Alejandro Falla


The deadly Milos Raonic serve (above) which produced 14 aces today.

We are kicking ourselves this morning after just having seen Canadian wunderkind Milos Raonic upset world #4 Andy Murray at Sabadell in Barcelona, 6-4, 7-6 (3). Last night we had identified the match in which Raonic was +300 as a potential upset, though we were reluctant and did not pull the trigger. We were of the mind that Murray, after going toe to toe versus both Djokovic and Nadal last year on the dirt, and with the addition of Lendl to his camp, simply moved too well for a Raonic on clay at this stage.

On clay it is very hard not to take the better mover, but clay is changing. How many times in recent years have we seen power surprise us on clay? We all recall Sunday Bloody Sunday, our affectionate name for the day on which Soderling outslugged Nadal. We’ve also seen big men like Del Potro and Isner excel on clay, both seriously tussling with Nadal in DC and Isner taking Rafa to 5 sets at RG, the only time that’s happened.

So after a breezy first set of tennis in which Murray did not get a single sniff on the Raonic serve, we knew it was uphill sledding for Murray, who simply could not dial in for any real traction. Raonic has very wisely gone about his business since leaving the American “hardcourts”.

Not many North Americans rolled out to MC last week but Raonic was there, and though he lost in the 2nd round, he got 2 matches in. Spaniard Galo Blanco should be a tremendous asset in preparing the kid for clay. The coach has been that this year. Taking Raonic to Spain to train has been a successful tact for many looking to beef up on clay, including Andy Murray, today’s loser, and Svetlana Kuznetsova, who won at Roland Garros after a hard spring spent training in Spain.

Raonic has improved laterally, but what the kid does best aside from serve is think the game and keep to plans. As much as a 6’6 kid improves his side to side, you aren’t out laterally moving Andy Murray. The kid hit serve bombs and loaded forehands, playing the match on his own terms. Once he had the 1st set, you got the sense that Murray was in big trouble and he was.

Raonic is an excellent front runner and he has legs on clay, winning four matches in straights this week, 3 against specialists (Falla, Andreev, Almagro).

We had him against Almagro, liking the line very much (+200). Too bad we hesitated last night. A little too much credit we afforded Murray, who we had pencilled in for Sunday’s final.

Now we know that Raonic’s style, well described by our man G-Stob as “blunt force trauma”, is ready to keep on red clay. Raonic may even play through to Sunday’s final, especially since at the moment, David Ferrer is struggling mightily with Feliciano Lopez (6-7, 3-3). Raonic has trouble with the pesky Ferrer, though we would like to see that matchup revisited, especially with Raonic playing so well.

Raonic’s victory today was his first ever against a top 5 opponent. First of many to come. We look forward also to seeing Tipsarevic-Nadal today. We took a flyer on Tipsy at a whopping +1500.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Alejandro Falla (above) looks to make his 2nd Aussie round of 32 right now.

Journeyman Alejandro Falla, currently world #71, has taken the first two sets from Mardy Fish, “the U.S. #1”, on court 3 in the 2nd round at Melbourne.  Falla, best known for going up two sets to zero on Roger Federer in the first round at Wimbledon in 2010, has played incredibly, converting on all 5 of his break chances, including a clutch break back a second ago as Fish was up 5-3, and trying to close out the 3rd set.  Falla has played big tennis and error free tennis, and he has been very clutch at the net, and has clearly dominated on big points.

This would be a disastrous loss for Fish.  The score is currently 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-6 (4-2).  The boys have been at it for 2 hours and 40 minutes so far.

Later on tonight, John Isner battles David Nalbandian, Donald Young takes on Luckas Lacko, and Sam Querrey goes against Bernard Tomic.  It’s a huge night for Americans, even if Fish loses.  We expect all the younger guys to represent themselves well.

Also, Christina McHale is struggling at the moment, having lost the first set and down an early break in the second to Marina Erakovic.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

We don’t have a lot to say about tomorrow’s action, especially on the women’s side, where we are having a lot of trouble making sense of it.  As for the men, sure we wanted Nadal/Verdasco in this matchup, but we also wanted Nadal/Raonic down under, when it was Ferrer who punched Raonic’s and Rafa’s ticket. 

