s something that I want to build towards and now hopefully have another few good days of practice before Wimbledon.”

 

 

Heather Watson

Heather Watson

Heather Watson def. Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4

 

British No. 2 Heather Watson delivered some home cheer in the sunshine, defeating Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-4.

 

Watson gave the crowd a few reasons to utter a collective sigh while serving out the match, having to claw her way back to match point after being a break point down.

 

It just needed the one match point to set Heather on her way in this tournament, putting aside the disappointment of an early exit at the French Open, and only a couple of rounds in Birmingham.

 

“I felt very motivated this week,” she said.

“I was mentally up for this match.”

 

There is still some room, she feels, for improvement saying that she had felt she had not made a lot of returns and could have a higher first serve percentage.

 

Watson, who had to take time out to recover from glandular fever, confessed to sometimes still feeling a little tired, but is looking forward to the grass season.

 

“People don’t think grass matches my game,” she said, “but it’s one of my favourite surfaces.”

 

Kyle Edmund def. Kenny De Schepper 6-4, 6-4

 

There was more British celebration when the junior sensation from Queens, Kyle Edmund, won his first round match against big serving qualifier Kenny De Schepper.

 

There are 360 places between him and his opponent today and he was very happy with his win.

 

“It’s nice to be able to know that I can play at that level,” he said, “but my goal is to play at that level and also have a ranking out of it.”

 

Ros Satar is a British Journalist- an IT journalist by day, and a sports journalist in all the gaps in between. She’s covering the AEGON International this week as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN. She is the co-founder of Britwatch Sports (britwatchsports.com). Follow her personal twitter at @rfsatar.

AEGONInternational

AEGON INTERNATIONAL
Eastbourne, England
June 17-22, 2013
Grass/Outdoors

Results – Monday, June 17, 2013
WTA Singles – First Round
(6) Maria Kirilenko (RUS) d. Bojana Jovanovski (SRB) 76(5) 61
Elena Vesnina (RUS) d. (7) Ana Ivanovic (SRB) 26 64 63
Marion Bartoli (FRA) d. Flavia Pennetta (ITA) 63 62
Yanina Wickmayer (BEL) d. Christina McHale (USA) 63 64
Heather Watson (GBR) d. Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 63 64

WTA Doubles – First Round
(1) Petrova/Srebotnik (RUS/SLO) d. Raymond/Robson (USA/GBR) 46 64 105 (Match TB)
Hsieh/Lucic-Baroni (TPE/CRO) d. (WC) Kvitova/Wickmayer (CZE/BEL) 61 64
Niculescu/Zakopalova (ROU/CZE) d. Babos/Minella (HUN/LUX) 64 63

WTA Singles Qualifying – Final Round
(1) Jamie Hampton (USA) d. Gabriela Dabrowski (CAN) 62 61
Yulia Beygelzimer (UKR) d. (3) Jana Cepelova (SVK) 61 76(4)
Kristyna Pliskova (CZE) d. (7) Karolina Pliskova (CZE) 76(5) 36 63
Olga Puchkova (RUS) d. Melanie Oudin (USA) 75 36 64

ATP Singles – First Round
F Verdasco (ESP) d [6] A Dolgopolov (UKR) 16 63 62
[7] A Seppi (ITA) d [Q] G Rufin (FRA) 36 63 64
[8] F Fognini (ITA) d G Zemlja (SLO) 67(6) 62 64
A Ramos (ESP) d [Q] J Blake (USA) 62 64
[Q] R Harrison (USA) d P Mathieu (FRA) 64 26 76(4)
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) d [Q] K De Schepper (FRA) 64 64

ATP Doubles – First Round

M Matkowski (POL) / F Nielsen (DEN) d [2] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 62 63
[3] L Paes (IND) / R Stepanek (CZE) d I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) 57 76(5) 10-6
M Klizan (SVK) / M Matosevic (AUS) d D Istomin (UZB) / J Monaco (ARG) 36 76(6) 10-2
P Hanley (AUS) / K Skupski (GBR) d T Bednarek (POL) / P Marx (GER) 26 64 10-8    


