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Wisdom from a Whiz 09/11/2010 - 6:11 PM


by Pete Bodo

NEW YORKQ: The atmosphere out there was quite electric today. I mean, you know, it's the final weekend of the U.S. Open; it generally is. . .  but particularly when you broke back at 4-4 in the third, you really seemed able to pump yourself up, and the crowd was clearly with you at that point.

Mikhail Youzhny replied: "Yeah."

End of conversation.

It's a safe bet that Youzhny will not be invited onto a prime NPR radio show (what's that morning one called, Hot Air?) any time soon. Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, could snatch Larry King's job right out from under the nose of Piers Morgan if the latter isn't careful. For a youth who struggles with English, a language not his own, Nadal is a superb communicator, for reasons including his charm, his patience (he may get irritated at times, but he respects everyone enough to take even the dumbest of questions seriously) and his now intentionally and somewhat self-consciously uncomplicated sensibility.

This is a young man who clings to his determination to keep things simple and fact-based as if clarity of thought and feeling were the twin bladders of a life preserver with which he rides out the stormy seas of his profession. Nadal is never coy, nor does he duck an issue. Ask the man a simple question and you get a simple answer. Ask him a silly one and you get a simple answer. Ask him a complicated or convoluted one and you get Nadal casting quizzical glances toward the first friendly face he recognizes among the Spanish speakers in the room. He's the only guy with a player guest box in the media room, and he's not afraid to turn to it for a little off-court coaching. It's not a code violation, as far as I know.

Today, for example, we learned after his straight-sets deconstruction of Youzhny that he doesn't consider head-to-head records an important element in the ongoing GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate (sorry, Rafa fans but remember that he said it, not I).

"Head to head is not an element for me," he said today. "Is a part of the statistics, but is not the decisive element. Even a Grand Slam is important element, but is not all on the tennis. . . In my opinion, Roger won 16 Grand Slams already. But what he did, 23, 24 semifinals in a row, that's something amazing. It is impossible to repeat, in my opinion."

He soon added the caveat, "In the conversation, everybody is free to have an opinion. .. I am not the one to say the steps, 'For that, you are the best in history.' In my opinion, Roger is the best in history, the best of the history that I ever see. I don't know Rod Laver, how it was in the past, because I wasn't in this world."

That last remark, delivered with the trace of a smile, made everyone laugh. As well as he played, his press conference was even better. He also spoke about the on-court interview after the match, in which he expressed sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and their families.

"Well, I think first thing, 9/11 was a big shock for everybody in the world. I remember—everybody remember where they were at that moment and I remember what happened that day and where I was. Yeah, it was a terrible shock for me, especially because I was in the top of the twin towers a few months before.

"So, yeah, that's just the minimum thing that I can say, all the support for the victims and for the families for sure is on my mind. When I came back after the disaster, in the first six years I was there at Ground Zero, every time watching that. So, yes, that's probably the most impact-view I had in all my life."

Six years at Ground Zero. It was a private vigil, as far as I know, but it would have been interesting to see how this emotional man-child comported himself there, or to get into his head to learn what he was thinking. I wonder, how many other players made the trek—not that it's mandatory, mind you, but on this day of remembrance it strikes me as an interesting thing to know, a reason to overcome whatever prejudice you may have for or against a certain personality.

Rafa also spoke about his tweaked serve, and the open-minded willingness he's shown toward toying with his technique and strategy. "The serve at the point of today is good, but not enough [that comes as a surprise]. I don't have the control of the situation with my serve because every day is new for me, and I served already very good for the last six matches. We will see what happens tomorrow, but I don't feel I have completely defined the serve."

And those other things? "I think I changed the strings in the end of the season. So yeah, you are in the top, and the things work very well, but can always work better—and worse. But always you have to have a risk, and you have to—" Rafa faltered, searching for words. "I don't know. In English is not—I am not inspired today. Only inspiration was on court. Forget [it]."

