August 4, 2015

Serena Williams’ return to Indian Wells praised by peers

 

 

(March 11, 2015) INDIAN WELLS – It is a measure of respect that the top players have for Serena Williams that they were happy to talk about her impending return to Indian Wells, as well as their own chances at the tournament – well at least for all but one of them.

 

As some of the best players in the WTA met members of the press ahead of starting their own campaigns at the BNP Paribas Open, the big news was and of course still is Williams.

 

For 14 years, Indian Wells has been without either of the sisters who have made such a huge impact on the sport. Even after battling with potentially career threatening injuries and illnesses both Venus and Serena are still very much at the top of their games, especially when you take into account Venus’ recent resurgence.

 

As Serena racked up her 19th Grand Slam, the time was right (ironically in a piece written for Time magazine) for Serena to at least forgive and move on. Accepting a wildcard, she would return to the Premier mandatory event for the first time since her win, marred by controversy in 2001.

 

Speaking to one of the players that knows her best, we were given a brief insight into how precious enduing friendships are in the sport. Caroline Wozniacki explained how Williams had stepped in to help her over the very public break-up of her impending nuptials to Irish golfer Rory McIlroy. She described how the World No. 1 had been almost like a “big sister” to her as the pair hit the beach in the summer ahead of some of Wozniacki’s best tennis in her career.

 

It was Williams that was waiting at the New York finish line as Wozniacki completed her first marathon, with the tennis season still in full swing.

 

The Dane said: “She’s special. She’s a great person. She’s there when you need her. We just click.”

 

She continued: “It’s great for her, it’s great for the tournament and it’s great for tennis. It’s a big step for her and I’m sure she will handle it great.”

Last year’s finalist Agnieszka Radwanska said: “There’s so many other top players, but of course she is in the draw as well so it’s going to be even more tough. It’s good that she’s back here, always another challenge for us playing her here.”

 

The players facing Serena would barely have even started their careers when she lifted her second Indian Wells trophy, but no-one has missed the controversy, but it is time to move on.

 

Canada’s Genie Bouchard said: “The past is the past. The players are excited she’s here. She’s the best player in the world, and this is a major tournament. She should be here.”

 

Even Roger Federer, who is still chasing his 18th Grand Slam title believed that Friday’s come-back match was going to be something special at the Tennis Gardens.

 

“It’s wonderful for American fans who have attended this event for so many years and haven’t seen her play here, so I think it’s great for them. I think it’s great for women’s tennis and I think it’s nice that we get to see her here again.”

 

And here she will be, although without her long-term hitting partner Sascha Bajin who has been at her side for the last eight years, but joins Victoria Azarenka’s new coaching set up.

 

Having struggled with a virus at the start of the year, that limited her Fed Cup duty following her sixth Australian Open win and a 19th Grand Slam, Williams will talk to the press on Thursday ahead of starting her campaign against Monica Niculescu in Friday’s night match.

Ros Satar is a British sports journalist and a writer at Livetennis.com.

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Lucie Safarova Claims First Win over Victoria Azarenka to win Doha Title

Safarova

(February 28, 2015) Lucie Safarova beat Victoria Azarenka, 6-4, 6-3 to win the Qatar Open on Saturday for her first Premier-level championship and sixth career WTA title, her first since Quebec City in 2013.

The victory snapped Azarenka’s 14-match winning streak in Doha, which included two titles. I was also the Czech’s first win against the Belarusian.

“I’m really excited and happy about it, because it took me quite a few years to get to this point,“ Safarova said. “I hope it’s not a finish point and I can still improve. I’m playing more consistently. My game improved a lot throughout the last couple of years. I think we did the great job together with my coach, Rob, on my game and it’s just hard work and also maturing a little bit.  I think it’s everything together.”

“There’s a lot of progress this week, a lot of good things happened. I played a lot of great matches, and that’s especially what I was looking for,“ Azarenka said. “Obviously I’m disappointed for today, but I just have to move on quickly. There is going to be another tournament in a week, so I have to prepare for that.  But I can be satisfied with the progress that I made.”

