Rafael Nadal battled past fan favourite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to take his place in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters.

Tsonga had displayed fine form in Paris heading into Friday's encounter, but Nadal, who is still yet to win the ATP 1000 event, had too much quality after making the breakthrough in a hard-fought first set.

While Nadal laboured at times, Novak Djokovic, who will relinquish his number one status to the Spaniard next week, had no such issues as he confidently dispatched Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Meanwhile, Matteo Berrettini – who was sent out by Tsonga in the last 32 – clinched the last remaining ATP Finals spot thanks to Denis Shapovalov's straight sets victory over Gael Monfils.

NADAL DIGS DEEP

Nadal twice had to serve to stay in the first set, but having forced the tie-break, a wonderful backhand pass paved the way for him to forge ahead.

With the serve dominating throughout set one, it was Tsonga who blinked first in the second – Nadal taking full advantage of two sloppy shots to secure a first break of the match.

Soon-to-be world number one Nadal had finally hit his stride, playing a sublime through-the-legs shot to further drain Tsonga's confidence.

Despite showing resilience to hold, Tsonga was soon a double-break down, with Nadal wrapping up a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 win when his opponent sent a desperate backhand return into the net.

 

DOMINANT DJOKOVIC HITS TOP GEAR

After struggling with illness in his opening matches, Djokovic was at his irresistible, untouchable best against Tsitsipas, who had no response to lose inside an hour.

A double break early in set one set the tone for Djokovic, who had the opener tied up in his favour inside 29 minutes.

Djokovic took just a minute longer to finish off set two, two more breaks ending any slim hopes of a Tsitsipas comeback before an overhit return from the Greek sealed his progression by an emphatic 6-1 6-2 scoreline.

 

BERRETTINI COMPLETES LONDON FIELD

With defending ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev having claimed his spot at the O2 earlier in the week, there was one place up for grabs heading into Friday's play.

The permutations were simple, with Monfils – ranked 10th in the Race for London – needing a win to take the place of Berrettini.

However, the French number one came unstuck in some style against Shapovalov, who cruised to a 6-2 6-2 triumph, and Berrettini now completes the top eight, alongside Djokovic, Nadal, Roger Federer, Daniil Medvedev, Dominic Thiem, Tsitsipas and Zverev.

 

DIMITROV SWAPS HALLOWEEN TRICKS FOR SEMI-FINAL TREAT

Having already knocked out Thiem, Dimitrov claimed his spot in the last four with a 6-2 7-5 triumph over Cristian Garin, ending an 18-month wait to make a semi-final at ATP 1000 level.

The Bulgarian may have had to give up his Halloween celebrations, but it was a small price to pay.

"[A fantastic week] so far, I've skipped Halloween but it's a better place to be, here on centre court," Dimitrov told Tennis TV.

Halloween may have passed, yet the world number 27 now faces the scary prospect of going up against Djokovic for a place in the final.

Simona Halep believes she deserved the blunt criticism after coach Darren Cahill labelled the Wimbledon champion a "disgrace" during her WTA Finals defeat to Karolina Pliskova.

World number five Halep slipped to a 6-0 2-6 6-4 loss on Friday, as her season came to an end in disappointing fashion.

During a courtside discussion with her coach, midway through the deciding set, Cahill condemned the 28-year-old's performance by saying: "The last three games you have been an absolute disgrace on court."

Cahill's tough words did not have the desired effect, with Pliskova going on to progress to the semi-finals where world number one Ashleigh Barty awaits her.

Halep, however, has conceded her coach was right to be so harsh on her.

"I'm pretty sure that I deserved it because I was not calm," Halep said in a news conference, according to WTA Insider.

"I changed something in my attitude.

"Everyone knows that I'm working on that. I was a little bit p***** at myself that I did that. I'm sure that I made him p***** also."

Since her superb run to Wimbledon glory, former world number one Halep has failed to find her best form, only making it into the last eight in one of the five tournaments she has participated in since July.

Novak Djokovic made a statement of intent at the Paris Masters as he stormed into the semi-finals with a 6-1 6-2 demolition of Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Djokovic will lose his status as world number one to Rafael Nadal next week but put in a rampant performance to which Tsitsipas had little response.

