Murray, Djokovic Tangle Today for Miami Title
by Sean Randall | April 5th, 2009, 11:07 am
  • 104 Comments

Can Novak Djokovic keep the roll going today, and beat Andy Murray for the Miami Sony Ericsson Open Maters title? He can, but he won’t. I’m sticking with my pre-tournament pick, Murray, to get the job done, and get it done probably in straight sets.

Yes, Djokovic has somewhat turned the corner. After losing six straight combined to Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Murray, Novak got off that snide Friday with his triumphant win over Federer. Yes, if you will, he took the garbage out that is now Federer. I said it. Novak also vanquished his nemesis Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, a man he had lost his last four to, by comfortably defeating the Frenchman Wednesday and in the quarterfinals routed Tomas Berdych.

But even though his confidence has to be high after some good tennis this week, I don’t think right now his “A” game is better than Murray’s. It’s just not. The Scot just has too much variety, too many weapons and too much speed that if he’s playing near his best level he’ll get by Novak. Djokovic does hold the head-to-head edge here 4-2 including a 6-1, 6-0 drubbing at 2007 Miami, but Murray has won the last two and at the moment Andy’s arguably the best hardcourt player in the game.

Murray, though, is known to have mental lapses and does have trouble finishing matches, then again so does Djokovic in some ways, so that will be something to keep an eye on.

For Murray, a win here is a huge leap toward moving closer to Nadal in the rankings. He’s still far out, but I really think that he’ll be ranked No. 2 by the end of Wimbledon if not sooner. And I think the next player to rank No. 1 after Nadal will be Murray, and that may very well happen in the next 12 months if Nadal doesn’t hone his game.

Win or lose today, Djokovic has to look at Miami as a positive with the players he has beaten this week, especially in the last two rounds. And with Federer decaying, there’s no reason the Serb cannot finish Top 3 at year-end.

And if Rafa’s No. 1, Murray No. 2 and Djokovic No. 3, where’s Federer in the rankings? Well, unfortunately for the Swiss, things don’t look very promising. Unless he can pick up a venerable coach or he can take inspiration from his newborn this summer, he’s going to find it difficult to stay in the Top 5. That’s right, Top 5 because Juan Martin Del Potro, Tsonga and even Andy Roddick are on their game.

But tennis is a funny sport. Just two months ago Federer looked incredibly sharp and in rhythm on his way to the Australian Open final, yet now after watching him crumble to Djokovic this Fed looks like a completely different player. And the only real change in his game between now and Australia is his confidence.

So maybe as he said he can turn the page and start a new chapter on clay, and somehow regain that winning form on dirt of all surfaces (thank God for clay, Federer now says!). Maybe a coach would get his mind straight or some other outside influence can shock him out of this funk. There are a lot of variables that’s for sure, but as usual time will tell.

A quick word on the women’s tour which once again played second fiddle to the men this week. In a surprise, Victoria Azarenka stunned Serena Williams for the women’s title yesterday 6-3, 6-1. Injury or no injury to Serena, it’s the biggest win of Azarenka’s impressive young career, and for me, it shows just how wide open the WTA really is right now. Anyone want to wager who’ll win the French Open? Forget it!


Also Check Out:
Sharapova v. Azarenka in Saturday Screamfest Battle for Miami Title
Djokovic, Murray, Soderling Open Play Friday in Miami; Sharapova, Wozniacki Winners
Tennis-X Funk/Trunk: Murray Funky, Federer Not
Andy Murray Hopes Lebron James Stays In Miami!
Miami Title Moves Djokovic Past Federer For Lead In 2012 Rankings; French Open Top Seed Still TBD

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104 Comments for Murray, Djokovic Tangle Today for Miami Title

Michael Says:

Sean,

In several hours you will be able to realise the shallowness of your “knowledge” you are spraying over the Internet.


Alfer Tennysson Says:

Venomous tongue! Volubility with a touch of nationalism. Elements that consort ill with journalism.


gordon Says:

Excellent points Alfer. He has never been able to show his tennis knowledge which is lacking, but he is extremely abusive to players, especially to some national sportsmen.


Debra Gardner Says:

Decaying? For someone who has given a lot of enjoyment to many? Perhaps it’s not what it was, but to say that it’s “decaying” is a bit tacky.


zola Says:

Sean,
***But tennis is a funny sport. Just two months ago Federer looked incredibly sharp and in rhythm on his way to the Australian Open final, yet now after watching him crumble to Djokovic this Fed looks like a completely different player. And the only real change in his game between now and Australia is his confidence. ***

Exactly. I don’t think we can judge any player, let alone the very top players by one or two matches. What was the talk about Djoko just a few matches ago? what was the talk about Rafa last year this time when he lost to Davydenko.

Pwehaps the media is over-analyzing both the wins and the losses and in both cases does not make the life easier for the players.

For Federer, I think maybe the lesson from this hard court season will be to be careful with his comments about other players.


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Hopefully Djokovic will not have his breathing problems disrupt the match whether real or the many times he faked and quit vs. Andy Roddick(Vons guy) back in the heat of Australia. Plus the other times we all remember, Murray with a break 1-0!!!!!! Go get em’ Murray! WIN IT ALL!!


RG Says:

Andy Murray is really on fire. That backhand passing shot from back in the corner was a beauty to make it 5-1 in his favor.


RG Says:

Novak needs to settle down. I can’t believe how quick Murray is. He is running down everything that Noavk is throwing at him.


RG Says:

Novak is one set down. But, he did play well the last two games of the first set. He badly needs his confidence back.


jane Says:

Murray is so good right now, and so confident, as he should be. He’s playing excellent tennis!

Novak should go back to the drawing board on his net play; he’s made some bad errors up there today; he should re-hire a volleying coach.

Murray is great at forcing errors too. But it’s also clear Novak is nervous and not finding any kind of rhythm in his ground strokes or on serve. He’s hitting more errors than winners, not good.

Too bad this isn’t a tighter match, but it’s my pleasure to watch these two guys.

Sean, I could see your prediction re: the shuffling of the rankings coming true. If Federer isn’t playing much on clay, he could drop down; Djokovic’s has lots to defend on clay; Murray nothing. Obviously Rafa has loads to defend from now to the end of the year.

Murray will have more to defend from post-Wimbledon to until the end of the year. Definitely he has a lot of room to move up!


jane Says:

And Murray is SO FAST – yowsa!