Nadal:  – 4000

Ljubicic:  + 2000

Sure Nadal deserves to be a large favorite, but if you are like us, looking for positives for the dog, keep in mind that Ljubicic (above) came from behind to beat Nadal on a very slow hardcourt last spring, and that these Babolat balls are still popping like ping pong balls.  This match could have some Isner/Nadal in it, and we respect the work the big Croat has done on his conditioning and overall game.  We’ll say it.  We left him for dead when he changed his racquets.  But he has worked hard, and is now almost sage, and we think he respects very much his opportunity.

Andy Murray is set to give his right ankle a go, and is favored over hard hitting Serb Viktor Troiki.  Here are the odds:

Murray:  – 240

Troicki:  + 180

Troicki is a big hitter, but one that Djokovic is totally dialed in to.  They practice together a lot, and the Djoker has dropped a few bagels on his countryman and some very one sided scorelines during his streak.  We’d like to see Murray play uninhibited tennis and move on tomorrow.

Simon:  + 220

Soderling:  – 300

It will kill us to see the Swede lose this one.  We are counting on the Rafa/Robin quarter, for obvious reasons.  But Simon can not be underestimated.  He’s also the type who can stomach a long match quite easily.  Soderling is a big favorite here.  Gun to our head, and at these rates we’d pick Simon.  Let’s hope Soderling’s serving bombs from the word go.

Falla:  + 190

Chela:  – 250

Chela seems to have captured the magic this fortknight.  We like his length.  They are both clay courters, but Chela is way more dangerous, and has been serving darts.  We’d take him.

And for the ladies:

Li:  + 135

Kvitova:  – 165

_____________________________

Makarova:  + 550

Azarenka:  – 1000

_________________________________

Sharapova:  – 300

Radwanska:  + 220

_________________________________

Petkovic: – 300

Kirilinko:  + 220

Not that we know much, but in 3 of four, we like the dogs.  We just don’t see these favorites as being that well established.  Sharapova has played great, and on paper, she kills Radwanska.  But Radwanska is going to try to grind it out, and Mash doesn’t slide, and we just don’t know that this doesn’t have upset written all over it.  Obviously, the best favorite on the women’s side tomorrow, even if it’s an awful bet, is Azarenka.

Some of the best action tomorrow, may be the conclusion of Ferrer-Monfils, with the winner slated for Roger.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

In impressive fashion, American by way of Fort Lauderdale, 18 year old Sloane Stephens (above), world #138, won her 3rd consecutive match in the qualification round at Roland Garros, defeating Anastasia Pivovarova, world #95, who probably should have gotten right in to the main draw, 6-3, 6-4 in 79 minutes.  It’s a tough break for Pivovarova, the 20 year old Russian who was seeded first in the qualification section.  But out on court 14 earlier, she did not play the better tennis in big moments, and was continually thwarted by Stephens, who is an excellent mover on the dirt, and who is probably America’s most notable female prospect at the moment.

Pivovarova, at almost 6′, struggled to win points on serve all day, only managing to win 33 of 62 points on serve, despite getting 82% of her first serves in play.  Qualifying action today boded poorly for big servers amid the cold weather, a clear indication that the clay of Roland Garros is playing very slowly.  Stephens earned 8 break points and won four of them, a day after spanking American Julia Cohen, 6-0, 6-3 in 73 minutes.