Safarova will move up to a career-high ranking of No.11 in the new rankings, while Azarenka is projected to return to the Top 40.

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Serena Williams Gets French Open Revenge to Reach Australian Open Quarterfinals

Serena Williams Thursday

(January 26, 2015) Serena Williams gained some revenge at the Australian Open on Monday for an early round loss at the French Open last year, when she rallied to beat Spain’s Garbine Muguruza 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals.

The 18-time major champion, seeking her sixth title in Melbourne lost badly to No. 24 Muguruza in the second round of last year’s Roland Garros 6-2, 6-2. She avenged one of her worst Grand Slam tournament losses with the victory on Monday.

Williams saved six break points in an almost 13-minute game, the second game of the third set. Williams then broke Muguruza’s serve twice before closing the match.

“It was a great match – congratulations to Garbiñe, she played so well,” Williams said in an on-court interview.

“She did everything she needed to do in the first set. For once I didn’t start out slowly, she was just playing so well at the start. She hits the ball really, really big and really, really hard.

“But I started to focus from there and just relaxed a little bit.”

“She made me play a lot better,” Williams said in press. “I had to play the best match of the tournament or else I was going to be out. I think she was just hitting winners like left and right. Every shot I hit, she basically hit a winner on. So I had to change my approach. I was hitting a little bit too much to her.”

“The hardest part, I mean, mentally she’s amazing,” said Muguruza . She’s world No. 1. She has the power to be all the match without saying anything, concentrate, waiting for her opportunity. I mean, the serve, when she serves good, it’s really difficult to return. And then in the back, she’s very strong. So it’s very difficult to find the spot to beat her.

Williams will play Dominika Cibulkova in the quarterfinals. Cibulkova, who reached the final of the Australian Open last year, beat two-time champion Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 under a closed roof in Rod Laver Arena in a very intense match. Due to injuries last year the Belarusian saw her ranking fall into the 40’s and came into the tournament unseeded.

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

Dominika Cibulkova ©Sony Open Tennis

The woman from the Slovak Republic hit 44 winners and broke Azarenka seven time during the match. This marks the sixth time that the No. 10 player Cibulkova has reached a major quarterfinal

Today was extremely, extremely good match from my side,” Cibulkova said. “I would say it was a high level of tennis. The first set, the way I played, was just really, really — no mistakes. I was going for my shots and I was just doing the right things. I was really putting her under so much pressure. And then — then she stepped up in the second set much more. She started to serve better and return better. So she kept me out of the — more behind the baseline. Then in the third set I just knew I have to go for it more than hundred percent. I knew I have to be much more aggressive and just stay there and to go for my shots. So, yeah, today was really, really tough one, but I managed to get through. It was such a good match.”

“I take it as a progress,” Azarenka said of her run in Melbourne. “I think there are a lot of the positive things to take from here. It’s a good start. There was some good quality of tennis today, even though the result is not the one that I wanted and not what I was looking for. But I need to be realistic a little bit and keep working hard and try to sharpen my game. I need to be more consistent and I need to be able to take my opportunities when I have them. But overall, I can be pretty happy. But I’m such a perfectionist that I don’t want to be satisfied.”

“She really went for her shots today and was very fearless throughout whole match,” Azarenka said of her opponent. “She’s the type of player that sometimes you just get — she gets in that groove and it’s a little bit difficult to break that rhythm. But I think I still had my opportunities, and I really just didn’t — I wasn’t present enough today, and she was there. She jumped on those opportunities and really took control of that. So I think in that aspect, I have to give her a lot of credit.”

“Well, she is a really good player,” Williams answered when asked about playing Cibulkova. “I mean, to be her size, she hits so hard and she plays so well. She’s just such a power, compact, great player. I just have to stay focused and not underestimate her. She actually almost beat me before. I want to make sure I come ready and prepared.”

Serena Williams has a 4-0 record versus Cibulkova.