RG Says:

Murray is playing just unbelievable tennis. He is almost Federer-like when Fed was at his peak.


RG Says:

Oh man! Novak is calling the trainer.


RG Says:

Hi Jane! It is great watching these two play! But, I hope Novak starts to play better.


jane Says:

Oh Novak – why do you call the trainer so much? Sigh. Just figure it out and move on. Get some heat conditioning; move to Florida, do heat yoga; something! I love you but come on!


jane Says:

Hey RG – long time to chat! ;-)

Yeah, Novak is not on form. Errors after errors. Meanwhile, Murray is on fire. We’ll see if Novak can find something and dig deep. What he MUST NOT DO is retire. Stand there and lose with a bagel. But don’t retire please Nole.


zola Says:

seems the match is warming up in the second set. both broke each other’s serves.

what was the trainer out for? Is it heat exhaustion?


jane Says:

RG,

Yes, I am beginning to think Murray will be the next number 1; I think he can and will challenge Rafa, like Federer used to be able to do.

At least Novak is serving better; he needs some easy points at this stage of the match.


jane Says:

zola – Novak just calls the trainer too much; who knows? He definitely doesn’t deal well with heat, but he’s got to get over it. I am a dedicated fan of his game, but I am tiring of this. I want him to take whatever steps he needs to in order to do so.

I think he has a good relationship with his coach, but sometimes I wonder if his coach coddles him a little bit? He needs someone to say “look, enough already!” ;-)


RG Says:

Novak has the skills. But he lacks sorely in both the areas of mental and physical conditioning. He is far too negative on court. He is almost too ready to give up, when things are not going his way. He defintely needs to improve in that area.


jane Says:

RG,

Precisely! Well said.


margot Says:

Hi jane: was really looking forward to this match! Now looks as if Novak is making a match of it! Catch up with you later!


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Big points here for Murray, two break points!!!!!!


zola Says:

seema Djoko is making a come back. Come on Andy!


zola Says:

second break for Djoko. 3-1.


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Djokovic breaks to 3-1 in the second!!!!!!!!!


RG Says:

Wow! Novak up a break!


RG Says:

What a pass by Murray for the 2nd time this game! Wow!


zola Says:

jane,
strangely I was thinking the other way. with all the talks about him retiring too frequtly why would he call the trainer if he is not really suffering?
but who knows, maybe it is in his mind and he needs to finish one match in those conditions to prove to himself that it is possible. and right now it seems that is exactly what he is doing.

Now it is Murray that has lost concentration and is falling behind. Come on Andy!


zola Says:

Koneig says “Murray is going through one of these passive patches”. Yep, he has to wake up. No room for negativity here!


RG Says:

Was I just imagining this? I thought Andy seemed a lil irritated when he requested for an umbrella and ice towel, when Novak requested for a trainer.


zola Says:

Djoko is reading Murray’s serve too well. Murray needs to serve better.


zola Says:

RG
Andy gets irritated too quickly. he has to get over things and concentrate on his match. He is getting better at this but not a 100%.


zola Says:

To me this is the huge difference between Rafa/federer and the rest of the field. They usually do not let distractions and negative points get into their mind as easily as other players do.

Well, Murray holds. Thanks GOD!


RG Says:

That was indeed a good hold by Murray! I hope this goes to a tough 3rd set.


jane Says:

Nice to see Novak playing loser, although now Murray has tightened up somewhat and is making a few more errors. In some ways this is a pattern for Murray; he begins hot, kind of loses concentration, and then gets himself back on track – same thing happened in the JMDP match.


jane Says:

Novak is getting tight here; if he doesn’t focus and serve out this second set, Murray will finish it right here. We’ll see.


RG Says:

This 9th game is really crucial. If Novak does not hold here, I think Andy wins it in straight.


Ra Says:

C’mon, Novak!


RG Says:

Wow Jane – Great minds think alike or what?


jane Says:

RG – Yes, same wavelength indeed. Double fault number #5; Novak must have a hole in his pocket; no aces in there today.


steve Says:

“Garbage”? “Decaying”?

Good to know the bloggers who run this site are such classy fellows. Always so polite and civil, and with such brilliant insights too! Where do you come up with them?


jane Says:

Well, Murray broke – although Novak helped him with the double. I suspect this is his match to win now.


Ra Says:

I want a video replay! That ball looked in to me.


RG Says:

it will be interesting to see – how Novak responds to this.


RG Says:

That was an extremely poorly played game by Novak!


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Novak can show his heart and courage to pull this out in a tiebreaker.


jane Says:

Well, this match is over. And the better man won. Congrats my friend margot!! Smile I really think Murray is awesome; his game is full of variety and he’s hungry. He will win either Wimbledon or the USO this year.

RG, Duro, sar, Danica, all Djokovic fans, this is a good result for him to get his confidence and desire back. Had this gone to a third set, who knows! ?

I hope Novak learns and takes some positivs from this – a) when you’ve got a lead in a set, dude, serve it out! b) work on those volleys, big time!

Well, to the clay then.


doobee doug da dinker Says:

For all you Andy Murray doubters you can kiss his bum after he just won Miami in front of the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!

#1 in the world Andy Murray!!!!


zola Says:

Congratulations Andy Murray and fans. Great comeback.
Sorry Jane and all Djoko fans. But great effort from Djokovic. Good for him for making it a match in the second set. I think it will do good for his confidence.

Jane, seems to me Djoko has abandoned the hud at the net, but he always makes an effort to be very friendly at the net.


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Hey Jane,

We shall head to the clay which is the surface Federer loves the most by the sound of his press conference Friday. What a sad display by Roger who embarassed himself, Mirka, and the ATP tour.


RG Says:

Jane – As much as I would like to agree with you that this was a good result for Novak, I did not really like his wins over Tsonga and Federer. I watched both of his matches.

Against Tsonga – he did look good in the 1st set. But, in the 2nd, it was a different story. Tsonga always plays aggressive and made a lot of errors.

In the match Vs Federer, Fed helped Novak’s cause by making way too many errors.