Again, the assembled cast laughed, yet USTA moderator Tim Curry allowed one more question, following up on Nadal's ongoing quest to get better. He said, "Well, because I always thought I always can keep improving. That's why I am playing, to keep improving and to feel myself a better player than before. I go to practice every day not to practice; I go to practice every day to try to learn something and to keep improving my level."

There's your quote of the tournament, and I can visualize it written in flowerly cursive on countless posters hanging in the bedrooms of a legion of young athletes:

I go to practice every day not to practice, I go to practice every day to learn something.

P.S.—I'll be back with a similar post on the presser of the winner of the second semi, and I'll have a reaction piece after the women's final tonight. I suggest you move the match-calling to this post, but figure it out amongst yourselves. And many thanks to ever-diligent Andrew Burton for providing this morning's Crisis Center.

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Posted by Juarez 09/12/2010 at 02:21 AM

VAMOS RAFA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 02:30 AM

Excellent point, Jai. As usual. :)

I always have a soft spot for Lendl in these conversations. I was never a big fan until later in his career, as I was enough of a stupidly patriotic youngster to be annoyed by his victories over Mac and Connors, but the competition he faced and the results he put up are pretty amazing. I still get a kick out of his streak of 8 straight US Open final appearances. Quite an achievement.

Posted by Jai 09/12/2010 at 02:37 AM

Yes, an article once described Lendl as the "greatest overachiever in men's tennis". I used to think of Rafa in similar terms until a year or so ago (especially after his 3 straight Wimby finals and the Aus Open win). Now I think that Rafa probably has more "natural talent" (whatever that simplistic phrase might mean) than Lendl overall, but a case can certainly be made that he's an overachiever on hard-courts.

Posted by Juarez 09/12/2010 at 02:53 AM

VAMOS U.S. OPEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 03:06 AM

The best, the GOAT questions. Stupid, in fact. Of course, Nadal or anybody except Roger, will say what Nadal usually says.


Nobody like a boaster! It is unbecoming. In fact, saying you are the best when you're career is not over yet is downright egotistical and arrogant. Like Roger.

And yes, Nadal is great in responding the way he does. Let historians say who is goat or who is not, so the only way to get out of that stupid and uncomfortable question is to parrot what everyone else is saying, true or not. Deserved or not.

But then, it never ceases to to crack me up each time Rafa says roger is the best, at the same time kicking roger's behind just minutes ago. Very funny, indeed. Each time!

Had Nadal said, "Yes, I am better that Roger", he would have been pilloried and castigated.

Smart kid, this Nadal. The greatest player of his generation, including the whipping of Roger at 14-7.

So, who is GOAT, again?


Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 03:07 AM

Interesting, Jai. Yes, the more I think about Rafa, the more I think of the natural talent angle as well. He's just such a great athlete. The footwork, the quickness, the speed, the strength. All those things that Lendl didn't have. :) Well, aside from the strength. Lendl had plenty of that.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 03:12 AM

My condolences to Mary Carillo, the roger groupie. And boy, even to the last minute, she has to tear down Rafa for such inane and inconsequential stuff, as the lining of the bottles, or using the legit time to serve, and the like.

Deal with it, slappy!

How about the irritating move that Mary does with her twitching of the lips and the fixing of her hair during broadcasts? Or, the incessant yakking while points are being played?

Git out of here, Mary! together with Roger, your idol.

Good riddance, if you ask me.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 03:13 AM

I bet you Mary Carillo, will make a big deal and brouhaha about this in tomorrow's final.

And when Nadal wins, then the "brou" will be on Mary. Ha Ha.

Posted by GB 09/12/2010 at 03:14 AM

Hey Jewel, Sherlock & Jai!

So happy Rafa made the final. Certainly didn't feel like that was going to happen after Cincy.
I am completely terrified of Nole, though. He was just incredible today.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 03:16 AM


Don't forget the MONO!

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 03:17 AM

"Had Nadal said, "Yes, I am better that Roger", he would have been pilloried and castigated."

