Welcome to another installment of LiveAnalysis! Today we have the 39th meeting between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
Both men arrive to this final undefeated. Rafael Nadal has lost only a single set (in the meaningless match against Tomas Berdych), while Novak Djokovic was pushed to a decider in each of his 3 round robin matches, but not in the semifinal against Wawrinka.
Click here for the detailed H2H between these two (which Nadal leads 22 to 16).
- This will be the fourth time that these two meet at the World Tour Finals (they played each other in 2007, 2009 and 2010), but the first time they meet in a round other than the round robin stage. Nadal won two out of those three meetings, and all three affairs ended in straight sets.
What Novak Djokovic needs to do:
If you read the LiveAnalysis post for the recent US Open final, you’ll notice that I’ve changed very little about this section (just one additional point for Djokovic).
1. Put as much pressure as he possibly can on Nadal’s service games, particularly on that second serve. Sending deep returns up the middle and into the Deuce court limits Nadal’s opportunities to start the rally with a commanding forehand, which is always a good thing if you’re playing the man from Manacor. Djokovic has to make Nadal work extremely hard for every single service game. It’s hard to envision Novak winning this match if he doesn’t win the return of serve battle (which he didn’t in the past two defeats against Nadal in Canada and in Paris).
2. Use the backhand down the line as often as possible. This is problematic for Djokovic, since this shot seems to have abandoned him in 2013 (though it’s made a return of sorts during this post-US Open run). It’s a key stroke in terms of keeping Nadal pegged to his backhand corner, and it’s far less risky than the inside-in forehand in terms of compromising court position.
3. Use the inside-out forehand instead of the cross-court backhand as the primary weapon to attack Nadal’s forehand corner. Djokovic can find better angles and inject more pace with his inside-out forehand, which limits Nadal’s opportunities to counter with a down-the-line forehand if Djokovic’s attacking shot isn’t up to snuff.
4. Punish every single short ball that Nadal sends his way. The Spaniard has been struggling with depth during the past two weeks, which presents a wonderful opportunity for Djokovic. However, Novak needs to avoid the trap of thinking that only all-out aggression will do: short balls can be used to push Nadal behind the baseline or yank him to awkward positions around the corners of the court, creating easier putaway shots.
5. When crunch time comes, be the aggressor. Being conservative is what doomed Djokovic in the last meeting against Nadal, a third set tiebreak defeat in the Montreal M1000 semis. When you’re playing an all-time great, you can’t let off the gas pedal in the key moments of the match. Either you go for it, or you watch Nadal do it himself.
6. Use the wide serve from the Deuce court wisely. That’s the most difficult serve for Nadal to defend, and the one that more often results in short balls with plenty of open court. A key part of the 7-match winning streak Djokovic enjoyed over Nadal in 2011-2012.
What Rafael Nadal needs to do:
1. Serve extremely well. What does this mean? Mixing up the serves, make it impossible for Djokovic to identify patterns, and make sure the body serve is available for key points. Throughout the years, Nadal has used that body serve effectively against his Serbian rival, except when it’s become predictable. Nadal needs to go for all three spots in the service box consistently, and his second serve has to keep Djokovic guessing. Just spinning it in won’t cut it today.
2. When pegged into his backhand corner, Nadal needs to try and counter with hard, flat cross-court backhands, or if time allows, run around and hit an inside-out forehand. Nadal can’t let Djokovic neutralize his forehand by making it impossible for him to hit one from the far end of the Deuce court. The Spaniard needs to escape those binds, and the cross-court backhand is always the safest choice.
3. Attack as much as possible. No neutral balls should allow Djokovic to boss him around the baseline. If there’s an opening to go for a big forehand during the early stages of a rally, Nadal needs to go for it. If Djokovic leaves a cross-court backhand/inside-out forehand short, Nadal needs to pull the trigger on down-the-line forehands of his own. More importantly: Nadal can’t lose the court position battle. Djokovic will look to push him back behind the baseline, and Nadal needs to do everything he can to get back to the stripe as soon as he can.
4. Win the return of serve battle. This has been the key to Nadal’s last two wins against Djokovic, one of which was on hardcourt. It’ll be interesting to see where Nadal stands to return first and second serves, and if Djokovic uses his second serve kicker as a surprise first serve in order to provoke some easy short balls.