Order Of Play – Tuesday, June 18, 2013
CENTRE COURT start 11:00 am
B Tomic (AUS) vs [WC] J Ward (GBR) – ATP
Not Before 1:00 PM
A Cornet (FRA) vs [2] [WC] N Li (CHN) – WTA
[Q] Y Beygelzimer (UKR) vs L Robson (GBR) – WTA
Not Before 4:00 PM
[5] K Anderson (RSA) vs J Benneteau (FRA) – ATP
[WC] J Delgado (GBR) / J Ward (GBR) vs [4] C Fleming (GBR) / J Marray (GBR) – ATP

COURT 1 start 11:00 am
T Paszek (AUT) vs [5] C Wozniacki (DEN) – WTA
J Nieminen (FIN) vs F Lopez (ESP) – ATP
V Troicki (SRB) vs M Klizan (SVK) – ATP
[1] A Radwanska (POL) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA

COURT 2 start 11:00 am
[3] A Kerber (GER) vs S Cirstea (ROU) – WTA
M Niculescu (ROU) vs [4] P Kvitova (CZE) – WTA
[WC] S Stosur (AUS) vs [8] N Petrova (RUS) – WTA
J Murray (GBR) / J Peers (AUS) vs F Fognini (ITA) / A Seppi (ITA) – ATP

COURT 3 start 11:00 am
[WC] J Konta (GBR) vs S Hsieh (TPE) – WTA
[WC] E Baltacha (GBR) vs [Q] K Pliskova (CZE) – WTA
D Istomin (UZB) vs I Dodig (CRO) – ATP
R Stepanek (CZE) vs M Matosevic (AUS) – ATP

COURT4 start 11:00 am
K Zakopalova (CZE) vs L Safarova (CZE) – WTA
D Jurak (CRO) / H Watson (GBR) vs [2] L Huber (USA) / S Mirza (IND) – WTA
[Q] O Puchkova (RUS) vs E Makarova (RUS) – WTA
[4] F Pennetta (ITA) / E Vesnina (RUS) vs C Black (ZIM) / M Erakovic (NZL) – WTA
N Grandin (RSA) / V Uhlirova (CZE) vs O Kalashnikova (GEO) / A Rosolska (POL) – WTA

COURT 5 start 12:00 noon
[1] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) vs J Cabal (COL) / R Farah (COL) – ATP
[WC] K Edmund (GBR) / S Thornley (GBR) vs [PR] E Butorac (USA) / A Ram (ISR) – ATP
H Chan (TPE) / L Safarova (CZE) vs J Husarova (SVK) / V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA

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Americans in Paris – Day Two at Roland Garros

SloaneStephens

Sloane Stephens

(May 27, 2013). Americans went 8-4 in Paris on the day 2 of the French Open. Here is a look at how they all fared:

First round: Sloane Stephens (17) (USA) def. Karin Knapp (ITA) 6-2, 7-5

In a bit of a slump since reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open and the recent coverage of her controversial comments during an ESPN magazine interview, Stephens said that she was positive about her win.

“Obviously really excited to be back here.  Had a great year last year, and this was one of my favorite tournaments.  So it’s good to be back and playing a lot better than a couple weeks ago.

Just excited to be back on the court and playing well again.

Stephens commented  on the media attention since her ESPN interview after aftermath off-court:

“Yeah, I mean, it’s been okay for me.  Obviously I haven’t had that many good results leading up to the clay season, so to get some match in on my favorite surface and get some confidence back and kind of just start feeling ball better.

“It wasn’t that my mind wasn’t on the court.  I just needed to find a balance, and obviously that’s tough.

“I’m only 20 years old, so I have a lot to learn and a long ways to go.  Just finding the right balance is what we’re doing.

“It’s been fine for me.  My really good friend came and my mom is here.  I’m just having a good time.  It’s been fun.

“I mean, obviously attention is attention.  It comes, it goes.  When you’re winning they love it; when you’re losing they love it.  It’s all the same really.”

 

First round: John Isner (19) (USA) def. Carlos Berlocq (ARG) 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

 

First round: Varvara Lepchenko (29)(USA) def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni (CRO) 6-1, 6-2

 

First round: Martin Klizan def. Michael Russell (USA) 3-6 6-3 6-1 Ret. Left hamstring injury

 

First round: Madison Keys (USA) def. Misaki Doi (JPN) 6-3, 6-2

At 18, Keys is the youngest of the American women in the main draw. She is No. 58 in the world.

 

First round: Jana Cepelova (SVK) def. Christina McHale (USA) 7-6(3) 2-6 6-4

McHale who was struck with glandular fever last year is ranked 53rd in the world.