Espnalanaldo, you need to put down the bottle. :) If Rafa had said that, he would have been a fool. Both players have a (hopefully) long way to go before they're done. Let's wait till then to compare. As of right now, it's not even close. In Roger's favor.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 03:20 AM

Hi, GB. Yes, after Cincy and Toronto, I wasn't feeling terribly optimistic either. :)

If Nole gets a rain day to rest tomorrow, Monday could be a wild one. Tomorrow it will be tough for Nole to come back. Physically, I think he'll be ok, as the match today really was a pretty quick one for 5 sets, but emotionally, today had to be pretty draining.

Posted by GB 09/12/2010 at 03:30 AM

Maybe, Sherlock. I feel like it could go the other way too. Nole always plays well against Rafa, and he's so unpredictable that he could manage to channel all the emotional energy for the win. It had to give him a huge boost to beat Fed.

Plus, Rafa's going to be feeling the pression, as he said he would if he ever found himself in the final. *hopes like hell that the serve is there tomorrow*

Posted by jewell - Make tea, not war. 09/12/2010 at 03:46 AM

Hey guys, got caught up in other stuff and on other threads. :)

Yeah Sherly - it wasn't just Borg, but you know, Agassi and Lendl and Connors and Mac himself and probably some guys before the Open Era...Talk about over-hyping!

The hate Mary Carillo gets on this board sometimes is just ridiculous.

Got to go to work, see you all later. :)

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/12/2010 at 04:57 AM

Jai Rafa was in ways a child prodigy go and look up his junior results

Actually Rafa and Borg had paraellel junior results in ways.

Rafa has had USO in his sights.Regardless of his results at Toronto which is a med pace surface and Cinncy again he didnt have bad results.

He arrived at the USO well rested and physically fine for the first times in years.

To have got to the final in straight sets and losing his serve just twice is a testament to him and his improved serve for starters.

Posted by Aussiemarg,Queen Bee,Do It For Wayne Rafa! 09/12/2010 at 05:00 AM

I have done stats for Rafa If he is to win the USO for the first time I have posted them on the CC post

I dont want to type them out again

For all Rafa fans go back to the post and they are on the last page.

Posted by Tee 09/12/2010 at 05:11 AM

I am a Rafa fan, but right now, I still do consider Roger to be the GOAT. Same sentiments with Rafa that I didn't get to know Laver (plus the time when he played is so much different than what's happening in the open era -- it's so much harder to win now).

Agree with Rafa that it's not all in the numbers. For me, if Rafa does win tomorrow, it will only be a step towards greatness, but he'll not be there yet. For me to consider him so, he needs to win Aussie in '11, and another US Open again in '11 or '12 (and maybe pickup some French or Wimby titles along the way too).

If he's able to do this (and Roger does not win another French Open), it will place him as the GOAT in my book -- even if he does retire after that. Because even if he ends his career with even just 10-13 GS titles (obviously fewer than Fed's), these are unprecedented achievements are going to be unique to him alone -- but by far greater than the unprecedented achievements of Roger.

Winning the career slam twice over, and holding all four slam titles at the same time in the Open era at just the age of 25 or 26, it will be amazing.

But it's still a dream for us Rafa fans... right now it is still The Mighty (once) Fed.

Posted by jackson 09/12/2010 at 05:21 AM

Jewell - "he doesn't consider head-to-head records an important element in the ongoing GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate (sorry, Rafa fans but remember that he said it, not I)."

You really should read all of Rafa's presser. Yes, when asked if H-T-H records should be considered more important he said no. They are an important element. He also said that number of slams won isn't the deciding factor either.

He thinks that Masters and Davis Cups and Olympics are all important too. He says he finds Masters more difficult than slams because you play difficult opponents right from the first round whereas in slams you can get a few easy rounds at the beginning plus you get a day off between matches.

Davis Cup is very important and he's been lucky to win three of them but they're different because you play with a team and he's lucky he's got such a good team. Olympics is very special because it's only once every 4 years you get an opportunity to beat the best.

So basically he was saying that must of the stuff that cause pie fights on forums is all pretty stupid because there's actually no one way of deciding who's the best or has the best record, but he thinks other records, like Roger appearing in 23 semis is huge and will probably never be broken.