But – I am really impressed with Andy’s game. It seems like he has all the shots and more… He looks so fit and runs down every ball. I really believe he will end the year as #2 in the world.

looking forward to the clay season!


jane Says:

zola, yes, no more hugs but genuine respect. He likes Murray and before Murray was even in the top ten, Novak told the press he would be top five in no time; he’s always talked up Murray’s talent. I wish they would’ve show the trophy ceremony; maybe I’ll check atdhe.net and see if it’s on there. And not real need for sorrys; although I’d've liked to see Nole win, I like Murray tons, so really was just soaking in the tennis.

I know you’re a Rafa fan, but don’t you think Murray has a very good shot at challenging Rafa soon? I think he does. He has as much if not more variety, now he’s got the fitness, he’s extremely intelligent on the court. Maybe the only thing is the concentration lapses, which Rafa doesn’t have. But boy, things are going to get interesting with Murray playing like this!

He can definitely be the next numero uno!


RG Says:

zola – he seems to have dropped the hug. But I still think he is way too friendly and pleasant after losing the match!


RG Says:

I am sure – CBS is happy that this did not go to a 3rd set. I am not sure what they would have done in that case.


margot Says:

Thanks jane : I’m really glad Novak made a match of it in the end but really really happy Andy was able to give himself a sharp talking to managed to up his game in the second set. It’s gonna be a gr8 year! Have a good week guys, BFN.


jane Says:

doobee (I am shortening your handle) – well I think Federer may be grasping at straws there, but it does remain to be seen, who, besides Rafa of course, will challenge for titles on the clay this year. There is just SO much depth in the men’s tour right now; it’s awesome!


Leftykick Says:

A Masters hattrick for Murray!

Same number of titles as the great Tim Henman, at 21.
Try not to go walkabout in the second set though – my nerves cannot handle it.

One more tournament for number 3 in the world…


Sean Randall Says:

That match went pretty much according to form. Murray dominated early, then lapsed, then dominated late to close it out.

Once Murray cuts out those “periods of passivity” as Carillo called them, sky’s the limit.

For Novak, at least he didn’t retire – I really thought he was going to! And after not retiring after that 33 minute first set, he stuck around and look at that, good things started to happen and he actually had chances for a third set. Even though he didn’t win the match maybe he learned that he won’t die or jeopardize his career by completing matches when he’s struggling physically.

That said, he should seriously think about either training more or start training in a warmer climate. Dubai?


jane Says:

RG – I guess I mean reaching the finals is a good result; sometimes a player gets some luck (i.e., Fed’s errors) or has to grind out a win. I don’t think he should be chastised for that; Novak had a tough draw here, but quietly made his way through it. No one expected him to make it past Roger and many thought he couldn’t beat Tsonga, and regardless of how those wins transpired, they did happen. So he should move forward, take the good with the bad, and so forth.

I guess he may be too content with a loss, seemingly, if we judge by his reaction at the net. But I do think that he just genuinely likes and respects Murray. His meetings at the nets at all other matches at this event were simple handshakes. But this is the final, against an old friend. You could cut Novak a little slack for congratulating him. ;-) I am sure the loss will sink in soon enough.


RG Says:

IMHO – One more interesting thing about Novak. I think he likes to be the “hunter”, rather than the “hunted”. I think he plays much better, when he is the underdog. But when he is the top dog, or has to defend his title, he is not able to handle this pressure – at least not very well at this point in time.

Even Sampras (I’m a huge Sampras fan), mentioned, that he won the US Open too early. He was not equipped/ready to handle the the pressure/role of a champion till a couple of years later in his career.

I would like to see – how Andy Murray would handle this – assuming he climbs up the rankings to #3 and #2 in the world.


zola Says:

Jane
I wrote before that to me Murray is no 2 right now. Look at his results and I agree that he can be Rafa’s and all the other guys’ main challenge. I think the IW final was the only sort of easy match Rafa had against him ( maybe apart from the wimbledon match).

It is up to Rafa. If he stops improving, he will be in trouble. But if he looks forward to the challenge and try to improve, it will be interesting. That’s what he has always said. That to stay in the top, he needs to improve every day. He knows he can be defeated in any match.

RG, true. Djoko tries to be more friendly after a loss. That’s what I felt is the difference between his attitude and Fed’s yesterday. He knows he can come back and challenge Murray. fed’s reaction was one of frustration and perhaps disappointment and less hope for the future and it made me sad. I really want him to stay around for more years and challenge all these top players.


jane Says:

RG, One more thing since you’re touting Murray’s win but not liking Novak’s result. Keep in mind that Murray struggled in a few matches early on at this event, whereas Novak really didn’t. Also note that Verdasco was no competition for Murray whatsoever, as he was injured, so Murray could’ve sleep-walked through that match. All players have some easy matches because one guy’s injured or off form for whatever reason; similarly, all players, like Murray in the first couple rounds here, have to grind out some wins. Novak had a very very good tournament; he has stuff to work on – confidence, mental focus, and stamina – but he is still exceptionally skilled and one of the best players in the world. It’ll come! =D


RG Says:

Jane – In Tsonga’s match I wrongly emphasised Tsonga’s errors. What I really meant was Novak’s condition in the 2nd set. He looked pretty exhausted – called in a trainer – played barely decent in patches to make it thru. That was what I meant by it not being a convincing win.

I still do not see a lot of self belief. I want to see the “Novak” that won the Australian Open. Regardless of whether Federer was slowed by mono or not, he earned that victory. Same against Tsonga. That is what – was lacking in the victories this week, where he was huffing and puffing at the begining of the 2nd set.


jane Says:

zola says “it’s up to Rafa” – hmmm… not sure I agree it’s this one- sided. Sometimes a player is just outmatched. I don’t know if we can take much from IW since the wind threw Murray completely off his game, nor will we see much on clay, but come grass, and particularly the last hard court swing, I think Murray will have the edge over Rafa. It’s hard to say, of course, but it’s fun to speculate.


jane Says:

RG – I hear ya: I want that “Novak” of yore back too. But it’ll come when he improves his conditioning like Murray has done. When he gains confidence in his body’s abilities, the mental confidence will follow. Witness Roddick’s increased fitness, better movement and ensuing confidence. Von has said in the past that part of Rafa’s confidence comes from his knowledge that, like the energizer bunny, he can pretty much outlast anyone. Obviously, he needs the skills, but physical conditioning will definitely help in the self-belief department. It’s a series of interconnected things. All these guys are very skilled (but Novak needs better touch at net), but who is stronger both mentally and physically is turning out to be the deciding factor.