 

First round: Albert Montanes(ESP)  def. Steve Johnson (USA) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1

The former NCAA champion Johnson extended the recent Nice Open titlist to five sets.

 

First round: Ryan Harrison (USA) def. Andrey Kuznetsov (RUS) 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)

Harrison will play fellow American and Davis Cup teammate John Isner in the second round.

 

First round: Bethanie Mattek-Sands (USA) def. Lourdes Dominguez Lino (ESP) 6-4, 6-1

With 15 women in the main draw of the French Open at the beginning of the tournament, Mattek is proud of so many U. S. women moving up in the rankings. “It’s a great group of girls coming up. They’re talented. They’re all pretty fun to be around. They got good personalities.”

She commented that just a few years ago, people kept asking her about the state of U.S. women’s tennis.

 

First round: Vania King (USA) def. Alexandra Cadantu (ROU) 7-6(3), 6-1

King made it through to the main draw by going through the qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Michal Przysiezny (POL) def. (LL) Rhyne Williams (USA) 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, 7-5

Williams who came into the tournament as a lucky loser, lost to the same person who defeated him in the final round of the Qualifying tournament.

 

First round: Melanie Oudin (USA) def. Tamira Paszek (28) (AUT) 6-4, 6-3

Almost four years ago Oudin made it to the quarterfinals of the U. S. Open as 17-year-old. She spoke about pressure on her then as an American player.

“I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself after everything, “she said to media. “It’s a totally different story now. There’s so many Americans now coming up, and so many in the top 100. It is nice to not have it all on me….I mean, it really was all on me at that time. Like, besides the Williams sisters, everyone was like, `Oh, who’s going to be the next upcoming American?’ And it’s like, `OK, it’s going to be Melanie, because you got to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open.’ It was a lot. And I was young.”

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Serena and Venus Williams Win to Wrap Up Fed Cup World Group Spot for the U.S.

 

Venus Williams

Venus Williams

By Nathalie Narcisse

(April 21, 2013) DELRAY BEACH, Florida – On a day where tennis legend Chris Evert was lauded for Federation Cup accomplishments, it was fitting that dynamic duo, Serena and Venus Williams carried their matches to prevent the U.S. from slipping out of the world group.

In the first match at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Serena crushed Sweden’s Sofia Arvidsson 6-2, 6-1 while Venus hung tough against Johanna Larsson 6-3,7-5 to permit the Americans to compete for the Federation Cup title in 2014.

After Serena’s victory Saturday evening placed the U.S. on even terms with Sweden, captain Mary Joe Fernandez was hoping to maintain the momentum. The world number one did not disappoint.

In the early stages of the opening set, the sun seemed to be Serena’s biggest nemesis. She fought off three break points before finally putting a period on a long third game.

Subsequently, Serena manufactured triple break point and capitalized for 3-1. Then, with an ace, the world number one consolidated for 4-1. Serena went on to break Arvidsson a second time to bed the initial set.

Serena captured seven consecutive games before Arvidsson ultimately held in the sixth game of the second set to avoid posting a bagel. However, it was only a temporary reprieve. Soon, with her tenth ace, Serena arrived at triple match point. The world number one finished the proceedings with an unreturnable serve.

Overall a good performance by Serena considering the match lasted only 57 minutes, with 35 winners and 22 unforced errors. The third game in the first set was critical. Serena stated “if she had won that game, it would have been a tougher score or a different match. It was important for me to stay focused and fight for every point”.

While Serena does not use on court coaching with her WTA matches, she appreciates the support when it comes to team competition “it feels good, it’s different when you do call your coach on court. . .I take everything in, I just try to be like a sponge and listen”.

Since the sun was bothersome for both players, Arvidsson emphasized it was not a factor in her defeat “[Serena] was just too good. She showed why she’s number one”.

Serena was glad to see big sister in the position to seal the tie for the U.S. “Venus is a veteran and a great player. I hope she does really well”.

According to Fernandez, Venus was a “last minute decision . . after the warm-up today”, the gamble paid off.

Subsequent to a double fault to donate the opening game to Larsson, Venus regained her footing by promptly breaking herself. Later on, the American struck a forehand down the line winner up triple break point to capture he third successive game for 3-1. Despite being challenged, Venus consolidated for 4-1 and maintained the one break edge to finish off the first set.