On Wednesday, Stephens opened the quallies with a straight set win over Severine Beltrame, formerly Bremond, who is one of only 3 women on tour right now we can think of who play with one hand (the others being Francesca Schiavone and Kristina Barrois).  Stephens, who we recently lobbied for to make our piss poor Fed Cup squad, did not drop a set on her way to a winnable 1st round matchup with Elena Baltacha.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/usa-fed-cup-embarrassment-another-losing-referendum-on-our-womens-game-see-recent-serena-bikini-video/

She also won a recent challenger on red clay (early May) and is most definitely playing the best tennis of her young career.  We are gratified.  And we like her draw.  Despite the presence of Cibulkova, Na Li, Dulgheru, and Kvitova in her quarter, we could see Stephens staying close with most of those women, in what is a very weak draw.  If Stephens can avoid Na Li, or get enough of her heavy groundstrokes back, a trip to the round of 16 could be in the cards for the bright young American.

American Jamie Hampton fell to Canadian Alexandra Wozniak, failing to qualify.  She and Stephens were the only Americans left vying for positions in the main draw today.  Young Brit Heather Watson got past Swiss vet Stefanie Voegele in straights.  Watson, a former US Open junior champion who trains in Florida, has now made the main draw of her second career major (Wimbledon, 2010). 

As for the men, how weak is the fact that they only played best of 3 set tennis?  Is this a major or not?  Veteran 1-hander Steve Darcis qualified in straights over top seeded American Alex Bogomolov.  Also unfortunate for the Americans, Ryan Harrison fell today in straight sets. 

Talented Canadian Frank Dancevic made the main draw with a straight set win over Victor Crivoi.  We can’t see him doing much here, but stay tuned for the lad on grass.  Lukasz Kobot, Leonardo Mayer, Alejandro Falla, and Bjorn Phau all qualified today.  And French fans will be happy that countrymen David Guez, Eric Prodon, and Stephane Robert all made it through.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

American tennis prodigy Donald Young (above).

Donald Young, the Atlanta native by way of Illinois who perhaps had the greatest junior career of any American in recent memory, had his best ever win way back in 2007 as an 18 year old at the US Open, in the 2nd round at Flushing against Richard Gasquet.  It was a walk-over.  So Young was gifted into the 3rd round there that year, still his best major outcome, stormed out against Feliciano Lopez in round 3, won the 1st set, dropped the 2nd, and then dropped a close tie-breaker 7-5 in the 3rd set in which every fan watching knew that the breaker’s outcome would decide the match.  Young provided some incredible highlights against Lopez in that match, like when he backed up to the fence and then lept like his idol, Michael Jordan, to return a smash from Lopez that somehow went for a winner.

Young must have a favorable matchup with the hard serving Lopez.  The next year, in 2008, Young defeated the Spaniard at Indian Wells.  Lopez was ranked world #32 at the time, and until about 8 PM EST tonight, that meager  result was still his greatest win.  Young, who won the Easter Bowl, the Orange Bowl, Junior Wimbledon, and Junior Australian Opens was the youngest ever junior world number one, and is still the only black junior number one.  As a pro, the contrast in terms of success has been stark.  We’ve seen him play a few good random sets, and frankly, he’s lost most of those.  Going toe to toe with Nikolay Davydenko for 25 minutes and then petering out is not the mark of the coming of the next great American.  Nor is almost taking John Isner to a tie-breaker, or going 5 sets with James Blake at the Open and losing.  The best result other than the Gasquet walkover and the IW Lopez victory was probably an obscure win over Alejandro Falla.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/harrison-takes-sock-out-to-earn-aussie-wildcard-vandeweghe-upset/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/07/27/american-men-improve-in-atp-rankings-bikini-shots/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/terrible-taylor-dent-derails-j-train-in-atlanta/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/roddick-gets-wild-card-in-first-ever-atlanta-atp-championships/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/americans-in-paris/

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/05/10/usa-tennis-blake-and-fish-dropping-like-stones/

We are big Young supporters, but he has quite honestly been making a fool out of us.  He needed to hit a home run sooner or later.  We weren’t about to press him when he was 18, and that was the last time he showed the tennis world much.  We didn’t press him at 19.  Or 20.  We even said that we thought he deserved to be in the main draw at the AO in January, having watched his ranking climb to around 100.  We feel like we were the only ones watching him.  And as tennis fans, we fully understood that he has exhausted all of his free passes into the majors.  He qualified.  Good for him for earning his way and not having to hear any talk of who that spot should rightfully have gone to.  But Marin Cilic totally dusted him in round 1, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, ending any magic carpet ride before it began.  Young deserved to lose.  He did not bring it, could not get into points with Cilic, who dominated DY with his power, leaving the DY criticisms about his slight frame and lack of power, not only valid, but resounding.