Having succumbed to seventh-ranked Tsitsipas in Shanghai last month, Djokovic took his revenge in supremely confident fashion on Friday.

Djokovic had been under the weather heading into his previous match with Kyle Edmund, yet any doubts over his fitness were swiftly cast aside as a double break put him 4-0 up 18 minutes into the first set.

Tsitsipas clawed back three set points in his next service game, but it merely stalled the inevitable as Djokovic nosed ahead with his fifth chance.

With a sixth Paris semi-final firmly in his sights, four-time champion Djokovic did not let up – successive breaks putting the Serbian into a commanding position at 4-1.

Again, his Greek opponent managed to restore some pride when he held his next serve without conceding a point, but Djokovic had the match wrapped up when a delicate drop-shot forced Tsitsipas into an overhit return.

Gregor Dimitrov, who beat Cristian Garin earlier on Friday, awaits the top seed in the last four.

Simona Halep was branded an "absolute disgrace" by coach Darren Cahill as Karolina Pliskova came out on top in a crucial round-robin WTA Finals clash to reach the last four.

Pliskova and Halep went into the last Purple Group contest in Shenzhen on Friday knowing the winner would face top seed Ashleigh Barty at the semi-final stage and the loser's season was over.

Halep fought back following the humiliation of a first-set bagel, but Pliskova came from a break down in the final set to win 6-0 2-6 6-4.

The Wimbledon champion rallied following some words of wisdom from Cahill at the end of the first set, but the Australian said she had been "an absolute disgrace" over a critical three-game spell during another on-court coaching session after she squandered a lead in the final set.

Second seed Pliskova blew away an out-of-sorts Halep in the first set, the Czech losing just two service points after an aggressive start.

A forehand into the net put Halep a break down and Pliskova continued to return with vigour, toying with the Romanian as she took just 21 minutes to wrap up the set.

Halep heeded Cahill's advice by using more spin and taking pace of the ball as she broke in the opening game of the second set and showed character to edge a break up at 3-2 after Pliskova got back on serve.

Pliskova was unable to halt Halep's momentum and the fifth seed levelled the match with an ace before taking a 2-0 lead in the decider.

Yet Pliskova responded by winning five games in a row, peppering Halep with searing ground strokes and coming to the net at every opportunity.

Cahill's harsh words at 3-2 failed to prompt a positive reaction from Halep, and although she was able to get back on serve at 5-4, she was broken for the third time in the final set and bowed out when Pliskova had fortune with a netcord winner.

Defending champion Elina Svitolina earlier made it three wins out of three with a 7-5 7-6 (12-10) defeat of alternate Sofia Kenin and will take on Belinda Bencic for a place in the final.

Kyle Edmund has been named as the fifth and final player in Great Britain's line up for the Davis Cup finals.

Having endured a poor run of form, losing eight matches on the bounce, former British number one Edmund rallied with successive victories at the Paris Masters earlier this week.

He eventually fell to world number one Novak Djokovic in the round of 16, but his displays against Ricardas Berankis and Diego Schwartzman were enough to cement his place in Leon Smith's squad for the new-look event later this month.

Andy Murray had already been named in Great Britain's team after his triumph at the European Open, alongside his brother Jamie, Neal Skupski and Dan Evans.

"I'm delighted to name Kyle as the final nominated player to our Davis Cup team," Great Britain captain Smith said of Edmund, who saw off competition from Cameron Norrie.

"While Kyle has had a tough few months, he showed at the Paris Masters what level of tennis he is capable of producing.

"It's been a difficult decision to make as Cam Norrie has had a very good year on tour and is finishing the year ranked around number 50 in the world.

"It's a strong position for our team to be in when we have such high-quality players vying for selection."

Novak Djokovic may have sounded croaky but the four-time Paris Masters champion stayed in the hunt for another triumph in the French capital.

A 7-6 (9-7) 6-1 victory over Great Britain's Kyle Edmund carried the Serbian through to a tough-looking quarter-final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Greek youngster Tsitsipas was a 6-3 6-4 winner against Australian Alex de Minaur, while Rafael Nadal dug deep for a gritty 6-4 6-4 win over Stan Wawrinka.

Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev were significant casualties, as the fifth and sixth seeds suffered respective defeats to Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov.

And there was plenty of French joy, as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gael Monfils thrilled the home crowds with dramatic three-set victories.

Djokovic eyes revenge

Djokovic lost to Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Shanghai Masters in October but will fancy his chances of avenging that loss on Friday.

Despite his voice sounding far from healthy, Djokovic is feeling better after battling illness this week, and he is positive about the state of his game.

"The second set was the best set I've played so far in the tournament," Djokovic said, according to the ATP website. "Finished off with a winner, finished off with amazing return game. So, of course, the sensation is very positive. And I'm convinced that I'm headed in the right direction so that tomorrow will be even better."

The 32-year-old hopes to end the year at number one in the world rankings for the sixth time, even though Nadal is certain to be in pole position heading into the ATP Finals in London.

 

Tsonga next for Nadal

Nadal was not at his best against Wawrinka, yet he still extended his dominance over the Swiss three-time grand slam winner with a 19th win in their 22nd meeting.

He took two of the three break points he engineered to stay in the hunt for a first Paris Masters title. Given his immense success elsewhere - his 35 Masters 1000 titles is a record and he has landed 12 French Open titles - Nadal's limited success in Paris is a shortcoming he will be eager to address.

He should have enough for Tsonga on Friday, but the veteran Frenchman has come out punching this week and is beginning to look like the player who was a top-10 fixture for so long.

Tsonga landed a 2-6 6-4 7-6 (8-6) victory over Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff and said: "When you play the best, it's always beneficial and it's not important whether you win or lose.

"When you play Rafa in the first round, it's a problem. If you play Rafa in the quarter-finals, it's normal. Of course, it's better for me to meet Rafa in quarter-finals after having played a few matches rather than during the first round."

Monfils keeps ATP Finals hopes alive

There is one place to fill at the season-ending ATP Finals, and Monfils is desperate to sustain his run this week to stay in contention.

After a 4-6 6-4 6-1 win against Romanian Radu Albot, the 33-year-old Parisian is on the brink but still not quite there and must see off Shapovalov to earn his ticket to London ahead of Matteo Berrettini.

Given Shapovalov's 6-2 5-7 6-2 win against Alexander Zverev, that could be a tall order for Monfils, whose French compatriot Jeremy Chardy could not boost the home contingent in the final eight, going down 6-7 (4-7) 6-4 7-6 (8-6) in a nail-biting thriller against Chilean Cristian Garin.

Despite the defeat, Zverev is certain to be involved in the English capital after sealing his spot on Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal edged past Stan Wawrinka at the Paris Masters as he extended his dominance in their career rivalry and moved a step closer to the title that has always eluded him.

There was little between the players, both multiple grand slam winners, but Nadal seized on two of the three break chances he created to snatch a 6-4 6-4 victory.

A 19th win in 22 matches against the Swiss took Nadal nearer a 36th Masters 1000 title and the end-of-year number one ranking.

Curiously, though, the Spaniard has never won the indoor event in Paris, despite being a 12-time French Open champion.

The gritty win over Wawrinka sets up a quarter-final against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who came into this tournament as a wildcard but has been inspired at his home tournament.

French veteran Tsonga has a better record against Nadal than Wawrinka can point to, winning four of their 13 previous meetings.

Nadal said of his win over Wawrinka: "I've been in a match with not many rallies. I played with some mistakes but at the same time I played well with my serve. I was able to be comfortable with my serve.

"On the return, it was difficult today to find opportunities, but the important thing is when I had opportunities I played with the right determination, so I'm very happy. It's an important victory against a very tough opponent."

Assessing the threat posed by Tsonga, who at 34 is a year his senior, US Open champion Nadal told Amazon Prime: "He's a tough one. He's a great player and let's see. I know I'll have to play my best."

Nadal will take over at number one in the rankings next week, whatever happens in Paris, but he will also be assured of top spot come the season's end if he carries off the title.

Novak Djokovic set up a tantalising clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters by seeing off Kyle Edmund.

The world number one, who will lose top spot to Rafael Nadal next week, appeared to be under the weather but ground out a 7-6 (9-7) 6-1 victory.