RG Says:

jane – I have no problems Novak struggling a few early rounds or even late in the championship once in a while.

But, what bothers me is his record vs the top tier players – Rafa, Federer, Murray and Tsonga… and even Roddick.

The reason I would not pay a lot of attention to Murary’s struggles in the early rounds is – bcoz he has consistently been in the Finals since the 2nd half of last year. He has been great against all the top tier players.

Even Federer, would struggle a bit in the early rounds but would always play great in the later rounds when it counted. Federer – even when he has been struggling – has consistently made it to semi-finals and finals.

The point I was trying to make was – he is still not ready to don the role of the “hunted”.


jane Says:

RG – Yes, point take, and agreed. He is not confident in that “hunted” role; you’re right. Some of that, imo, may stem from his lack of belief in his physical endurance. But maybe not. Maybe it’s just mental maturity.

It will be interesting to see, as Murray transcends up the rankings, how lightly (or not) he’ll take that role.


jane Says:

take s/b “taken”


jane Says:

Sean – you’re getting alarmingly better at your predictions, ironically at a time when the tour is becoming much less predictable. Maybe you should start slapping down some cold, hard cash and reap the benefits?


Duro Says:

Congrats to Andy Murray and his fans. Jane, he couldn’t serve it out! In that physical condition he needed 2 breaks at least to win the set. I knew it when he missed to take 5-1 lead that it’s very hard to win both of his service game left. But, had it gone to a third set, I think he would lose anyway today. Please organizers, organize final matches in a descent time, 6 pm, 7 pm, don’t torture everyone! His burning sun nemesis again… About net play, you have to be perfectly fit. He improved that element significantly and I think he’ll continue in that direction. So, all in all, considering circumstances, I think this is a positive outcome after all. So long for a long long time from me. It affects me too much to participate anymore.


zola Says:

Jane,
I don’t get what you say. If Murray is challenging Rafa , then it is up to Rafa to stand up to that challenge. If he needs to improve on something, he should. Sure. the best way to see is to wait and see. They played once in wimbledon last year and both have improved since then. But it is a long time and I have learned not to speculate. Just go match to match and tournament to tournament. This is tennis and there are many factors. All I want for Rafa is to stay healthy . I know he will do the best he can and that is good enough for me.


jane Says:

Hey Duro – my friend, keep smiling: “all shall be well”. I’ll miss you until you come back to say hi; take care of that little baby!
————————————————-
zola – what I am saying is this: sometimes a player literally can’t overcome a particular challenge, or player, or only very rarely because he is a bad match up for the other guy. Everyone has limits, and some players have limits on some surfaces more than others and/or against some players more than others. Even Rafa, although seemingly not at the moment! I am saying only that Murray might be the guy who rises up and thwarts Rafa’s continued success, in particular on faster courts. But as you say, we’ll see only in the future. I hope Rafa stays healthy too. There are so many talented players right now and we have much to look forward to on clay this year. See you.


zola Says:

Jane,
what is in Murray’s game that you think might be an eternal challenge for Rafa? I am just curious.


zola Says:

RG
I would say Djoko will have a better year than 2008. Some Djoko fans may not agree with me, but most of his struggle is mental. because of all the contraversies he created in 2007 and 2008 and faced lots of criticism. There there were rumors about his parents and he was just 20-21.

Seems to me he has matured this year. His statements are more measured. His parents do not talk as much ( thank God) …and even though it was a turbulant year, he is still No 3 for the third year…Now things have settled down and I think he will go back to business.


Dani Says:

I like Murray, but the second set proved what his chances are when Novak steps up his game. Djokovic is still a superior player no doubt.

Also, if RG and even Jane are noticing that Nole won against Tsonga and Fed simply because of the errors by these two, than, one could notice that today Novak was making unforced ones, therefore Murray won because of the same reason, no?


jane Says:

Dani,

Please see earlier threads here; I have actually defended Nole’s wins, particularly the one against Fed, as I didn’t see all of the Tsonga match. I do agree that Novak has the skills the beat the best, but it’s the endurance that I think he needs to work on, as well as the mental ups and downs. When he plays “loose and free” he is awesome, and I believe that’s what RG meant by he’s perhaps not yet comfortable in the “hunted” role. It’ll come for Nole! I do think that. I love his game – and those blue shoes. ;-)

————————————————

zola,

I think it’s Murray’s defensive style that could muck with Rafa’s rhythm; Federer has usually been an aggressor, and Rafa has responded, but what if Murray counter punches too? I think Murray has as much if not more variety as Rafa, he’s now almost as fit, he’s as fast, and he may be even smarter and a better anticipator, though this remains to be seen throughout the course of this year. Where I think Rafa still trumps him and pretty much everyone else is Rafa’s ability to stay on a pretty even keel, to roll with the punches.

We saw today even that Murray can lose concentration when he’s up and then get frustrated with himself. But even in this he’s improved leaps and bounds.

I also don’t think Murray’s game looks quite as grinding as Rafa’s; Murray seems lighter on his feet. BUT – and this is a big one – these are 3-set events, so it is still not clear how well all of Murray’s talents will translate to slams; he can’t afford to go on those mid-match walkabouts, or he’ll get beaten. The AO wasn’t a proper gage, and even the French may not be as we don’t yet know what he’s capable of on clay; however, I believe we’ll know more after Wimbledon.

So in sum: Murray’s style of play/ variety; his court intelligence; and his seemingly relaxed, yet shockingly fast, movement suggest to me he can definitely challenge Rafa. However, I am waiting, like you, to see.


jane Says:

zola, I should add that I think once Murray gets a good read on Rafa’s serve, he’ll been in all or most of his service games; Andy’s a great returner.


Sport Review » Blog Archive » Murray, Djokovic Tangle Today for Miami Title Says:

[...] Original post: Murray, Djokovic Tangle Today for Miami Title [...]


Giner Says:

Sean,

“And if Rafa’s No. 1, Murray No. 2 and Djokovic No. 3, where’s Federer in the rankings? Well, unfortunately for the Swiss, things don’t look very promising. Unless he can pick up a venerable coach or he can take inspiration from his newborn this summer, he’s going to find it difficult to stay in the Top 5. That’s right, Top 5 because Juan Martin Del Potro, Tsonga and even Andy Roddick are on their game.”