 

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2015 Australian Open Women’s Contender Profiles

(January 17, 2015) Profiles of the top Women’s Singles contenders for the 2015 Australian Open. Note: Grand Slam records for main draw matches only.  – by Jack Cunniff     http://twitter.com/jrcunniff

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

2014 Record: 52-8

Grand Slam Record: 259-39

Australian Open Record: 61-9

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2003, ’05, ’07. ’09, ‘10)

Fast Fact: At the Australian Open, Serena has only lost twice to a Top Ten player (2001 to Hingis, 2008 to Jankovic).

 

Maria Sharapova

2014 Record: 49-13

Grand Slam Record: 165-40

Australian Open Record: 42-10

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2008)

Fast Fact: With her win last week in Brisbane, Sharapova has won a title in each of the last 13 years, placing her 4th in the Open Era behind Navratilova (21), Evert (18), and Graf (14).

 

Simona Halep

2014 Record: 46-16

Grand Slam Record: 27-18

Australian Open Record: 6-4

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Halep celebrated 50 consecutive weeks in the Top Ten, and will mark her one year anniversary during the Australian Open (reached No. 10 on Jan 27, 2014).

 

Petra Kvitova

2014 Record: 43-16

Grand Slam Record: 64-24

Australian Open Record: 11-6

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2012)

Fast Fact: Kvitova will play her 500th career match in the first round of the Australian Open.

 

Ana Ivanovic

2014 Record: 58-17

Grand Slam Record: 97-39

Australian Open Record: 24-10

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2008)

Fast Fact: Despite having her best season since 2008, Ivanovic lost to lower-ranked players at all of the Grand Slams in 2014.

 

Agnieszka Radwanska

2014 Record: 47-22

Grand Slam Record: 90-34

Australian Open Record: 24-8

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Since beating Venus Williams to win 2014 Canadian Open (Montreal), Radwanska has a losing record, 8-9.

 

Eugenie Bouchard

2014 Record: 43-22

Grand Slam Record: 23-7

Australian Open Record: 5-1

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2014)

Fast Fact: Bouchard won more Grand Slam matches in 2014 than any other woman (19).

 

Caroline Wozniacki

2014 Record: 49-19

Grand Slam Record: 79-31

Australian Open Record: 22-7

Australian Open Best Result: SF (2011)

Fast Fact: Wozniacki has a 7-0 record in opening round matches at the Australian Open, the only Grand Slam event that she has not lost in the first round.

 

Angelique Kerber

2014 Record: 47-24

Grand Slam Record: 48-28

Australian Open Record: 11-7

Australian Open Best Result: 4R (2013, ‘14)

Fast Fact: Kerber has a 1-7 record against Top 50 players at the Australian Open.

 

Ekaterina Makarova

2014 Record: 41-21

Grand Slam Record: 48-29

Australian Open Record: 18-7

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2012, ‘13)

Fast Fact: In her last four Australian Open appearances, Makarova has defeated four Grand Slam champions (Ivanovic, S. Williams, Bartoli, V. Williams).

 

Dominika Cibulkova

2014 Record: 32-24

Grand Slam Record: 53-29

Australian Open Record: 13-7

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2014)

Fast Fact: Cibulkova has won only six matches since Wimbledon, as many matches as she won en route to the Australian Open final in 2014.

 

Flavia Pennetta

2014 Record: 33-20

Grand Slam Record: 69-45

Australian Open Record: 13-11

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2014)

Fast Fact: Pennetta had a losing record at the Australian Open until reaching the QF in 2014.

 

Andrea Petkovic

2014 Record: 41-23

Grand Slam Record: 31-20

Australian Open Record: 6-5

Australian Open Best Result: QF (2011)

Fast Fact: Petkovic hasn’t won a match at the Australian Open since 2011 (def. Sharapova 4R).

 

Venus Williams

2014 Record: 32-14

Grand Slam Record: 221-57

Australian Open Record: 41-14

Australian Open Best Result: RU (2003)

Fast Fact: With her 2014 Australian Open appearance, Venus moves into 3rd place in the Open Era with 65 Slam appearances, trailing only Frazier (71) and Navratilova (67).