He growled through a post-match interview, his voice indicating all was not entirely well, but Djokovic still had enough in the tank to see off his British opponent.

Edmund ended a losing streak of eight matches when winning through the first two rounds in Paris, and the former top-20 player pushed Djokovic hard in the opening set.

Neither man registered a break, but the contest became one-sided once Djokovic nudged ahead. He clinched his 50th match win of the season in a hurry, claiming 12 of the final 14 points.

Now Tsitsipas awaits the 16-time grand slam champion, with the 21-year-old Greek having won two of his three previous matches against the all-time great.

The most recent of those meetings came in Shanghai just three weeks ago, when Tsitsipas prevailed in a deciding set.

Tsitsipas set up the fourth match in their rivalry by earning a 6-3 6-4 success against Australian Alex de Minaur.

World number one Ashleigh Barty booked her place in the WTA Finals semi-finals, before Belinda Bencic profited as Naomi Osaka's injury replacement Kiki Bertens also retired.

Barty, a debutant at the season-ending tournament, like Bencic, defeated Petra Kvitova 6-4 6-2 to bounce back from defeat to Bertens in her second Red Group match.

The French Open champion made light work of sixth-ranked Kvitova in Thursday's first encounter.

Needing a victory to guarantee her progress, Barty claimed her first win over the Czech in five attempts in confident fashion.

After a break of serve midway through the opening set saw the Australian edge in front, she wrapped up the second in less than 40 minutes with a third match point.

While Kvitova had already been eliminated ahead of facing Barty, the other match was a straight shoot-out for a last-four place between Bencic and Bertens.

And it was the Swiss, having denied Bertens a place in the original field with her victory in Moscow this month, who advanced due to her opponent's retirement with illness.

Bencic started on the front foot but, after failing to take advantage of her first two break points, fell behind at 3-2.

Yet Bencic responded in impressive fashion to take four successive games and the set, before Bertens, who had taken a medical timeout, stated she could not continue, trailing 7-5 1-0.

Barty and Bencic will learn the identity of their semi-final opponents on Friday, with defending champion Elina Svitolina through in the Purple Group as Simona Halep plays Karolina Pliskova for the opportunity to join her.

Alexander Zverev qualified for the ATP Finals when Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Matteo Berrettini, while Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic reached the third round of the Paris Masters on Wednesday.

Zverev will return to London to defend his title next month and Berrettini is in danger of missing out after he was beaten 6-4 6-3 by home favourite Tsonga.

Tsonga's compatriot Gael Monfils remained in contention for the eighth and final place in the season-ending showpiece by winning an all-French encounter with Benoit Paire 6-4 7-6 (7-4).

Roberto Bautista Agut, David Goffin, Fabio Fognini and Diego Schwartzman can no longer qualify for the tournament at the O2 Arena after they bowed out in the French capital on day three.

Djokovic and Nadal, vying to end the year at the top of the rankings, beat Corentin Moutet and Adrian Mannarino respectively in straight sets.

 

 

FOUR STILL STANDING IN HUNT FOR FINAL LONDON SPOT

Berrettini, Monfils, Stan Wawrinka and Alex de Minaur are the remaining contenders to join Zverev in London.

Italian Berrettini's fate is out of his hands following his exit, with Monfils, Wawrinka and De Minaur able to overtake him by winning the title this weekend.

Monfils will meet Radu Albot in the third round, while Wawrinka faces a huge battle with Nadal following a straight-sets win over Marin Cilic and De Minaur dumped out Bautista Agut, setting up a showdown with Stefanos Tsitsipas.

 

NADAL SERVE LAYS FOUNDATION FOR WINNING RETURN

Second seed Nadal did not face a break point in his first main-draw match since winning the US Open.

The 19-time time major champion, who will end the season as world number one if he wins the tournament for the first time, was pleased with his return to action 10 days after marrying long-time girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello

"[I'm very happy with the way that I served." said the Spaniard, who beat Mannarino 7-5 6-4. "I didn't face a break point during the whole match, and against a player who returns well. So that means a lot. Feelings are good. To be back in this court is always special."