How many of these guys managed to make 4 GS finals in a row? With those kind of points, he is safe from DP, Tsonga, and Roddick. The worst that can happen to him is a drop to #4, but I think he stays either #2 or #3. What Murray can do on clay remains to be seen. Fed at least makes the finals. A good quarter of the season (3 Masters and 1 Slam) are played on clay, so unless he can master that, that’s some points he won’t be picking up. I think Fed will beat him on clay.

As poor a year and a bit that Federer had since 2008, he’s made a GS semi, 3 GS runner ups, and 1 GS slam. For a guy on decline, that’s still better than what Murray, Djoko, Roddick, Del Po, or Tsonga can manage to do in this short a period of time. We’ll see if he can still make the FO finals, but until then I’d say he’s safe from these guys. The US Open is still some time away, so his points there won’t be coming off any time soon. It’s hard to see him not making another Wimbledon final either, so that’s again a big chunk of points that are safe from assault.

My prediction for year end top 4:

1. Nadal with 2 or 3 slams
2. Federer with 1 or 2 slams
3. Murray possibly with 1 slam
4. Djokovic with no slams

Murray may rise to #2 with the help of winning lots of Masters titles after Wimbledon and the TMC.

Roddick, Del Potro, and Tsonga are going to have to do a lot just to beat Federer’s ‘poor’ season of 2008 and early 09, where he still made the finals of major events. Even Djokovic has a long way to go. Making the final of a Masters 1000 is good but it’s still less than making an AO final, and I can’t see him leaping over Feds.

“And I think the next player to rank No. 1 after Nadal will be Murray, and that may very well happen in the next 12 months if Nadal doesn’t hone his game.”

I don’t believe Nadal can lose his #1 ranking this year. He should own the clay again and go deep in Wimbledon, and if he does that, someone else will have to at least match his first half season in order to surpass him. If someone else wins 2 slams and a bunch of masters 1000s, they would only tie him. He would need to fade badly in the second half. I’d say he is safe at the top. What will most likely happen is that the second half spoils will be split evenly among the others, not giving any single player enough points to challenge for #1. When he’s not winning titles, Nadal will still be making semi finals and finals.

“A quick word on the women’s tour which once again played second fiddle to the men this week. In a surprise, Victoria Azarenka stunned Serena Williams for the women’s title yesterday 6-3, 6-1. Injury or no injury to Serena, it’s the biggest win of Azarenka’s impressive young career, and for me, it shows just how wide open the WTA really is right now. Anyone want to wager who’ll win the French Open? Forget it!”

This is no surprise to me. She is good, and I noticed this as early as Sydney this year. She might even have beat Serena at Melbourne if not for her ailment. She’s a promising player, and I actually expected her to win IW with all those early upsets. You’re still right that the WTA is not on the same level of excitement though.


zola Says:

Jane,
I think the only yhring that can hinder Rafa could be his health. About his serve, you know that he changes his serve every couple of months. For any player, it is a great advantage if they can read the other player’s serve and that can happen to Murray or Rafa.

Murray is very fast and and he studies the player very well to have better anticipation. Then again, it is up to Rafa to come with strategies to mix things up so that he can still win. I think Rafa should welcome the challenge. After he won AO he said in an interview that he felt an emptiness and lack of purpose, because he beat Federer. Now maybe Murray’s rise can give him some purpose.


jane Says:

Giner, you’re totally overlooking the fact that mid-summer Roger’s baby will be arriving; that’s going to throw a wrench into things, let me tell you. Something tells me you have no children. Well, it’s going to affect Roger’s season in some way. Plus, you are simply assuming he’s going to hold onto all his clay points, but imo, the way he’s faltering lately, if people can get him to deciding sets, they’ve got a shot at knocking him out early, including at Roland Garros. Wimbledon he may still win depending on when the baby arrives. Don’t assume He’ll win Halle again; Tsonga and Djokovic at the least are going there instead of Queens this year. Anyhow, we’ll soon find out. But I think it’ll be more like Sean predicts (never thought I’d say that!).

zola,

Wow he said this? “After he won AO he said in an interview that he felt an emptiness and lack of purpose, because he beat Federer.” Weird. But I guess that can happen when you achieve all of the goals set out for you. Surely he hasn’t done that though has he?


RG Says:

zola said:
“I would say Djoko will have a better year than 2008. Some Djoko fans may not agree with me, but most of his struggle is mental.”

Zola – I do agree that the outburst at the “US Open” has definitely affected Djokovic a great deal and he’s been on a slump since…

While this explains his ongoing mental struggles -this still does not explain his physical conditioning. His retirement at the AO was not easy to explain. Exhibiting fatigue at the start of the 4th set is probably a little understandable, but in the 2nd set itself…Even this – I can attribute a little to scheduling.
But, his conditioning in the just concluded best-of-3 sets masters event was alarming. I wonder, how he’s gonna cope up with the top players in a best of 5 event.

Dani – I am a big Djokovic fan. But, at this moment, based on current form, I do not believe Novak is a superior player compared to Andy Murray.

Can he eventually become a better player? Absolutely! Or at least I sincerely hope! But as I mentioned before, he must improve his mental and physical conditioning. I agree with Zola and others that he has displayed better mental maturity going forward. But, the mental area where he still lacks in is – “toughness”. Both Roger and Rafa have displayed this time and again. To come back from behind and to dig deep when things are not going one’s way. Novak needs to develop this.

As Jane and others have pointed out, he also needs to condition/train himself to play long matches in the heat. Otherwise, he is always going to face problems in the best-of-5 Grand Slams.

Fortunately, he is still young and I definitely hope he overcomes all this to become a better and stronger player.


zola Says:

Jane
I hope not. I hope he aims for US Open and a Grand slam and a few more majors.

The quote is from an intervew with a French magazine( . here is a link:
in French:
http://www.lexpress.fr/styles/vip/rafael-nadal-si-vous-etiez_751133.html

in English:
http://tinyurl.com/dfw5lb


Giner Says:

jane Says:

“hmmm… not sure I agree it’s this one- sided. Sometimes a player is just outmatched. I don’t know if we can take much from IW since the wind threw Murray completely off his game, nor will we see much on clay, but come grass, and particularly the last hard court swing, I think Murray will have the edge over Rafa. It’s hard to say, of course, but it’s fun to speculate.”

How can you be certain that wind won’t play a factor again later for Murray? This is an outdoor sport. If he can’t master the wind, it’s his problem and something he’ll have to work on, otherwise he will capitulate more matches. You can’t just assume that wind never happens.