So we were very proud to see Young defeat Andy Murray today, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in one hour and 33 minutes.  The very slow IW Plexicushion, which we feel is an utter embarrassment of a hardcourt, is not a good court for Young, in our estimation.  Sure these awful plexipaved courts, topped out with max sand to further slow an already dampened ball, have favored counter punchers like Nadal in Australia, and Canas versus Federer here, but they also can favor the very big hitter who has the power to hit through the court or still get max pop on their serve, like Karlovic today, like Tsonga in Melbourne, like Federer in Melbourne versus Murray.

Playing safe against Murray is not the strategy that’s best.  Murray is going to dink and dunk you, is one of the kings of safe play himself, but he just did not play the big points well enough today.  You are only as good as your second serve, and that’s probably Murray’s greatest weakness, after his passive style.  Murray claimed only 28% of his second balls, and was broken 4 times in the match.  Young may not have hit a ton of winners, but he surprised us with his ability to hit through the court, which kept the pressure squarely on the Scot.  In the end, Young held a 74-62 advantage in total points, despite hitting just one ace and dumping in 7 double faults.

Young played the bigger points better today than world #5 Andy Murray.  That’s a step forward for the American, who we really want to see good things happen for.  Style aside, we have always regarded Young as a very talented kid with a diverse game, and nice touch.  The pressure of being junior #1 and American prodigy status has only made more difficult his transition to the pro game, and we hope today’s win is a sign that he is finally starting to figure some things out.

Young couldn’t hope for a kinder 3rd round matchup.  Next up will be #25 Tommy Robredo, a guy who doesn’t have the type of weapons to scare anyone.  A few years back when Robredo was in the top 10, my friends and I dubbed him the top 10 player you’d most want to play if you absolutely needed a win.  Opportunity knocks.

The ball’s in Young’s court.  Hopefully, he keeps doing something with it.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, www.crackbillionair.com)

Now that a time honored rainless Wimbledon tradition has passed in the 2010 championships–the no play middle Sunday–we can all look ahead to today’s round of 16 matchups.  On Monday, all men’s and women’s round of 16 matches will be played–almost too much tennis–even for Wimbledon junkies like us.

Centre Court

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(1) Roger Federer vs. (16) Jurgen Melzer….the top dog leads off the day on CC in a very favorable matchup.  At least, we think it’s favorable for Federer, though it’s hard to be certain considering he has never met the surprising Austrian, who has made the better part of his living on clay.  Melzer doesn’t seem to have the weapons for grass or to hurt federer, but we thought the same thing of Federer’s opponent last Monday, Alejandro Falla, who took the first 2 sets.  Federer, heavily taxed in the first two rounds, looked considerably better against Arnaud Clement, who is another guy we feel can’t hurt Roger.  At this stage.  As for Melzer, he has played excellent all court tennis in the last year, and has made himself a seed from a journeyman.  Anything’s possible, but a Melzer win would represent one of the hugest upsets in Wimbledon history.  We’ll take Roger, and we hope it’s a quickie, so that he can rest up for who we think will be Tomas Berdych in the quarters.