Larsson warded off 0-40 to ultimately guard serve for 3-2 in the second set. Yet, with Larsson’s forehand pass landing long, Venus had her fifth break chance of the set. She converted when the Swede flubbed a backhand.

Soon with a hold at love, Venus raced to a 5-3 lead. However, with a love game of her own, the Swede forced Venus to serve out the match.

With a third double fault in the tenth game at 0-40, Venus opened the door for Larsson as the second set was now at 5 all.

Still, the American plugged away to regain the advantage. Serving for the tie the second time around, Venus went to nine deuces, had four double faults, salvaged three break points before striking gold on her eighth match point.

This was the maiden meeting between Venus and Larsson. The Swede was not surprised by the substitution “Sofia played a really good match yesterday. . .I was prepared mentally to play Venus. . .I was struggling the whole match to find a good rhythm. . I really tried to keep fighting”.

Despite the outcome, the Swedish coach felt “it’s the best experience you can ever have. [Johanna and Sofia] can keep [their] head up and be very proud. . .go back home with a lot of experience to use the rest of the year”.

After seeing a myriad of match points evaporate, Venus expressed “I was trying to stay focused. . .the game was very competitive, we were both going for the lines and missing them closely”.

Venus had not played Fed Cup singles since 2007. Ironically, the last time was also in South Florida. Moreover, Venus had never previously clinched the tie for her nation. The American cited “it’s a different kind of pressure being on a team, you just want to do more. I wanted to be out there”.

Venus felt a sense of relief wrapping thing up in straight sets “I needed it to be over in two. Mary Joe needed it to be over in two. She was having a heart attack on the sidelines”.

Now, the Americans will wait until next season to work together again in this format. Fernandez acknowledged “that’s the hardest thing about Fed Cup, the scheduling and how long it takes between the ties. You start building a chemistry with the team, a lot of bonding and you push each other. It’s fun. . .we’re still going to be watching each other, supporting each other. . .and we’ll regroup February of next year”.

With so many niggling physical issues, Fernandez withdrew her team from the doubles match. So, USA win over Sweden by a mark of 3-2.

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Serena Williams Squares World Group Play-Off Tie versus Sweden

SerenaWilliamsWilsonPhoto

By Nathalie Narcisse

 

(April 20, 2013) DELRAY BEACH. Florida – After a three-hour setback due to showers at the Delray Beach Tennis Center, Serena Williams sauntered on court to face Swede Johanna Larsson. The world No. 1 dusted off her opponent 6-2, 6-2 to knot the tie between the two nations.

This was the first meeting between these two players. With Sofia Arvidsson vanquishing Sloane Stephens in the opening rubber, it was Williams’ job to prevent the U.S. team from going into a 2-0 hole.

Although, this was Williams’ seventh tie compared to Larsson’s thirty third, the difference though was that Williams was undefeated in Fed Cup play 11-0 and not to mention double digit majors titles.

Subsequent to Larsson’s double fault, Williams had double break point. With a crosscourt backhand winner, the American converted and swiftly consolidated for 3-0.

Despite a grueling game, Larsson guarded serve to stay one break behind at 3-1. Quickly, Williams coasted on serve to arrive at 5-2.

By provoking miscues from Larsson, Williams had double set point. With a backhand down the line winner, Williams bedded the first set.

The second set was not a cakewalk for Williams. In the opening game, the American’s mistakes on serve found her staring at 15-40. As usual, Williams selected the right serves to bail herself out of trouble. Her second time serving, Williams fended off another break point to keep her nose in front, 2-1.

While Larsson competed better, the unforced errors by Williams also began to mount. But, in the fourth game, two double faults by the Swede helped Williams to eventually get to deuce. Soon, with a forehand winner, the American had break point and later Williams pocketed the game for 3-1.

After comfortably getting to 5-2, the American captured another break to close out the match.

Considering the firepower on the American side, Swedish captain Lars-Anders Wahlgren is ecstatic with the performance of his players so far “it’s a little bit of a surprise for the Swedish team, it’s 1-1. I always believe in my girls. I was hoping for even 2-0”.

Despite the outcome, Larsson felt it was a great experience to battle a player of Williams’ caliber “it’s definitely an experience for me today. I had a lot of fun. . .I had a few chances. . When you play those players who are extremely aggressive, you really need to take your chances. . .I did my best and I was fighting the whole match”.