I see this as a very big problem for Murray. If a guy who’s game is so big that he’d be favoured to beat Nadal can be so completely disarmed by wind (going from 100% effectiveness to only 20% of his usual level), then he’s in trouble if elements don’t favour him. You would not normally expect one factor to cause that dramatic a drop in a player’s level. To go from winning a match to winning only 3 games? Will other elements disarm him that badly too?

He also shows how easy it is for him to lose concentration and focus. A plastic bag floating behind the umpire’s chair affected his state of mind for most of the first set, and he didn’t let it go even on the next change of ends 2 games after the last.

As for grass.. after that Wimbledon rout last year, I really don’t think he will have the edge over Rafa. He also faces a lot of pressure playing in Britain. We’ll see how he handles it.

“I still do not see a lot of self belief. I want to see the “Novak” that won the Australian Open. Regardless of whether Federer was slowed by mono or not, he earned that victory.”

What you seem to be implying is that when Novak’s opponent has bad luck, it’s still an earned victory, but if Nadal’s opponent has bad luck (wind), you can’t take much from it. I agree Djokovic earned the victory, but why the double standards?

“I also don’t think Murray’s game looks quite as grinding as Rafa’s; Murray seems lighter on his feet. BUT – and this is a big one – these are 3-set events, so it is still not clear how well all of Murray’s talents will translate to slams; he can’t afford to go on those mid-match walkabouts, or he’ll get beaten. The AO wasn’t a proper gage”

The AO was a proper gauge. I don’t know what about it made it not. He found himself in a 5th set against Verdasco, so physically it was no problem. Heat was not a problem for either player, and he made no excuses for losing (he said he had flu but it didn’t affect him enough to lose). It was anyone’s match and he was the first to get broken in the 5th.

“and even the French may not be as we don’t yet know what he’s capable of on clay; however, I believe we’ll know more after Wimbledon.”

The French is a proper gauge. What he’s capable on clay is of no relevance. In order to challenge Rafa he has to do it on every surface. Clay is an officially sanctioned surface and points from it will count whether he is good on it or not. Just because it’s slow unlike grass and hard courts doesn’t mean that it’s irrelevant. If something is only a proper ‘gauge’ when the conditions suit Murray and allow him to play his best and don’t count when they aren’t to his favour, then the gauge is pretty meaningless.

Any match where he steps out onto the court counts officially except with exhibitions. End of story.

“what I am saying is this: sometimes a player literally can’t overcome a particular challenge, or player, or only very rarely because he is a bad match up for the other guy. Everyone has limits, and some players have limits on some surfaces more than others and/or against some players more than others.”

Should this result not count because it’s an achilles heel?

“So in sum: Murray’s style of play/ variety; his court intelligence; and his seemingly relaxed, yet shockingly fast, movement suggest to me he can definitely challenge Rafa. However, I am waiting, like you, to see.”

He already is challenging Rafa, and has been since Wimbledon. Unless you’re referring to the #1 status. In this case, I think it’s premature to write off Federer. Federer’s consistency in grand slams has not been matched yet, so in order to get to Rafa, he still has to knock Federer off #2. I expect Fed to continue winning enough points in majors to stay #2.

Don’t forget we’re still talking about a guy who has no slams to his name yet (and only one final). #1 is a premature discussion, is what I’m saying.

Fed and Nadal have a combined 19 slams and continue to make finals, so I see them remaining in the top 2 spots. Murray will continue to beat them in individual matches but unlikely in world rankings.

The clay season is longer than grass and makes up a good quarter of the calendar, so I would say every result on clay matters even if we don’t know what Murray is capable of on it. If he’s not picking up a lot of points there, it will be hard for him to challenge. He’ll need to dominate on other surfaces to make up for it and that probably isn’t going to happen yet.


zola Says:

RG,
Remember that he retired against Roddick in AO and against Federer in MC after Fed shouted at his parents. I think he is quite an emotional person and maybe it affects him physically. In IW he was playing Roddick and I think he was still in his mind.

If I was a Djoko fan I would have been happy for today, because to me he was considering retiring, but he decided against it and he even came back stronger. He finished the match and gave a great fight. That is a step in the right direction. And sure, if he trains in the heat and gets fitter he will be more confident. But today to me was a turning point in that he decided to break the old pattern. But of course I might be wrong. The year is still young.


Sean Randall Says:

Giner,

Unless Federer gets a “spark” of some kind, I don’t see him duplicating his previous clay campaigns and I don’t see him reaching the French Open finals.

A month from now maybe things change and he’s in form, but right now I don’t quite see it.

I think Roger will be find at Wimbledon, but as Jane points out the real X Factor will be Federer’s baby this summer. A real scenario – and this going out on a limb here – Roger has a poor French Open and Wimbledon, then takes the summer hardcourt season off, skips the US Open to be with his newborn and returns in Basel.

That’s extreme, yes, and I’m not saying it will happen but a possibility if things play out.

Regarding Murray, true clay is not his best performance but I think he will far and away exceed his 2008 clay results this year. I could envision him reaching the last four at Roland Garros and right now I’d pick him to do it.

My early thoughts on Nadal is this clay season is going to be real, real rocky.

That all said, I like Nadal to win the French, right now Federer at Wimbledon, then Murray again cleans up at all the big events after that including the US Open and the year-end Championships which I believe will be in London (how nice for him!).

Today’s temperature in Miami according to CBS was 81F at the start and around 87F I believe early in the second set with a 91F heat index.


Sean Randall Says:

Regarding fitness, I’ll say it again, he needs to dump the family, dump the coach. Hire a new coach and hire a real fitness guy.(He’s with adidas so he should seek the aid of Cahill and Gil Reyes perhaps in the interim, much like Verdasco did.)

If he keeps in his current physical state he’s not going to beat Murray, Nadal, DelPo even Tsonga with enough consistency to become No. 1.

Then again, if he’s content being No. 3/No. 4, then he should maintain status quo. He needs to decide where he wants to go.


Von Says:

Sean Randall:

“That’s right, Top 5 because Juan Martin Del Potro, Tsonga and even Andy Roddick are on their game.”

Gosh Sean, you seem to throw Andy Roddick into the mix there as though he’s some kind of reject or an after thought. whether you want to admit it or not, Roddick is a consistent, solid player.