His whole presser was interesting. He wasn't as excited as I thought he'd be and he seemed very tired and he had some stuggles with his English tonight so he wasn't able to express himself nearly as well as he usually does. He seemed mentally weary and the English phrases and answers just weren't coming to him.

Posted by jackson 09/12/2010 at 05:24 AM

The most interesting presser was Djokovic. He was elated, as is to be expected, and he's very very personable and there were a lot of laughs as he's a pretty funny guy. He certainly had very positive things to say about Rafa. He admires Federer but he thinks Rafa could easily become considered best of all what with all his accomplishments at such an early age. It's well worth watching, especially if you want to smile and share in the joy he was feeling after the match.

Posted by Ethan 09/12/2010 at 05:29 AM

Just my opinion, but the whole "GOAT" discussion has always struck me as a bit silly. Unless you've been watching tennis throughout the entirety of the Open Era then it is pretty hard to say. What I do enjoy is some good analysis of the players and comparison.

For example, I think the reason a lot of people like Federer (myself included) is that if you've played a lot or a little tennis, watching him is like watching something to aspire to. The way he sets up points, and always seems to choose the right shot... it is all like seeing a perfect ideal to aspire to. Watching Nadal on the other hand, is more like watching something unattainable. His ridiculous physical gifts and ability to track down seemingly impossible shots can be awe inspiring.

Personally I'm a huge fan of both players (maybe a bit more of Nadal), and am actually a little bummed that Nadal seems to be peaking a bit after Federer has begun a very gradual decline. They only managed to play one truly epic match when both were at their very best. Hopefully Federer can pick it up, and we will get a few more.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 08:31 AM

I think Steve is on the right track that Djokovic will be on an emotional high (especially if he was closing his eyes and hitting outrageous shots) and might take the first set.

But as the match wears long, you have to like Rafa's chances as he is in form and more stable.

Also, I think Djokovic has discovered that fortune favors the brave really holds...seems like he will remember the match for the rest of his life (or atleast the last set, coz the first four sets were poor quality)...he might burn out for the rest of the year. But next year at the slams, he might remember the day and it might spur him on.

But the "closing the eyes and hitting, if it goes in, its in"...was a great line.

Posted by Tuulia 09/12/2010 at 08:58 AM

"a reason to overcome whatever prejudice you may have for or against a certain personality."

Pete, I can't help but wonder what you meant by that exactly.

It would be nice if you stopped calling him man-child, it sounds condescending.

Other than that, a nice post, thank you.

Posted by Amber 09/12/2010 at 09:08 AM

I'm a very happy to see Djokovic having success
against Roger after many past disappointments.
He seems to be getting closer to the player he was in 2008.
That said, I agree with Ladyjulia, over 5 sets I give the edge to Nadal.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/12/2010 at 10:28 AM


You are wwwrong. QUALITY trumps quantity, even if it 16.

Yeah, I have 16 but I lose to you 6 times out of 8 times in the critical tours of what?? Grand Slams.

And can you say, Olympic GOLD MEDAL in .......... singles?

The quantity advantage is just a function of age. Oh, yes, we can wait.

Just the prospect of a real GRand Calendar Slam next year should send shivers down FED KADS. At 24, very do-able with more chances to boot.

Meanwhile, Rafa says Roger is the best, then one of the best while at the same time kicking Roger's behind. Very innocent remark but very funny. EVERYTIME!!! 6 times.

Can you tabulate the accomplishments of Roger vis-a-vis Rafa at 23? 24?

Your argument just went Pffft.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 10:58 AM

Espnalanaldo, the age comparison is pretty meaningless. I think a lot of us would be pretty shocked if Rafa is still around and having great success in a few years. Those knees are not going to magically get better with age.

Also, come talk to me when Rafa, like Roger at the French, makes four straight finals at the US Open, his worst surface.