 

Victoria Azarenka

2014 Record: 15-9

Grand Slam Record: 101-32

Australian Open Record: 32-7

Australian Open Best Result: Won (2012, ’13)

Fast Fact: Azarenka enters a Grand Slam event unseeded for the first time since 2007 U.S. Open, after 27 Slams where she was seeded.

 

 

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Ekaterina Makarova Moves into her First Major Semifinal

Makarova bh

 

(September 3, 2014) Ekaterina Makarova reached her first major semifinal, beating two-time major winner and US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka 6-4, 6-2 on Wednesday at the U.S. Open.

It still has not hit the Russian that she’s in a major semifinal when the 26-year-old was in press. “I am feeling the same like the matches before. Of course I’m happy that I’m came through, finally through the quarters and I’m in semis now. Today was a great, tough match. We played so many times with Vika; she beat me and I beat her. So today was a tough one, and I’m really happy that I came through.”

Azarenka’s manager said that she had food poisoning on Tuesday, but Azarenka gave all the credit to her opponent.

“I don’t really want to talk about it,” Azarenka said. “I just, you know, want to give credit to my opponent. She played really well today. Am I disappointed? Yes, I’m disappointed. But I feel like I tried my best with whatever I had. But, you know, I just want to wish her good luck. That’s it. I’m out of the tournament.”

Makarova, the 17th seed who has not lost a set yet in the tournament, beat Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard to get to the quarterfinals.

Makarova will play the winner of the semifinal between two-time defending champion Serena Williams and 11th seed Flavia Pennetta.

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Serena Williams Advances, Petra Kvitova Upset at US Open

 

(August 30, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – Saturday at the US Open saw two-time defending champion Serena Williams move into the fourth round, while reigning Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova was upset.

Serena Williams beat countrywoman, No. 52, lefty Varvara Lepchenko 6-3, 6-3 on Arthur Ashe Stadium during day session, the third American in a row she has played at the US Open.

Lepchenko, who is sometimes, Williams’ practice partner, has given Williams her biggest challenge during the tournament, along with some swirling winds on center court.

“I think when someone is a lefty, they just open the court more,” said the top player. You’re expecting one serve. You kind of almost give up one side. You just say, You can ace me on this side, but I’m going to expect that side.”

“I love practicing with her. We always practice together in tournaments. Whenever I can, I love hitting with her. I think it helps her game and she helps my game.”

The victory extends her streak at Flushing Meadows to 17. She’ll face Kaia Kanepi, who beat 15th seed Carla Suarez Navarro, in the round of 16.

 

No. 4 seed Petra Kvitova had no answers for qualifier Aleksandra Krunic, a 21-year-old from Serbia who is No. 145 in the world.

“I’m an outsider,” Krunic said in her news conference. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect from myself at all. You know, I don’t know my limits.”

“I tried not to think about the score, and I kept telling myself that, you know, leave it on her because everything is up to her still and she’s in charge,” the Serb continued. “I tried to put the pressure off my shoulders, you know, because usually last couple of years I’m the one who is putting the pressure on myself, you know. So I tried not to do it today. And also on the changeover, on the 6-5 in the second, I just told to myself, It’s still on her. You still have nothing to lose, even if you’d be 6-5, 5-Love up. Play as every other game you have played. Surprisingly I managed to do it pretty well with the two big serves. You know, I didn’t expect myself to be so calm, but I really focused my 100% not to think about anything that is happening, about the court.”

Kvitova was disappointed with her efforts on Saturday. “I wanted to win today, and unfortunately I didn’t. Yeah, I think she played really unbelievable tennis and she put a lot of balls back. Almost all of them. For me it was very difficult just, you know, to play only on the winners. I did mistakes and I was really trying everything what I could in that moment. I was trying to fight and fighting every point, but it was so difficult. It wasn’t really my day. She played really great tennis today.”