Question (which you probably won’t answer): When Roddick lost at Wimby, even though you refused to accept it, that he was suffering very badly with his shoulder and back all though to the USO, been off the tour for over 6 weeks, and was struggling to find some form and/or semblance to his game, you mentioned he was just “stinking things up”, how is it you’re not saying that with respect to Federer? At least Andy tried and didn’t have the melt-downs we’re seeing with Federer, coupled with the fact that he had a “legitimate” injury, which in Federer’s case is questionable, one day he’s fine, and when he loses, the back’s not fine. He couldn’t play DC but was practising several hours per day in Dubai, with the ‘bad back’. I’m confused about the back, and I suppose from the way Fed talks he’s confused about the back also.
_______________
RG: Hi how are you. Nice to see you posting again.


Sean Randall Says:

Von, I try to answer ALL the questions thrown my way.

Yes, I remember Andy “stinking it up” at Wimbledon and I still maintain that he did in fact stink it up against Janko.

Regarding Roger I said he was “decaying” which someone above already took offense to. I would argue that decaying is on par if not worse than stinking. But we are nitpicking.

On DC, I never bought Roger’s back injury. Roger just didn’t want to play.


zola Says:

Sean,
Who is this “Staff”? Seems you and him/her have a go at the posts. There is either none, or two of a kind! then the posters get confused where to post!

Yes, Andy Murray might have a better clay season. But again, one never knows. and I hope a great season for Rafa too. But he again is scheduled to play each and every clay tournament in the universe in singles and doubles as if he is on a suicide mission! I hope he and his team sit down and prioratize some. He needs to keep something in the tank for Wimbledon and US Open and RG is never a given even for Rafa.


jane Says:

Giner says “He also shows how easy it is for him to lose concentration and focus. A plastic bag floating behind the umpire’s chair affected his state of mind for most of the first set, and he didn’t let it go even on the next change of ends 2 games after the last.”

Well, if you read all my posts, and my posts during that match, you’d see that I agree with this. And I also made it quite clear Rafa trumps everyone in focus.

Giner says: “What you seem to be implying is that when Novak’s opponent has bad luck, it’s still an earned victory, but if Nadal’s opponent has bad luck (wind), you can’t take much from it. I agree Djokovic earned the victory, but why the double standards?”

I assume you’re referring to RG, since I didn’t comment on Novak’s win against Roger at the AO.

I don’t think anyone said, however, that Murray can’t learn to play better in the wind, or that wind didn’t affect Roger’s and Novak’s match; you’re being rather dramatic, and taking snippets of quotes out of context.

Giner says “The AO was a proper gauge.” No, i don’t think it was; Murray had a virus the day before he met Murray which ultimaltely caused him to pull out of Dubai and DC. I know he played and won in Rotterdam, but that is precisely why the virus returned.

Now, that said, once again Murray had concentrations laspses in the Verd match, so maybe in that regard it shows his weakness.

Giner says “The French is a proper gauge.”

Not really, mainly because we’ve yet to see how Murray will even do on clay, so – if you put this quote IN ITS PROPER CONTEXT – it is not a proper gage on how Murray’s talents will translate to slams – which I said myself is tantamount to him being able to challenge Rafa, eventually, for the number 1 position. We don’t know yet if clay will be Murray’s “achilles heel” and of course it will count – in terms of any kind of rivalry with Rafa and in terms of, of course, rankings points!

Giner says “Unless you’re referring to the #1 status.”

I am. I think Murray has more of a chance of overtaking number 1 some time next year, maybe towards the end of 2010, than Roger does of getting it back.

As you’ll note, I couch that as pure speculation, and looking to the future based on current form, and not based on hindsight, which is what you’re basing your discussion of Roger on.

BTW, I have answered your points and yet you don’t answer my posts to you on a regular basis — what about Roger’s upcoming child? What about his current woes?

I


jane Says:

“Murray had a virus the day before he met Murray ” Er, that last Murray should read “Verdasco”/


Von Says:

RG:
“I do agree that the outburst at the “US Open” has definitely affected Djokovic a great deal and he’s been on a slump since…”

I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you here. Throughout 2008 Djoko has exhibited punctuated periods of consistency then he falls off.

Lets go back to after the ’08 AO and prior to the USO altercation with Roddick, and after the USO.

♥ He pulled out of DC due to the flu — a legit excuse. He then flew to Marseille and lost in the first round to Santoro.

♥ At MC, he retired due to dizziness.

♥ At Wimby he lost to Safin in the second round due to being nervous — Safin was supposedly an “idol”. I’ve subsequently seen him on The Tennis Channel saying Pete Sampras was his idol, and before that Edberg. I suppose Djoko has several idols and that’s fine.

♥ At the USO, Djoko had a few fitness issues which culminated in trainer calls and infuriating Robredo in their match. Then the big hoopla with Roddick transpired. That incident happened seven (7) months ago, and I’m sorry, I can see it raising it’s ugly head to haunt him now. I can buy that if he were playing at the USO presently (the saying we return to the scene of the crime and it evokes buried memories), but that’s not happening.

♥ In Cincy, he got his act together to beat Nadal in his SF match and made it through to the finals where he lost to Murray. The heat was a problem for him at Cincy too.

♥ Djoko was triumphant at the TMC and holds the winner’s trophy.

♥ Djoko lost to Tsonga at a small tourney and then at Brisbane before the ’09 AO.

♥ At the AO ’09 the heat was a factor, but he also had a few little upsets because of the crowd, and then the Roddick match where Djoko disintegrated, again due to the heat.

♥ At IW, a melt-down against Roddick.

♥ At Miami, he got into it with the crowd during the Tsonga match and had a rather tupsy-turvy match with Tsonga. I honestly believe Djoko got lucky in that match, because had Tsonga not been ill I think Djoko would have lost. And, I don’t need to reiterate what went on in the Fed match.

So, going from the foregoing chronology, how could the USO still be on Djoko’s mind and is the root cause for his inconsistency? Also, how could that incident be a factor for his trainer calls and heat related problems? He lives in Monaco which is hot also, which should help him to handle the heat. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it, and it seems to me that the USO debacle and the heat is now the panacea for everything that ails him.