 

DJOKOVIC CONTENT TO 'FIND A WAY'

Djokovic knows he slipped below his usual high standards in a 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 victory over lucky loser Moutet but was simply happy to progress given he has not been feeling at his best.

"I didn't feel health-wise 100 per cent in the last couple of days, but it is what it is. It's not the first time I didn't play at a really high level. Lots of errors, especially in the first set," said the Serb, who saved two set points in the opening set and will face Kyle Edmund in the third round.

"First time against a young player who is talented, very quick. Returns a lot of balls back that usually other guys wouldn't get, he gets it. And he was pumped, and I respect his fighting spirit. It was a good match in the end, and I found a way to win, which in [these] circumstances... when you're not feeling your best, is important."

Rafael Nadal will face Stan Wawrinka in the third round of the Paris Masters after grinding out a straight-sets victory over Adrian Mannarino in his first match as a married man.

The 19-time grand slam champion showed signs of rustiness seven weeks after his last main-draw contest - a US Open final victory over Daniil Medvedev.

Wildcard Mannarino put up a good fight in his homeland but was beaten 7-5 6-4 by the second seed.

Nadal did not face a break point and made only 11 unforced errors as he fended off world number 43 Mannarino, hitting 23 winners.

The match came 11 days after Nadal and long-time girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello married in Mallorca.

The Spaniard will end the year at the top of the rankings if he takes the title in the French capital for the first time this weekend and will be well fancied to get past Wawrinka, who has beaten him only three times in 21 meetings.

Nadal had to bide his time in a tight first set against Mannarino, with the first break point not coming until the eighth game and his fellow southpaw fended that off before levelling at 4-4.

The world number two's persistence paid off when Mannarino was broken when serving to stay in a first set that lasted just shy of an hour.

It was a similar story in the second set of a serve-dominated contest, as Nadal had only the only break-point opportunity before Mannarino fired a forehand wide on the first match point to bow out.

Novak Djokovic overcame some magical moments from Corentin Moutet at the Paris Masters to win 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in his first match since learning he will be relinquishing his world number one ranking.

The Serbian will lose top spot to Rafael Nadal for the first time in 2019 when the latest rankings are released on Monday, regardless of what he does in France.

His battle to win that place back before the end of the year looked like it might take a huge hit when 20-year-old lucky loser Moutet broke and then had two set points in the opener, only for Djokovic to shut the door, break back and clinch the tie-break.

Djokovic then opened up a 4-1 lead in the second set and - although Moutet sealed his second break of the match - was able to wrap up victory in one hour and 47 minutes.

A pedestrian and error-strewn start from Djokovic was epitomised when he meekly found the net to hand Moutet a break and a 4-3 lead.

Moutet had to stave off four break points in the next game and then missed two opportunities to take the first set as Djokovic held and broke back to force a tie-break, which he duly won.

The 32-year-old had already raised his thumb in approval at a forehand winner slapped down the line during that decider, and he had a wry smile when Moutet lobbed him with an audacious tweener in the third game of the second set.

However, that was the only point he won during that service game as the Serbian reeled off four games in a row to take charge, though Moutet did win one break back.

With Djokovic then serving for the match shortly after, Moutet was angry when his opponent was allowed to challenge, successfully, after he had already netted his shot.

He was given the point and the chance to seal the match, which he did at the first time of asking with a fine forehand winner.

Bianca Andreescu is confident she made the right call to retire from her WTA Finals match against Karolina Pliskova as she prepares for a scan on her left knee.

The US Open champion fell to a third consecutive defeat, following a sequence of 17 straight wins, as she quit the Purple Group clash with Pliskova after losing the first set 6-3.

Andreescu had been badly hobbling since early in the match when she "heard a crack" as she returned the ball while up a break.

She initially refused to retire but, speaking afterwards, having confirmed her intention to have an MRI on Thursday, the 19-year-old was content with her decision.

"I stepped weirdly on a return," Andreescu told a post-match press conference. "I heard my knee crack. It kind of went inwards.

"Putting pressure afterwards on it really bothered me. I could barely bend my knee. But I fought with the pain as much as I could. 

"At some point, an athlete has to say, 'Stop', and just listen to their body. That's what I did.