Posted by Syd 09/12/2010 at 11:14 AM

Sherlock, it's amazing but those "knees" have gotten magically better.
One minute he's a cripple for life, the next he's tearing up every court in the world.
Something strange there no? Magical treatment in three weeks, while other players with knee problems are obliged to resort to surgery and are off for months at a time.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 11:24 AM

Syd, well, given the early exits in Toronto and Cincy, the knees haven't really gotten that much work this summer. :)

I don't think tendonitis is a surgery issue though. It's just a rest thing, like he's had to do before.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 11:29 AM


Rafa;s knees problems are more treatable than say Del Potro's wrist problems for the simple reason that there is no surgery involved.

Whatever the treatment is...forgot the name..but its just cells injected into his tendons to make them heal faster after all the wear and tear. Its also only temporary healing..the more he uses it, the more it will wear down..the more time it takes to heal. So, the injections are only to speed up the healing process. Its not a tear in the tendon or something that Rafa has. Its just overuse of the tendons, because of which they pain and the pain will go away with rest. The injections just reduce the time of rest so that the pain goes away.

Del Potro's wrist needed surgery...besides the wrist is more fragile than the tendons.

The treatment is not going to help Rafa play till the age of 35 (unless he plays lesser and lesser and puts less stress on the running)..but should enable him to play at a high level for another 3-4 years.

Roddick has had the same problem in knees for years...but its not as bad as Rafa apparently. So, Roddick dosen't require treatment.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 11:31 AM

I meant 3-4 yrs because I cannot imagine that Rafa would be running with the same intensity at the age of 28 as he did at 18, regardless of the state of his knees. He is going to age too.

Posted by Syd 09/12/2010 at 11:32 AM

Yes, so that's the point. Gilles Simon was out for weeks with knee tendonitis. So evidently Nadal's are not so bad that they are going to shorten his career, as some seem to think.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 11:38 AM


Everybody heals differently. Some people heal faster...some don't. It also depends on how much the tendons have been overused, no?

But yeah, Rafa's camp seem to exaggerate his injuries etc time and time again. I would rather believe what Rafa says compared to Uncle Toni etc.

But definitely, Rafa will be playing at the age of 28 or 29 too barring some serious injury...but i doubt if he will be making 4 finals of GS at the age of 28...he might, but I wouldn't bet any money on it. He's changing his game to be more efficient, so there is some chance. Regardless, he will always be one of the favorites at coming GS if he keeps his ranking in top 5...whether its next year or 2014.

Posted by Carol 09/12/2010 at 11:40 AM

Good morning evryone

Espanalando, you are so right in everything you say, I love your comments, clear, sinceres and true. The problem is that some people refuses to see what really is

Sherlock, maybe in the future Rafa will decide to retire but not because the knees but because he has made enough money to start a normal life after to be so successful and no more sacrifices like all player have to go on

By the way, the match Federe-Nole wasn't too brilliant

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 11:43 AM

Before I get attacked for saying anything..I meant the 2005 example where Uncle Toni said Rafa would have to retire at some point..and Rafa came out and made a statement that he would continue playing. I think Rafa is more balanced about his injuries in his presser, IMO.

Posted by GB 09/12/2010 at 11:49 AM

"Gilles Simon was out for weeks with knee tendonitis"

Rafa has also been out for weeks with knee tendonitis, no? (i.e. missing the 08 WTFs/Davis Cup; 09 Wimby, 10 post AO etc). AFAIK, Gilles' most recent knee issue was similar to what Rafa had at the AO (a tear) and he was consulting with Rafa's treating doctor.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 11:51 AM

Okay I will bite:

"Just the prospect of a real GRand Calendar Slam next year should send shivers down FED KADS. At 24, very do-able with more chances to boot."

I don't think we are a Fed KAD, would love to see Rafa do the grand calendar slam next year. Its good for tennis over all.

"Meanwhile, Rafa says Roger is the best, then one of the best while at the same time kicking Roger's behind. Very innocent remark but very funny. EVERYTIME!!! 6 times."