(1) Serena vs. (17) Sharapova…good luck, Maria.  She’lll need it.  Serena is in fine form, and has pitched bagels in the first set of all 3 of her matches so far, an interesting major tournament immeasurable.  Sharapova, right now, has the champion’s heart, but her game lacks the pop that once blew Serena of this court in the final 6 years ago.  All Serena, all day.  Sharapova will be lucky to hold on to her serve for a few games.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/serena-advances-to-3rd-round-wimbledon-where-she-will-clash-with-sharapova/

(18) Sam Querrey vs. (4) Andy Murray…Samurai Sam has really impressed us.  Last year, he had a very hard luck loss to Marin Cilic, who was then beaten in one of the better matches of the tournament by Tommy Haas, who knew he couldn’t win by staying in the backcourt, so he rushed the net with fury.  For Querrey, this is a super tough matchup because Murray will control the backcourt, and Sam doesn’t have the ability to get to net, unless he rips a really solid forehand approach.  The game plan worked well at Queen’s but has shown chinks in the armor versus Dodig and Malisse.  Murray is good enough,, and has enough variety, to keep the ball away from Sam’s forehand.  Sam has the better serve, but Murray can hit the 130s on the gun as well.  Sam has an outside chance at best, whch could improve if Murray struggles on his first serve.  Murray, the pride of Britain, doesn’t get near 100 MPH usually on his 2nd serve, and the 22 year old American will need to capitalize on those 2nd balls.  Still, we see this as an immensely difficult spot for Querrey, who can go home and already have people say he had a successful grass court season.  We will root for Sam, but we like Murray tomorrow.

Court one

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(8) Clijsters vs. (17) Henin…for us, Henin is the natural grass courter, despite her lack of a Wimbledon championship.  Henin has had trouble in her career with Clijsters power and steady game–on hardcourts.  The two Belgian saviors have been at this rivalry for a while and both have twelve wins in the head to head.  Henin holds a 3-1 lead on grass, though all of the matches were close.  The two will play an exhibition in the fall in their home country that is expected to be the most well attended tennis match in history, with about 43,000 spectators expected.  Henin is not as rock solid as she used to be, and while we have her as the favorite, we would not be surprised if Clijsters won this round of 16 match.

(3) Djokovic vs. (15) Hewitt…Hewitt, a Wimbledon champion and well established grass courter, gets the extra offense he needs on grass that his small body can’t manufacture on clay and sometimes on hards.  The ball moves through the grass quickly, and adds pop to his serve.  Frankly, we like him here.  He’s healthy, has had a good grass season, and we’ve seen very little from Djokovic since his only major victory in Australia in 2008.  Plus, Hewitt is a better fighter than the Djoker, and his fighting spirit should help him in a close match.

Paul-Henri Matthieu vs. (2) Rafael Nadal…the four hour matches have taken a toll on Rafa.  Playing 4 hours against Istomin at Queen’s Club, and then two straight 5 setters here, where he was back to usual tricks, with trainers and tennis elbow and the balky knee.  But tomorrow, we don’t see much to prevent Rafa from moving on to the quarters, where he could possibly be in trouble, if Soderling makes it through.  Even banged up, Nadal has too much game for guys like Matthieu, who hovers around world # 50.  Top ten guys will expose his injury problems in ways that lesser opponents can not.  Matthieu has a slim chance if he serves big and hits a lot of lines.  Hopefully he can make it interesting, though I am not banking on it.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/26/banged-up-nadal-survives-petzschner-advances-to-round-of-16-wimbledon/

Court Two

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(2) Venus vs. Jarmila Groth…we love Venus, and are blinded sometimes by that love.  Even though we’ve been very impressed with Groth, this is the real big time, and she’s already playing with house money by being in this round.  The best grass courter in the game is a tall order for Groth, and we doubt she’ll be up to it.  But from what we’ve seen, Groth is going to put a decent career together, and the Aussies do have grass in their blood.  Venus should win easily, unless she comes out flat, like she did against Petrova in Paris.  Can’t remember the last time she turned out flat at The All England Club though.

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(3) Caroline Wozniacki vs. Petra Kvitova…neither player is suited to grass, but Wozniacki is too good and too steady.  A loss here would be a major upset.

Yen-Hsun Lu vs. (5) Dandy Andy…Is Lu going to be getting a lot of 140 MPH bombs back in play?  Tall order.  We could see Roddick going far in this tournament, who has played excellent tennis–aggressive, but with a low error count.  Look for it to continue to tomorrow.