The youngster Krunic will play Victoria Azarenka in the fourth round. Azarenka dismantled Elena Vesnina 6-1, 6-1. It’s Azarenka’s 100 victory at a major.

“I have seen just really briefly couple of points. But, you know, she obviously is playing great tennis and really inspired here, you know, winning so many matches in a row and upsetting such a great player. So it’s going to be tough. I think it’s always tricky when you don’t know your opponent, but I just want to focus on my game and try to get prepared as best as possible and, again, have fun.”

In the evening session, Wimbledon runner-up, No. 7 seed Eugenie Bouchard survived a close escaping the No. 30 seed Barbora Zahlavova Strycova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-7 (2), 6-4 to reach the US Open fourth round for the first time.

Bouchard will play No. 17 Ekaterina Makarova for a place the quarterfinals.

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Isner Discusses College Tennis Rule Change and Upcoming Davis Cup Tie

ISnerparty with the pros

John Isner photo courtesy of Getty Images, used with permission

By Karen Pestaina

(August 23, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – John Isner was one of the four tennis pros in attendance along with 150 people at the “Party with Pros event,” a part of Taste of Tennis Week, at the Measure Lounge of the Langham Place Fifth Avenue Hotel in Manhattan produced by AYS.

I asked the 29-year-old Isner who played college tennis at the University of  Georgia, about what he thought about Division I college singles rule change to using the no-ad scoring system.

He replied: “I think in doubles it’s good. Singles – if I had it my way, I’d probably not choose it that way, but at the same time you can argue that it will make players play better under pressure, when it does get to deuce, that no-ad point, there is going to be so much riding on that game, because the is.

“Sometimes college matches can drag on a little bit too much. I can understand what they’re doing, but if I was in charge I wouldn’t have that.”

After the US Open, the North Carolina native will be traveling to the Chicago area to lead the United States Davis Cup team in a critical World Group playoff tie versus the Slovak Republic. The winner will be in the World Group in 2015 while the loser will be relegated to Group 1 in their respective zone.

“Well it’s going to be a tough tie, “Isner said. “I think our chances are very good of moving on, but at the same time, it’s going to be extremely tough.

“I don’t care who we are playing against, I always believe that our team can win. It’s an extremely important tie for the fact that it’s a relegation tie. It’s a must win for both countries, but we do have the home court going for us. We’ll try to get that win to get back in the world group and start fresh next year.”

Isner pulled out of the Winston-Salem Open with a sprained left ankle earlier in the week. He said that he’s “doing very well.”

With the week before the US Open full of parties and photo-ops, I asked him if enjoyed participating in these type of social events before a major.

“It draws attention to our game,” he said. “Obviously we are here at the US Open. The US Open draws enough attention by itself. You know it’s a worldwide event and this city embraces the US Open, some people are watching it from all over the world, that’s why they have record crowds come in every year.

“Events like this draw more attention to the game. I guess people get to meet me. Hopefully they have a good impression of me and they try to watch me on TV cheer me on. If I can gain some fans by interacting a little bit it’s well worth it.”

The 13th seed at the US Open, Isner begins his quest for a US Open title when he faces off against fellow American 21-year-old Marcos Giron in the first round.

 

Azarenka Talks US Open “Party Patrol at Party with the Pros” Event

John Isner Defends Atlanta Open Title

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Azarenka Talks US Open “Party Patrol at Party with the Pros” Event

 

AZARENKA party with the pros

(August 23, 2014) NEW YORK, NY – As part of Taste of Tennis Week, a series of special culinary events and parties leading into the 2014 US Open, the Measure Lounge of the Langham Place Fifth Avenue Hotel played  host to an exclusive party on Saturday night limited to 150 people called “Party with the Pros” an event produced by AYS.  Partygoers were treated to culinary delights as well as a chance to take photos with s few tennis pros. In attendance for the event were No. 5 Agnieszka Radwanska, two-time Australian Open winner, No. 17 Victoria Azarenka, No. 22 Sloane Stephens and top US men’s player John Isner, currently ranked at No. 15 in the world.