While for other competitors being down 0-1 in team play may cause some angst, Williams stated “I don’t feel pressure. Not this time around. . .I feel even though we didn’t win our first match, we have a really good team”.

Williams agreed that the second set was much tougher “I think she played a lot better. I think I also made more errors. She’s a really good player. She’s a professional. You can’t get on this level without being solid”.

Certainly, a different atmosphere and sensation representing yourself versus one’s country. Williams commented “I just try to fight and do the best I can. I’m here for my team. I’m here to give 100 percent”.

With Williams’ win, captain Mary Joe Fernandez was finally able to breathe “it was big for Serena to get a quick start. I thought the first match could have gone either way. Sloane had opportunities and wasn’t able to capitalize. . .conditions were tough and the rain delay sort of slowed her down because she had the momentum”.

A lot on the line tomorrow. Does Fernandez believe that Stephens will require tactical, mental support or both? Fernandez replied “every time you step on the court it’s a chance to get better and improve. When you have a few ups and down, you have to mentally get a little bit stronger. It helps when you are tactically sound and clear on what you need to do. So, I try to support and give as clear advice as I can on what I see out there and hope that works”.

The first match on Sunday afternoon will feature Williams against Arvidsson, followed by Stephens versus Larsson and will culminate with doubles play. The U.S. pair of Venus Williams and Vavara Lepchenko will collide with Larsson and Arvidsson.

Nathalie Narcisse is in Delray Beach covering the Fed Cup tie for Tennis Panorama News as media. Follow her twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Arvidsson Stops Stephens to Give Sweden 1-0 Lead in World Group Play-Offs

Sofia Arvidsson

Sofia Arvidsson

By Nathalie Narcisse

(April 20, 1013) DELRAY BEACH, Florida – The U.S. took on Sweden on hardcourt at the Delray Beach Tennis Center in the World Group Play-Offs.  In the initial match on Saturday, Swedish veteran Sofia Arvidsson, playing her 48th tie, recorded her 34th singles victory.  Arvidsson prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 over twenty-year-old Sloane Stephens who was contesting her maiden live rubber.

Florida has been the United States’ Federation Cup lucky charm.  In three prior visits to the Sunshine State, 1995 versus Austria, 2005 and 2007 against Belgium, the Americans never relinquished a match.  With Floridians, Serena Williams, Sloane Stephens and Venus Williams on hand, the Stars and Stripes were viewed as runway favorites.

Stephens seemed overwhelmed from the get-go.  As a result of a slew of miscues, the American surrendered her serve in the opening game.  Arvidsson went on to consolidate for 2-0.

Later on, the Swede dropped serve at love to permit Stephens to knot the first set at 2.  Soon with a hold, Stephens had a 3-2 lead.

However, a consistent opponent and 21 unforced errors turned out to be Stephens’ undoing.  Arvidsson broke for the third time for 5-4, then went on to easily serve out the opening set.

Stephens managed to reverse the tide in the second set.  Despite permitting a 3-0 advantage to melt away, Stephens cleaned up the stats sheet with a positive ratio of winners to unforced errors.  The American broke her rival at 5-4 to push the match into a final set.

The hot and humid conditions permitted both players to invoke the heat rule.  During that respite, a light drizzle came down which further postponed the deciding set.

The interlude appeared to squash Stephens’ momentum.  By committing a double fault, the American gifted Arvidsson double break point to start the set.  With Stephens dumping a forehand into the net, Arvidsson captured the break.  The Swede secured the four consecutive games as Stephens littered the court with mistakes.

In the sixth game, as Stephens’ forehand volley landed on her side of the net,  Arvidsson sealed her third break of the set to convert on her fourth match point opportunity.

Head-to-head, Arvidsson and Stephens split their two previous matches.  Unlike Brisbane earlier this year where Stephens “was dictating the points”, Arvidsson stated. “I tried to be aggressive.  That’s when I won my points”.

The rain was welcomed by Arvidsson “first set was really hard, I was kind of tired in the second.  I think the break was good for me.  It was a little cooler when we came out”.

For Arvidsson the opening match was crucial “first match is always important.  You want to win and put a lot of pressure on the other team.  [Particularly] with Serena a very big favorite in the second match”.