Remember to refresh this page often, as I will be providing game-by-game analysis throughout the match!
As in previous LiveAnalysis posts, I’ll be using a bit of “tennis shorthand” today. Here’s your glossary:
BP: Break Point
DTL: Down the line (means the same as “up the line”)
GP: Game Point
SP: Set Point
S&V: Serve and Volley
SW: Service Winner
UFE: Unforced Error
Smile boys! Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal strike a pose ahead of the #FinalShowdown pic.twitter.com/VUiam4TGOM
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) November 11, 2013
First Set – Novak Djokovic will serve first.
0-0: First point starts on a 2nd serve. Djokovic puts away a simple FH DTL winner after a very short Nadal BH return. 2nd point is a CC BH UFE by Djokovic after a tense rally. 3rd point is a great SW out wide. 30-15. The 4th point is beautifully simple tactically: Djokovic goes DTL with his BH, and then comes to net to put away a simple volley. 40-15. An Ace up the T seals the hold.
Promising stuff from Djokovic, and some very short returns by Nadal.
1-0, Djokovic: Novak goes up 0-15 after a great, deep return forces a BH error from Nadal. Then, a Nadal FH UFE makes it 0-30. 2nd serve coming up for this key point – which Djokovic wins after out-maneuvering Nadal thoroughly, forcing the Spaniard to go for a FH DTL that really wasn’t there. 0-40, triple BP. Djokovic thinks he has the break, but Nadal chases down a subpar BH dropper by Djokovic, and sends his trademark no-look flick CC for a winner. 15-40. Nadal gets a chance to dominate the early part of the rally with his FH, but Djokovic finds Rafael’s BH with his trusty BH DTL, and ends up forcing the error. Djokovic breaks!
Simply wonderful stuff from Djokovic, who seems quite focused on executing his tactical gameplan on every single point.
2-0, Djokovic: A simple winner is followed by a BH DTL UFE by Djokovic. 15-all. Then, a dangerous S&V attempt is executed wonderfully by Djokovic – the volley was simply superb. 30-15. Nadal with a CC FH UFE, and it’s 40-15. Nadal gets a chance to dictate, fires a FH DTL, and Djokovic’s running FH DTL reply goes long. 40-30. The pair trade blows for a bit, and it’s Nadal who ends up netting a FH UFE.
Momentum check: Djokovic came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, and it’s taken a bit for Nadal to match the level of intensity. However, the Spaniard is already there, so this match is about to heat up. We’ll see if Nadal’s slow start ends up costing him the set.
3-0, Djokovic: BH DTL UFE by Djokovic makes it 15-0. First time Nadal has had a lead in any game so far. Wild FH DTL UFE by Djokovic, so 30-0. Nadal sends a 2nd serve long, so it’s 30-15. BH shank by Nadal after relentless depth by Djokovic, and it’s 30-all. Another DF by Nadal, and it’s 30-40. 2nd serve…and after playing some great defense, Djokovic misfires badly on a BH DTL. Mis-timed it completely. Deuce #1. Djokovic sends a FH DTL UFE into the net, so it’s AD-Nadal. 2nd serve…and Djokovic sends the return into the net.
Mark this last game as an important one. Great chance for Djokovic to lay the hammer on this set, and 3 straight UFEs end up giving Nadal the hold.
3-1, Djokovic: Brutal BH CC pass by Nadal can’t be handled by Djokovic. 0-15. Short return by Nadal allows Djokovic to easily put away a FH. 15-15. I-O FH UFE by Djokovic, 15-30. All of a sudden, the early patience has abandoned the Serb, and he’s rushing. Wild BH CC UFE by Djokovic off Nadal’s short return, and it’s 15-40, double BP for Nadal. 2nd serve…the return is short, and Djokovic blasts a FH DTL that Nadal can’t get over the net. 30-40. Great SW out wide by Djokovic, Deuce #1. Nadal gets some nice depth with his FH, and Djokovic can’t handle the last one, sending his own into the net. AD-Nadal. 2nd serve…the rally is tentative, and surprisingly, Nadal gains the edge when he draws Djokovic inside the forecourt with a short slice BH, which draws the error. Nadal breaks back!