Question: When he’s winning, are we then to assume that the USO and the heat do not present a problem for him? As a reminder he won at Miami 2 years ago in the same heat. And, as a Floridian, I have to confess that even though the heat index may be high, and 81F is not hot, there’s always an ocean breeze around, as can be seen by the swaying of the palm trees.

To me it seems that Djoko lacks consistency and tries to blame every other extraneous factor for the cause instead of facing the problem square in the face and seeking avenues to remedy them.

I apologize if by my outspokenness I’ve offended anyone.


doobee doug da dinker Says:

Never doubt Andy Murray’s serve either he pounds the court repeatedly at 130 up the T so players will have to deal with that aspect as well.


Von Says:

RG: “But, what bothers me is his record vs the top tier players – Rafa, Federer, Murray and Tsonga… and even Roddick.

“….and even Roddick”? I don’t know but to me that’s somewhat of a huge put down for Roddick, “and even”? It seems to me that some think of Roddick as some sort of reject and is everybody’s whipping post. Had it not been for that lopsided H2H with Federer, who I’m thinking at the present moment, is wishing he could turn back the hands of time, and not have pushed so much to beat Andy in the QFs, because he would have been spared the humiliation, et al., that’s happening to him now. If only…..

As Roddick stated: From Times OnlineApril 5, 2009

“DON’T feel too sorry for Roger because none of us do. He’s spent far too long getting right into our heads, now let’s see if he’s going to be subjected to a little anguish and self-belief problems.”

Roddick also mentioned in another article that he’s observed Federer delights in beating all of the former No. 1s, to show how much more superior he is to all of them.

I suppose from the above that’s the consensus of opinion among the former Nos. 1 players. So very sad — another Sampras ego, except for Sampras he only cared about keeping the other Americans at the back of the line. All I can say is that comeuppance is a bi**h!!!!


jane Says:

It’s true Novak has been inconsistent consistently, and yet he has managed to stay #3 up until now; that will likely change once the clay season begins as he has so many points to defend whereas Murray does not. I guess we’ll soon find out how the rankings shift and shuffle over the course of the summer. Lots to look forward to!


Von Says:

As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, and one mo’ time, the top 10 will be a revolving door this year!


jane Says:

Von – personally I think Roddick is right up there as a threat; with his new fitness, and his consistency, and with the instability in the top ten right now, almost anyone can beat almost anyone at almost any time – perhaps not on every surface; certainly it will vary over the summer from clay, to grass, back to hard. But there is a lot of potential for the shifting of positions as time goes on.

Maybe JMDP has overtaken Roddick right now, and that may last through clay (I don’t know how much Andy will play as I know he’s getting married), although Andy could gain points on him at Roland Garros, but come grass and hardcourt, Andy will be right back in there.

I suspect Davy will continue to drop down, and I am not yet sure about Verdasco or Simon. I think they’ll remain in the top ten but I’d like to see more consistency. I am also looking forward to what Sam Querrey will bring to clay, as mentioned. I think Monfils could be a contender on clay too.

Maybe Federer will find his footing on clay, as he is hoping?

Who knows? Can’t wait to find out!


Von Says:

jane:

I think Andy can beat any of them, but it all depends on several factors. IW and Miami are not his surface, and as you mentioned in his match v. Monfils, he didn’t have many aces, but his first serve is as effective as an ace, and he wins many free points.

At Miami, had it not been a night match, i think the results would have been better for Andy. The court plays a lot slower at Miami, especially at night.

I don’t like the wording “and even Roddick”. To me it’s like saying things are so bad now that even so and so could serve an ace.

JMDP will overtake Andy during the clay season, because Andy’s not playing at MC (bachelor party) and then his marriage in May leaves very little time for clay competition.

I’m hoping Sam will do well on clay, and better last year’s results. I’ve mentioned before that Monfils could give Nadal some trouble at RG and the other clay tourneys if they were to meet. Davy will continue to fall in the rankings because he has a lot of points to defend, but for his sake, I hope he gets rid of the heel problem – his Achilles heel is appropos here.

“Maybe Federer will find his footing on clay, as he is hoping?”

no kidding, i thought one tends to sink into the clay — it’s like quick-sand, it pulls people in knee-deep. Ha, ha.


sar Says:

Murray may rise to #2 with the help of winning lots of Masters titles after Wimbledon and the TMC.

Giner, another JJ?


RG Says:

Hey Von! You said:
“So, going from the foregoing chronology, how could the USO still be on Djoko’s mind and is the root cause for his inconsistency? Also, how could that incident be a factor for his trainer calls and heat related problems? He lives in Monaco which is hot also, which should help him to handle the heat. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it, and it seems to me that the USO debacle and the heat is now the panacea for everything that ails him.”

If you look at my earlier posts on this thread, I have mentioned 2 areas of improvement for Novak – 1. mental conditioning and 2. physical conditioning.

IMO – The “US Open PR debacle” has weighed heavily on his mind and has contributed to his mental struggles. He is a young emotional player and does allow these extraneous factors to affect his game. Also, playing Roddick in the US does not help matters for him.

Next, I never mentioned his inability to play under hot conditions was related to the US Open outburst. Rather this is related to his lack of “physical” conditioning. I have not confused between the two.

As for the “even Roddick” comment, it was not meant to offend you or any of his fans. Since 2006, his rankings have dropped and he has not been the force he once was. Even at his peak, he had a very poor one-sided record against Federer.
Thru those years, I was looking for somebody who could consitently not just challenge Federer, but actually win against him. (but the likes of Roddick, Blake, Ljubicic, Hewitt etc… did not pose Federer a threat at all)

The new wave of tennis players begining with Nadal, Djokovic (Montreal, AO), and Murray have changed that. Finally, I got a chance to watch matches starring Federer where the results were no longer a foregone conclusion.

I have nothing against Roddick. I am not denying that he has been playing well since last year’s US Open. Though he lost that match to Novak, it did get tighter towards the end of that match. Once he regularly makes it to the semis and finals of Masters/Grand Slams, I will include him in the top echelon.


Von Says:

RG: Thanks for your response and clarification of the issues I mentioned.

I know that you have nothing against Roddick, in fact, I think you like Andy and have spoken very favorably about him. I would very much like to see Andy reach the SFs and finals of Masters and GS too, and I hope he will do so this year and the years he has left to play.

It’s so nice interacting with you and I hope you’ll come around more often even when Djoko is not playing.


RG Says:

Von – Thank you for your kind words!

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