Tennis Panorama News has a chance to speak with Azarenka about her week before the US Open.

Karen Pestaina for Tennis Panorama News: You’ve been on what I like to call “Party Patrol” this week, at Taste of Tennis and now here at Party with the Pros. What do you like about doing these type of events?

Victoria Azarenka: Well Taste of Tennis is always a great opportunity to just get the night out, you know. It’s a great celebration with great food, which all of the athletes like to eat, obviously, and to just get your mind away a little bit and they always place where you can go out and enjoy yourself. It’s not too close to the tournament, an you know when they put me and Gael Monfils in the same room, it’s always going to be fun!

KP: I noticed that you tow were almost dancing when “Happy” came on (at the Taste of Tennis).

VA: We were dancing, we were dancing. I was also dancing with somebody else. We always have a good time. It’s great for other people to us enjoy ourselves off the court. On the court we mean business, but off the court, we are just chill, cool people who like to have a good time.

KP: It seems that tennis players are “foodies.” Would you agree with that?

VA: I am a big foodie. I love food. I appreciate good food. I appreciate healthy food, I’m not too big on junk food and hot dogs and all this stuff and I love to cook so I am definitely a foodie.

KP: I know that this has been a very challenging season for you. What are you looking forward to about playing the US Open?

VA: Just enjoy and really have to give my best and try my hardest. That’s what it’s all about all the time. We go out there to compete and give your best, you face your opponent who tries to do the same. Just to be out there and playing tennis for me, because I wasn’t even able to play four months ago at all so, I’m really going to enjoy that. And for me the process to get back into the playing mode. I’ve been working really hard, it’s all about just getting into the rhythm and then it’s gonna happen.

 

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Victoria Azarenka said it was a “smart decision” not to play Cincinnati

 

Azarenka

(August 23, 2014) FLUSHING MEADOWS – Victoria Azarenka has been struggling with injuries this year and has seen her ranking fall out of the top 10 to No. 17. As defending champion at Cincinnati, the 25–year-old withdrew from the tournament.

“I think it was a very smart decision to not play there, which was very unfortunate,” said the Belarusian who pulled out with a knee injury. “But I feel better. You know, I don’t need to tape my knee that much anymore. I have just been working hard to get strength in there and just to be stable. During practice it doesn’t bother me, so I’m ready to go.”

 

Now that she back on court, she adjusting. “It’s just a matter of getting it back into the rhythm. You know, you’re always used to playing matches and tournaments, so you go from one place to another. Once you stop, it’s just a matter of getting that timing back. A little bit of reaction. But really just building that base of kind of a consistent playing. So I think that’s the toughest part that takes always a longer time, and it’s a process. When you come back you expect the result to be right there just where you kind of finished, but sometimes it takes a little longer.”

The 16th seed will begin her quest for a title against Japan’s Misaki Doi. Azarenka was the runner=up the last two years at the US Open to Serena Williams.

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Photos from 2014 Taste of Tennis

(August 22, 2014) NEW YORK CITY – Thursday night the world’s top tennis players and chefs served up the US Open’s hottest pre-tournament action at the 15th annual Taste of Tennis Gala on Thursday, August 21st at the W New York in midtown Manhattan as part of the first ever Taste of Tennis WeekThis year’s event was headlined by world No. 1 Serena Williams and Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame and was hosted by The TODAY Show and MSNBC’s NewsNation’s Tamron Hall.  Guests mixed and mingled with tennis players while sampling an eclectic mix of specially designed dishes served up by some of the most renowned New York City chefs.

 

Serena Williams, Morimoto and Tamron were joined by some of the world’s top tennis players including Venus Williams, Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, the Bryan Brothers, Aga Radwanska, Dustin Brown, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jack Sock and some of New York’s most prestigious chefs including Marc Murphy (Landmarc), Peter Andino (Heartbeat), Daniel Holzman & Michael Chernow (The Meatball Shop) and Kerry Heffernan (Top Chef Masters Finalist), Zac Young (David Burke Group). Proceeds from the event benefited City Harvest.

 

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