Didn;t know losing 7-9 in the fifth constitutes kicking Roger's behind. Had Rafa won in straights, believe me...that match would not have been called the greatest match of all time (which is again over the top, but whatever). Neither does the five setter in AO. In fact, Rafa having an inherent advantage over Roger...its interesting that he needs to fight so much (except for RG 2008) even on clay putting his own fragile body at risk time and time again.

Posted by Carol 09/12/2010 at 11:54 AM

I don't know the future but I know at the present there is a wonderful Doctor in Spain that he's taking care pretty well the Rafa knees and the proof is the way that he's playing and moving.
Please, leave alone the Rafa knees and negative comments and let's go now to enjoy with his great game

Posted by Carol 09/12/2010 at 12:02 PM


Rafa needs to fight so much against Roger like Roger needs to fight so much against Rafa on clay, grass and HC. I don't see the difference, but at the end we know all of us who is the winner most of the times

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:05 PM

Carol, come on. How many times have Rafa and Roger fought on hard courts? They fight on clay because Roger makes finals year after year. Has Rafa made hard court finals year after year when Roger is there waiting?

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/12/2010 at 12:08 PM

Good morning everyone !

Oh, I see it is afternoon already. I've just read a weather report stating 70% rain this pm so I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get much tennis today at all.

That will be good for Rafa and Novak but not good for us poor tennis fans.

Posted by ladyjulia 09/12/2010 at 12:13 PM


"we know all of us who is the winner most of the times"

Sure...Carol, agree with you 100%.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:16 PM

Lynne, indeed. What a letdown that would be. Following TW from work, while very enjoyable, isn't the same. Especially for a slam final. :)

My weather report actually looks better though, after this current band of showers moves on in a couple hours. I wish it was either a total washout if it's going to rain at all. I'd rather not sit here for 6 hours through several rain delays. :)

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/12/2010 at 12:20 PM

Agree, Sherlock, and I can quite imagine it must be hard to concentrate on work ! No, one 2nd thoughts it must be absolutely impossible. Fingers crossed !

Posted by Jai 09/12/2010 at 12:29 PM

"I wish it was either a total washout if it's going to rain at all. I'd rather not sit here for 6 hours through several rain delays. :)"

Sherlock: it might actually be worse for me. The match is scheduled to begin at around 2-2.15 AM India time, which means that I'm going to be up all night (unless it rains very heavily and they make an early announcement about postponing to Monday). Worst-case scenario: continual rain delays and resumptions in play, which would mean keeping the TV on at that time and staying barely awake in front of it!

Posted by Carol 09/12/2010 at 12:33 PM

Sherlock, Rafa has been improving every year playing on HC. Without injuries he has won very important titles as you know. If he and Roger would have the same age I don't think Roger would have more titles than Rafa on HC or they woud be very tied

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:34 PM

Lynne, impossible indeed. Though I don't mind. If only my boss didn't either. :)

Jai, ouch!! Now I don't feel so bad. :)

I think we both need to invest in a DVR.

Posted by Lynne (Rafalite) 09/12/2010 at 12:40 PM

Guys : Pete has a new cc for today.

Posted by Sherlock 09/12/2010 at 12:58 PM

Carol, you may be right. I'm not convinced, but we'll see. :)

Anyway, as you know, I'm a big Rafa fan too. I just want to enjoy the amazing players these guys are without constantly having to compare them and put one down to make the other look better. It's like a disease that we can't get away from. :)

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/13/2010 at 12:43 AM


It should read,


"Nobody likes a boaster! It is unbecoming. In fact, saying you are the best when your career is not over yet is downright egotistical."


Darn! Trying to send post as fast by typing just as fast. Not good.

Posted by espnalanaldo 09/13/2010 at 12:51 AM


Lost your analytical "hat", did you?

An advantage of 5 years means you have 20 chances at getting a Slam. Or, does simple Statistics too much for you?

Age in playing years is a factor, most definitely. It is not meaningless.

And the other effect of age is exactly what is happening to Roger. He is aging.

Still not clear with these two nuances of age issue?

Can't help you then.

Posted by pro 09/13/2010 at 02:31 PM


Posted by a Black Guy 09/13/2010 at 03:11 PM


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