Tactical Update: Djokovic started the match playing controlled, patient tennis. That went out the window as soon as he missed that BH DTL on BP at 3-1. Since then, he’s reacting more to whatever Nadal sends his way, and going for way too much on short balls.
As for Rafael Nadal, he’s fully into the match now, and he’s doing his best to hit as many FHs as he can, being very active with his feet. And those FHs are getting some nice depth.
3-2, Djokovic: A strong, aggressive rally ends with Djokovic firing a CC BH winner. Superb point. 0-15. Djokovic barely misses on a BH return, so it’s 15-all. Now Djokovic misses a FH return, 30-15. Another wild Djokovic BH DTL UFE, and it’s 40-15. Another missed return by Djokovic, and Nadal has held rather easily after that good first point.
3-3: Another good rally yields a missed FH DTL by Nadal. Then a SW by Djokovic makes it 30-0. Rafael barely misses a BH DTL passing shot, so it’s 40-0. Then, Nadal absolutely smokes a FH DTL return winner. Timed it beautifully. 40-15. SW out wide for Djokovic, and he’s held.
Stats Update: After playing 1 more return game than Djokovic, Nadal lags in the % of Return Points won race by just 4%.
4-3, Djokovic: SW by Nadal, 15-0. DF #3 for Nadal, 15-all. A good Deuce-court exchange finds Djokovic netting a FH, after some good depth and angle from Nadal’s BH. Djokovic gets great depth with a return, is afforded a simple FH, and Nadal can’t handle it, even if it wasn’t all that deep. 30-30. Nadal goes on the offensive, has Djokovic slipping and sliding, but after a great deep defensive BH by Djokovic, Nadal nets his own shot. 30-40. Violent SW up the T by Nadal, Deuce #1. 125 mph on that one. DF #4 by Nadal, and it’s AD-Djokovic. Then… POINT OF THE MATCH, AND MAYBE THE TOURNAMENT. Impossible to do it justice with words, but it ends after a cat-and-mouse exchange at net. Djokovic breaks!
5-3, Djokovic: A short return is punished by Djokovic by going behind Nadal for a simple winner. Another Deuce-court exchange then ends with Novak netting a FH. 15-15. Another wonderful point ends with Djokovic tracking back a dropper, hitting a good lob, and Nadal masterfully driving a BH smash into Djokovic’s feet. 15-30. Incredible luck for Djokovic in the next point, as he finds himself in an awkward place of the forecourt, without much of an angle to work with – but the letcord helps him. 30-30. A great CC FH approach with loads of spin and angle after a short Nadal return give Djokovic SP #1. And he converts it, firing an Ace out wide to seal it.
Amazing end to the set. Simply amazing.
The hardest shot in the game? Rafa Nadal made this look easy #FinalShowdown pic.twitter.com/vi276BISwF
— TennisTV (@TennisTV) November 11, 2013
First Set to Novak Djokovic, 6-3.
Here are your 1st set stats:
Second Set – Rafael Nadal will serve first.
0-0: Nadal opens the second set with 2 straight FH UFEs. 0-30. Djokovic tries to go for an aggressive FH DTL return, but misses wide. 15-30. Nadal fires a great I-O FH that Djokovic lobs back, and the Spaniard puts away the smash. 30-30. Nadal bosses Djokovic around the baseline until the Serb finally bails out of the rally. 40-30. Nadal challenges a hard Djokovic return up the middle, and we see that it’s barely in. So we replay the point. Rafael seals the hold with a wonderful body serve that Djokovic can’t handle.
Stats Update: After one set, the Baseline Points battle is tied up at 15. Unsurprisingly. Djokovic is responsible for 79% of the winners, and 50% of the UFEs.
1-0, Nadal: The pair trade UFEs to start the game. First Djokovic with a FH DTL UFE, and then Nadal with a FH CC UFE. SW into the body, 30-15. Djokovic then forces a BH error from Nadal off a great CC FH. 40-15. SW up the T, and a relatively simple hold for Djokovic.
Momentum check: Jason Goodall mentions that we’re in a little lull, and he’s right. Both guys probably doing their best to recuperate from the high points of the tail end of that first set. Understandably.