"It's disappointing because this is the last tournament of the year, so you want to go all out. You're playing one of the biggest tournaments of the year, too. It's not easy.

"I've never had a during-match injury happen before - other than spraining my ankle, but that was back in 2015.

"Honestly, I really didn't know what to do. I've fought through pain before, but this was different. It was like very acute.

"But it's the last tournament of the year. I just told myself, 'Push it as much as you can. You're going to have a good break after this.' Maybe I could have pushed it more. I don't know. 

"My team said no. It was good that I stopped. Honestly, I could have kept going. If I did, then I would just be whining on the court. I don't want that. I've done that enough."

Andreescu's defeat to Pliskova saw her hopes of progress end at the season-ending Finals, meaning she can decide whether to face Elina Svitolina, who is already through, to conclude her breakout campaign.

Canadian Andreescu won titles in 2019 at Indian Wells, the Rogers Cup and Flushing Meadows, climbing to number four in the WTA rankings.

Bianca Andreescu failed to shake off a knee injury as she fell to a third straight defeat and departed the WTA Finals, where defending champion Elina Svitolina advanced from the Purple Group.

US Open champion Andreescu, still just 19, had been enjoying an incredible 17-match winning run on the WTA Tour until coming up short in a gripping encounter against Naomi Osaka at the China Open.

The Canadian did not play again until this week's year-end Finals, making a losing return in a narrow defeat to idol Simona Halep.

And any hopes of Andreescu arresting that mini-slump were ended by an issue with her left knee in Shenzhen as she bowed out to world number two Karolina Pliskova.

Andreescu, needing to win to stay in the tournament, broke in the first game of the match but was soon limping, retreating to her seat and calling a medical timeout.

Heavy strapping was applied to the teenager's knee, yet she continued to move uneasily as she sought to continue, seeing Pliskova break back immediately.

Andreescu told Sylvain Bruneau she "heard a crack" and was struggling to bend her knee but insisted she was still capable of beating Pliskova despite the advice of her coach.

"I don't want to stop," she said. "If it was against Simona, then okay. But [Pliskova] misses."

Andreescu showed grit to then hold after saving three break points, but it was only a temporary reprieve as Pliskova sent down a backhand return to seize the advantage in her opponent's next service game.

Pliskova held to take the set 6-3 and Andreescu finally gave in, retiring for a defeat that sees her out of the competition as the Czech faces Halep for a place in the last four.

Halep had wasted an opportunity to book her spot in the semi-finals early on Wednesday when she was beaten 7-5 6-3 by Svitolina.

The Wimbledon champion battled back from 3-0 down early on but then missed the chance to break in front with a poor call on a drop shot, subsequently losing the opener with an error-strewn final service game.

Having been behind throughout the first set, Halep led in the second with a break to love but was quickly pegged back, soon complaining to coach Darren Cahill that she felt unable to disrupt Svitolina's game.

Svitolina, who defeated Sloane Stephens in the 2018 final, preyed on more Halep mistakes to break in front and wrapped up a relatively comfortable triumph in straight sets.

Roger Federer will not take part in the inaugural ATP Cup due to family reasons, meaning Switzerland have been withdrawn from the tournament.

The 20-time grand slam champion announced on Wednesday that he was pulling out of the new 24-team event, which will take place in Australia in January.

"It is with great regret that I am withdrawing from the inaugural ATP Cup event," world number three Federer said in a statement published on the ATP Cup's website.

"When I entered the event last month, it was a really difficult decision because it meant less time at home with the family and a fully intense start to the season.

"After much discussion with both my family and my team about the year ahead, I have decided that the extra two weeks at home will be beneficial for both my family and my tennis.

"It pains me to not be a part of the most exciting new event on the calendar, but this is the right thing to do if I want to continue to play for a longer period of time on the ATP Tour.

"I am sorry for any inconvenience or disappointment my withdrawal may cause for the fans, but I hope you can understand why I made it."

Earlier this week Federer confirmed he would take part in the Paris Masters having won a 10th title at the Swiss Indoors Basel on Sunday.

The 38-year-old's decision means Switzerland have been omitted from the ATP Cup as the nation's second-highest ranked player Henri Laaksonen is way outside the top 18.

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