Stephens was disappointed with the result “she played really good tennis.  It was definitely tough conditions.  I thought I played pretty well.  It’s unfortunate that I didn’t get my first Fed Cup live rubber win at this home tie”.

Stephens admitted the pressure was not being the “lead off match.  I think it was playing my first live rubber at home. . .this is the most pressure and anxiety I’ve had since Australia. . .I didn’t want to let my team down”.

Still Stephens is trying to be positive “I’m going to go out for my team, hope Serena wins her match and we can start up with a bang tomorrow again. . . A lot to learn. . .my next tie I’ll definitely know what to expect”.

This is the fifth showdown between these two countries, the U.S. lead Sweden 3-1.  The latter triumphed at their ultimate meeting in 1988.  Sweden is vying to regain world group status for the first time since 2003.

Nathalie Narcisse is in Delray Beach covering the Fed Cup tie for Tennis Panorama News as media. Follow her twitter updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Italy Rallies Past US to Move into Fed Cup Semis

errani-vinci

Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci

(February 10, 2013) Italy came back from 1-2 down to defeat the United States in Fed Cup 3-2 on Sunday in the first round of the World Group in Rimini, Italy.

 

World No. 1 doubles team Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci sealed the win for Italy in the fifth rubber with a victory over Varvara Lepchenko and Liezel Huber 6-2, 6-2.

 

“Errani and Vinci are the weapon,” said Huber. They are like sisters. They are like best friends. They can almost see each other’s body language and predict something before it has happened. They have a different style than what we are used to and stick to their style. They are great singles players and don’t discount doubles. I enjoy watching them play, just not against me!”

 

The United States led 2-1 after Lepchenko beat world No, 7 Errani 7-5, 6-2 in the first of reverse singles on Sunday.

 

“In the first set, I had to get my body started,“ said Lepchenko. “I had a long match yesterday, so I was a bit up and down in the beginning. Once my body warmed up, I was playing better and better in the second set and got pumped and got going.”

 

Vinci rallied for Italy topping Jamie Hampton 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to send the tie into a fifth rubber.

“I had a tough match yesterday, so I had to regroup and do my best for the team,” Hampton. ”First set, I made a lot of errors and started off like yesterday. I got back together in the second set and thought I had a hold of the match, but I made a lot of errors.”

 

 

Italy will next host defending champion Czech Republic in the Fed Cup semifinals, a rematch of last year’s semifinal. The other semifinal has Slovakia at Russia.

 

Next the United States will play in the World Group Playoff, April 20-21, to remain in contention for the Fed Cup World Group l in 2014 and to try and stave off relegation to World Group II next year. The United States’ opponent will be drawn on Wednesday, February 13, at 10 a.m. GMT at the ITF offices in London.

 

The U.S., who will be seeded will play one of the four winners of the World Group II First Round (Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, or Germany). The host site for Switzerland or Sweden will be determined by a coin toss on Wednesday. The U.S. would host Spain or Germany.

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British Teen Robson Stuns Li Na, Will Play Stosur next at US Open

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Great Britain’s Laura Robson upset another major champion in her current  run  at the US Open. The 18-year-old  who dismissed Kim Clijsters on Wednesday continued to knock off major champions on Friday with a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 victory over 9th seed and 2011 French Open champion Li Na.

“I have just worked hard over the last few weeks and I feel like I’m playing very good,” Robson said.

 

“I have had lots of tough matches against some experienced opponents, so, you know, the way I see it, it was the time to start winning a few of them.”

“Huge first serve,” Li Na said of her opponent’s game.  “Yeah.  I mean, I was feeling still have chance, not like didn’t have chance.  So I think I was making a lot of mistake in my, how you say, whole match, so of course give a lot of free point for her.  Made her like, oh, I got more confidence.  Oh, I can beat her.”

The win moves the 89th ranked Robson into the fourth round where she’ll face US Open defending champion Samantha Stosur for a place in the quarterfinals. She is now the first British woman to reach the round of 16 since 1998.

 

Samantha Stosur’s match was a tale of two sets – one tight and the other easy in her 7-6, 6-2 win over 31st seed American Varvara Lepchenko. The seventh seed from Australia has never played Robson and discussed her upcoming match.

 

“She’s obviously full of confidence and had two very, very good wins,” Stosur told media. “I definitely can’t go into that match lightly. I have to go out there and be really on my game and ready to play.”

 

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