1-1: Nadal botches a FH DTL, and then an I-I FH. 0-30. Now another FH UFE by Nadal, this time DTL. It wasn’t close, so now it’s 0-40. Djokovic gifts away the first BP with a lackadaisical BH DTL slice into the net. Costly UFE. 15-40. Then, another wild BH DTL UFE by Djokovic. Just like most of 2013. 30-40. A simply phenomenal I-O FH return triggers the error from Nadal, and he edges through. Novak breaks!
17 unforced errors to 4 winners for Rafael Nadal tonight. #FinalShowdown
— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) November 11, 2013
2-1, Djokovic: SW to start. 15-0. BH CC UFE by Nadal, 30-0. Ace, 40-0. I-O FH UFE by Nadal, and Djokovic clinches the easiest game of the match so far.
3-1, Djokovic: 2nd serve return BH UFE by Djokovic, 15-0. Djokovic barely misses a return, 30-0. Nadal with a great CC FH, which forces Djokovic’s error, 40-0. An OK volley from Djokovic almost gets him in trouble, but Nadal can’t get the reply over the net. 40-15. Djokovic again barely misses a FH DTL return, so Nadal gets an easy hold himself.
@MindTheRacket By set Nadal 53% – 67% (56% total) Djokovic 57% – 50% (55% total)
— Steph Trudel (@TrudelSteph) November 11, 2013
3-2, Djokovic: Ace up the T for Djokovic to start. 15-0. Then, an incredible volley from Djokovic after Nadal fired a missile of a BH DTL pass. 30-0. Ace out wide, 40-0. A blistering rally ends with Djokovic barely missing what would’ve been a crazy FH DTL winner. 40-15. Nadal then forces Djokovic’s error with a great BH DTL. 40-30. A very short return gets smashed by Djokovic, and he’s held.
Stats Update: Before the last game started, Djokovic had edged Nadal 25 to 21 in Baseline Points.
4-2, Djokovic: SW to start, and then Djokovic fires a great CC FH to draw Nadal’s error. 15-all. Then Djokovic takes control of a rally with some great CC BHs, and once again ends up forcing Nadal’s error. 15-30. Simply superb tennis from Djokovic, who moves Nadal all over the court, and ends up hitting a volley Nadal can’t handle. 15-40. SW out wide saves the first BP. 30-40. Fantastic SW out wide by Nadal, and he’s survived the two BPs. Deuce #1. 2nd serve return BH UFE by Djokovic, so AD-Nadal. Some great depth from Djokovic on the CC BHs, and he’s forced Nadal’s error. Deuce #2. Stunning SW up the T by Nadal. Absolutely clutch serving by the World No. 1. Djokovic misses an I-O FH wildly, so Nadal has escaped.
4-3, Djokovic: SW up the T, 15-0. Nadal barely misses a BH DTL slice, 30-0. Simply gorgeous BH work by Djokovic – first to fend off a very good Nadal return, and then to fire off a CC winner. 40-0. However, a CC BH UFE follows, so it’s 40-15. A short return off a good 2nd serve affords Djokovic a simple FH putaway, and he doesn’t miss.
5-3, Djokovic: SW out wide, 15-0. Djokovic fires a good FH DTL, forces Nadal’s error. 15-15. Bad FH UFE by Nadal, 15-30. SW out wide, 30-30. A beauty of a BH DTL approach puts pressure on Nadal, who buries his BH pass into the net. 30-40, Championship Point. Great I-I FH by Nadal saves it, so Deuce #1. SW up the T, AD-Nadal. Simply superb tennis from both sees Nadal put away a difficult short ball after crazy defense by Djokovic, who’ll have to serve out this match.
5-4, Djokovic: 2nd serve to start. Djokovic forces Nadal’s hand, and the Spaniard misses a BH DTL slice wide. 15-0. A short return affords Djokovic a relatively simple BH DTL putaway, and he doesn’t miss. 30-0. A brilliant CC FH pass by Nadal makes it 30-15 – the approach didn’t have enough pace, and had too much spin. 2nd serve. Nadal with a great CC FH triggers a simple volley. 30-30. Wonderful slider out wide triggers Nadal’s return error, and it’s Championship Point #2. Stunning tennis sees Nadal survive once again. Unbelievable BH CC short slice to force Djokovic forward and end up passing him. Superb. Deuce #1. Ace up the T by Djokovic. Incredible response. Championship Point #3. 2nd serve… Nadal goes on the offensive with some fearsome I-O FHs, but sends the last one wide after some great defense by Djokovic.