Court Five

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Pironkova vs. (11) Bartoli…Bartoli has been a finalist here, but we don’t like her conditioning.  Her movement needs to be the key for her on grass, giving her time ti set up her awkward 2 handers off both sides.  Bartoli won her 3rd round match in a walkover, and should be rested, but we wouldn’t be too shocked if Pironkova pulled the upset.

Klara Zakopalova vs. Kaia Kanepi…both players have a great opportunity here and are playing with house money.  We’re not leaning any particular way, and have no rooting interest yet.

Court Twelve

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(21) Zvonareva vs. (4) Jankovic…we may be biased by our disdain for Jankovic, but she’s no grass courter, and Zvonareva has some pop that JJ should be worried about.  Jankovic will be scrambling all match, and she’ll give VZ some break chances.  We like the Russian.

(32) Bennetau vs. (10) Tsonga…two proud Frenchman duel, and Tsonga is the clear favorite, and came through his last match in straights.  But we aren’t in love with him tomorrow.  Bennetau is hot, and these guys have practiced and played doubles together, so there’s no element of surprise.  I look for Bennetau to get a lot of balls back, and I would favor JB in a longer match than a shorter one.

(6) Soderling vs. (9) Ferrer…The Spaniard is a warrior but the Swede is a viking.  We don’t see Soderling having much trouble with Ferrer, but in fairness, David has shocked us before.

Court Eighteen

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(9) Na Li vs. (7) Agnieska Radwanska…Li’s a great player, and more accomplished than Radwanska, whose game is tailor made for clay.  But we like Agnieska, though that might be foolish.  both ladies have played very well this month.

(12) Tomas Berdych vs. Daniel Brands…Berdych is a huge favorite, but at 6’5, if Brands can keep the ball low, and make Berdy bend his knees, shot after shot, he could have a chance.  But I doubt it.  i favor Berdyh as well, in a big way, and think he will be really tough for Roger in that potential quarter-final.

Enjoy your grass court tennis, the way the Gods intended…

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Roger Federer (above).

Defending champion, top seed, and 6 time champion Roger Federer survived another close scare at Wimbledon this morning, defeating unheralded Serbian Ilija Bozoljac, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (5) in 2 hours and 46 minutes.

Federer again seemed sluggish on the grass, getting out-winnered by the Serbian upstart 102-69 and losing the ace count 31-16.  Bozoljac, the 152nd ranked player in the world, looked to be the better player for much of the match, despite losing out in the most critical statistical area: breaks of serve.

Federer saved all 4 break points against, in his second death struggle here at SW-19 so far in 2 rounds this year.

https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/federer-down-2-sets-advances-in-round-1-at-wimbledon/

Here are the match stats from Federer/Bozoljac this morning:

 
 
 
   Federer (SUI) Bozoljac (SRB)
         
  1st Serve % 94 of 135 = 70 % 90 of 140 = 64 %
 
  Aces 16 31
 
  Double Faults 1 6
 
  Unforced Errors 13 37
 
  Winning % on 1st Serve 72 of 94 = 77 % 70 of 90 = 78 %
 
  Winning % on 2nd Serve 29 of 41 = 71 % 28 of 50 = 56 %
 
  Winners (Including Service) 69 102
 
  Receiving Points Won 42 of 146 = 29 % 34 of 136 = 25 %
 
  Break Point Conversions 3 of 13 = 23 % 0 of 4 = 0 %
 
  Net Approaches 19 of 34 = 56 % 26 of 56 = 46 %
 
  Total Points Won 143 132
 
   Fastest Serve Speed 131 MPH 138 MPH
 
   Average 1st Serve Speed 117 MPH 125 MPH
 
   Average 2nd Serve Speed 97 MPH 104 MPH

http://www.wimbledon.org/en_GB/scores/stats/day10/1201ms.html

With the way he played today, we are wondering whether the 24 year old Serbian was serving notice to the world, or if this was a case of Federer lacking jump after going 5 sets Monday with Alejandro Falla, or lacking jump, period.  Federer gets Frenchman Arnaud Clement in round 3.

–Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

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