Game, Set, and Match to Novak Djokovic: 6-3, 6-4.
Here are your full match stats:
Congrats to Nole!! Mat4, if you’re out there, woot!!!!!! 🙂 It was poetry today with a little grammar too, for good measure.
Congrats to Novak. Incredible response after the US Open, finishing unbeaten and a chance to win the Davis Cup, could be a big year for Djokovic next year, I see him finally winning the French. Also, Nadal denied the WTF again, even on a slow “indoor” court with a high bounce. Nadal may have ended the year as number 1 but Djoker is the current number 1 in men’s tennis.
Yes, Jane, I am here, I read all the posts on this blog, especially JJs. Novak played a great match, although the surface was so slow he couldn’t hit through Rafa.
But he played a lot DTL on both side, made Rafa run, and the low rebound forced Rafa to stay closer to the baseline, so he missed a lot.
What was the most important thing, to me, is that the mental edge has changed, once again. Rafa wasn’t the wild boar of the last games of the FO, and Novak wasn’t the febrile player of the end of the second set of the USO. It almost felt like 2011.
Just hope that Novak won’t loose his time in the after season, but continue to work on his shots DTL, and develop a more effective FH, the way he tried to hit it at the AO.
I also posted on our old site, since here it is so difficult to write anything intelligent enough after JJs analytic posts.
I am glad to read you.
It just like Novak has played like Ferrer in Paris: playing almost all of the time in the empty side of the court.
mat4, yes it was so nice to see Nole’s DTH shots working, and how about this one? He’s getting so much better at net, and this on break point. Phew.
I am just rewatching the match. He told it himself: he want to become “a more skilful player”. His volleying is perhaps the second best among the top ten. He is able again to chose between DTL and CC on both sides, and he served often above 125 mph (he peeked at 129 mph, which he didn’t do since… 2008?).
The low rebound helped him, it is true, but I think he would have won anyway on any hard court today.
I think so too. Yes, he served one at 128 in the Wawrinka match.
Now, after rewatching the first set, it struck me that Rafa wasn’t playing bad at all. But he was moved from side to side, Nole’s BH keep staying low and he had to slice defensive BH, with now Novak counters by going to the net. He seldom had time to adjust for his FH, and the only thing where he can regret not to have perform better is the serve.
Nadal served like a leper today imo
mat4, according to the ESPN write up, Nole’s serve at deuce in the final game was 131 mph! An ace. Awesome. 🙂
I made a detour to TX to brag a bit. Feels great.
Rafa didn’t serve like a leper: he just seemed intimidated: 4 DF? Two in one game? I got the impression that the psychological edge had changed side again. At 4-4 in the third set of the USO, Rafa served well, but Novak looked tense, without legs, and he botched and easy smash to give the break and the set in the very next game. This time, things looked the other way around. Novak played well, but this beat down — and it was one — is more a reflection of the mental dynamic between those two.
As expected, @mat4 makes an appearance, to brag as he puts it, when Djokovic wins.
Of course! What did you expect? I also plan to change my nick in “Noleisthebest”. Sounds great, does it?
BTW: I tried hard to be serious, but it isn’t possible with silly rafans, who sometimes don’t really understand humour: when Rafa wins, e.g., or when he loses.
Finally, I wrote mostly about Novak. I mentioned Rafa only in that context, writing that he didn’t play bad (except for the serve), and that it seemed that the mental edge has changed again. What’s the problem with this?
I thought Nole put a lot of pressure on Rafa’s serves didn’t you? He forced him back in the court with his returns, some right at his feet or even into the body.
I think Rafa’s own analysis is right, too, in that Nole served very well himself, and with that “first shot” (Rafa’s words) he was able to then control the court positioning and rally.
By contrast, against Federer, Rafa often takes control because Fed chips back so many returns and Rafa is thus able to come forward, step in, and dictate by taking control of the rally.
It’s also fascinating that Nole does not avoid the intimidating Nadal forehand.
I can’t wait to see what happens in 2014. There should be lots more exciting matches. Murray will be back and maybe we will finally get to see Andy and Rafa play again; it feels like ages since they have played – when, 2011?! I am also excited to see whether or not Delpo has turned a corner; he was the only one in 2013 to have wins over all of the traditionally so-called “big four”. And of course, I am excited to see if my man Pospisl can go higher too! 😉
What are your thoughts on Davis Cup?
Sorry, Jane, I was trolling on TX and didn’t see your post right away.
I think that the Czechs have a slight advantage, since the second Serbian player – Tipsarevic – seems to be hurt. I probably won’t watch that match, although I try so find a stream for Djoko-Berdych.
I just read a part of Novak’s interview in French. He said that he worked hard to improve (but didn’t say what), and that the good work paid off. Here’s the quote:
“Notre rivalité nous rend meilleurs mutuellement. Il a énormément progressé sur dur. Il est devenu un joueur encore plus complet. Après l’US Open, il fallait que je comprenne ce qu’il fallait faire pour le battre de nouveau. Les résultats montrent qu’on a bien travaillé avec mon équipe.”
And another one: “J’ai travaillé plus dur et j’ai mieux joué, je suis devenu un meilleur joueur. Je pense avoir travaillé sur les quelques points qu’il fallait pour enchaîner cette série de victoires.”
About the FH: Novak doesn’t avoid anybody’s FH when he is sure that it will land in his reach: he is excellent at absorbing pace and using it for his own shots. But Rafa has an exceptional IO FH, where just can usually just watch the ball fly by and admire. But in this precise match, Rafa didn’t have enough time to hit the ball cleanly: he needs a big cut, but had to be near the baseline because of the rebound – he just lacked time in most occasions.
Then, as I wrote above (and to give credit where it’s due: Juan Jose remarked it watching Rafa against David in Paris), Novak played most of the time in the empty part of the court, using his BH DTL twice more than usual (there was a stat during the match). He must have realized that Rafa improved his CC BH enough that it wasn’t possible to focus on CC rallies against that BH, so he tried to make Rafa run and open the court in this manner.
He really served good, and it is perhaps an inaccuracy of the speedometer (I don’t know the name), but his first serve looked very, very good.
The match was decided, as always, by a few points (although the stats show a different story): the net cord at 15-30 in the last game of the first set, the tremendous lob for the second break, and a missed CC FH by Rafa for the match point. Rafa is a beast you have to kill, and he needs at least one set to realize he is dead. He is, indeed, dangerous to the last point, as the true champion he is.
Thanks mat4; yeah, I agree with pretty much all that you wrote about DC and about the Nole/Rafa match-up. I am holding out hope, though, that the Serbian team can pull it off. Tipsy has been resting for a while so maybe he’ll be ready.
The key point for Novak is to maintain his motivation and to continue to improve before the AO. He needs to work on his shots DTL, and on the IO FH in general.
We have seen that he can use his lighter racquet to infuse some additional mph in his serve, but he has to improve accuracy, especially on the T. What’s your take?
I like how he’s protecting his second serve this year, and how effective his kicker is, and his placement. But sure, more power would be better.
I love the down-the-line shots, on both sides.
But I think Nole can use short angles well too, as a way to end the point quickly. I love when he hits cross-court sharply angled forehands and backhands – there is no way the opponent can reach them. Federer always did this so well too.
And more coming forward; I am so impressed by his willingness to keep improving even with his level of success.
Have to run out but I’ll keep checking back here. Cheers!
mat4, update on DC. I heard the Tipsy might not be cleared by the doctors to play. 🙁 In which case, who else can play singles? No Troicki, no Tipsy. It would be up to the doubles to pull an upset I guess. Anyhow, we’ll see.
[…] LiveAnalysis: Rafael Nadal vs. Novak Djokovic in the World Tour Finals…Final – by Juan José (changeovertennis.com) […]
I just checked the rankings: Lajovic, Krajinovic are the most evident candidates. Lajovic is ranked 117, Krajinovic 227.
Novak does use short angles, and this is one the foundation stones of his offensive game. But, in my opinion, he doesn’t make enough with his FH IO and DTL. The difficulty he has is that he very often takes the ball on the rise, and I believe he could mix it there more.
But, if he continues to work and improve, whatever his results are, I will be very happy. My wish is to see him become a complete, versatile offensive player, since he won’t be able to move this way and to defend so well for years. He has to become able to win points with one shot.
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