Simple Modern Tennis 

By Kevin Nguyen

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This section is filled with articles of guides, helpful tips, and my coaching experiences!

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How to hit Groundstrokes Down the Line

Posted by CoachKevin on October 6, 2013 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (0)

How do we pull the strigger succesfully? When going for the short ball, you want to really step into the shot and strike it with a closed stance (Look at the feet position in the picture below to see a closed stance). However, it is also possible to hit the down the line shot with an open stance. All you have to do is follow the simple explanation below.


Now, when you are set up for the shot (closed stance or open stance), you can now really crack one down the line. To hit a clean shot down the line, you have to really turn your shoulders and coil your upper body (should be done every time). The important step after that is uncoiling (opening your body up). It is important that you uncoil to the target, which is down the line. That way, you are releasing the tremendous amount of energy and plow into that direction!

The same concept applies for the one-handed backhand and two-handed backhand!

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If you have not checked out my guide on the modern forehand, please check it out in my blog to better understand coiling and uncoiling!

Have a great October!

Kevin Nguyen



Controlling Topspin on Forehand

Posted by CoachKevin on August 25, 2013 at 3:15 AM Comments comments (0)

When hitting forehands or even backhands in general, it is important that we learn how to own the shots - being able to control the amount of topspin you put on the ball. Here is a simple tip that will get you going!

On the takeback, the lower the racket is below the ball the more potential spin and arc you will be able to produce. And when the racket head is below the ball and then you uncoil, this is how you will look like in a picture or video (your buttcap will naturally be more angled downwards). Your racket will naturally plow through the ball in an ascending manner, creating the topspin-drive that many pros tend to use as their rally balls in today's game.

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Now, If you put the racket on level with the ball or even above it, you will produce a low trajectory ball. When you uncoil into your shot, this is what you should look like in photo or video. Your racket will naturally, in a straighter path, plow through the ball, creating the flatter shot.


Please watch this video of Andy Murray, he shows it very noticeably: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18miPA_8OWE

Look at the shot at 0:03 seconds where he levels the racket with the ball to hit a flatter shot.

Look at the shot at 0:19 seconds where he gets his racket below the ball to hit the ball with more arc.


Note: In all these shots your racket is still going through the ball, but at different starting points (Racket below the ball or leveled with the ball). 


(For more info on the forehand: http://simplemoderntennis.webs.com/apps/blog/show/30340831-the-basics-of-the-modern-forehand)

- Kevin Nguyen


Keep the Eye and Head Fixed at Contact

Posted by CoachKevin on July 24, 2013 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)

On all of your strokes, whether it is the forehand, backhand, volley, smash, or serve. You should have your head and eyes fixed on the contact point (where you strike the ball) until the ball leaves your racket.  

Note that it is impossible to keep your eyes on the ball at impact because it's happening too fast. The goal here is to just keep your head and eyes fixed on the contact point. When you do this, you will strike the ball cleaner and also decrease the chance of mishitting. If you do not keep your eyes and head fixed on the contact zone, you will disrupt the swing path because you end up jerking your head up too soon to see where the ball is going.

As you can see Federer below, he is not watching the ball, but he is keeping his head and eyes fixed at the contact zone to prevent the disruption of the swing path to the ball.


How to Hit a Flat Serve

Posted by CoachKevin on July 23, 2013 at 7:50 PM Comments comments (0)

When serving, I notice that people tend to use too much arm instead of their whole body. Also, people sometimes use a forehand grip and serve like they are going to give a high-five. Today, I'll be explaining the how to properly use your whole body and pronate with the correct grip on the flat serve.

Part I - The Grip 

On practically every serve, you should be using a continental grip. (See Picture Below). That way you are able to pronate more naturally, which will be covered in the next few parts.

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Part II - Learning the Use of Upper Body!

Before hitting the ball, it is important that you know how to use the upper body correctly before developing bad habits. So we're going to shadow swing for this part. So have your racket and face the net. Turn your whole body sideways to the net. Bring the racket with its tip pointing up and elbow bent and your left arm pointing straight up. (See picture below)

Now once you are in this position, turn your upper body to the net. In this position, if you have a loose grip and relaxed arms, the racket should have naturally dropped down (on edge to the imaginary ball you're hitting) and your left arm should have dropped down to your stomach as well. if you managed to do this about twenty times (or until it is second nature), you are ready to move on to the next step.

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Part III - The Ball Toss

The ball toss is one of the most important parts of the serve, because it allows you to confidently control your serve. To have a consistent toss you need a consistent ritual. People like to bounce the ball three times before beginning to toss the ball up. Some people like to have it on the throat of the racket before letting go and then tossing. Some people like to combine these steps. 

When tossing the ball you should be tossing with only your fingers on the ball - not the palm. And also, your arm should be straight when tossing. And you do not want to throw the ball up. You want to let go of it with the release of your fingers! As you are bringing your arm up, when the ball is at eye level, that is when you release the ball up into the air. You want the ball tossed in front of you inside of the baseline. On flat serves, do not toss too far to the left or behind your head. 


Lastly, remember as your are bringing your tossing arm up, at the same time your racket arm should be going up into its position as well. (See picutre below)

Now your position should once again look like this:


Once you have the toss down and the use of the upper body down, try shadow swinging it a couple of time before moving on to the next step.

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Part IV - Hitting the Ball and Pronation

Once you got the upper body and toss down, you are now ready to learn how to hit the ball. To hit a good flat serve you need to have good pronation. Pronation is basically the rotation of the hands and forearms so that the palms face downward. Pronation is generally described as 'snapping the wrist'. I like to say "snap the forearm" because that's the more accurate term.

Don't worry pronation isn't all that hard. If you learned how to use your upper body in part II, then pronation will come naturally when you swing up to the ball. So all you have to do now, is turn your open up your body to the net just like you already learned (so your racket naturally leads on edge), and then immediately strike the ball with pronation. However, you may need to get the timing of your toss down first. People generally hit the ball at the maximum height the ball reaches (recommended) or as it is beginning its descent.

How your racket looks like when it's leading with its edge when you open up to the net:


If you get yourself on video, this is how making contact with the ball should look like:

And this is how it should look like if you pronated through the ball correctly. Sampras' has a lot of pronation on it so his racket face is practically facing the right fence. All you guys have to do is just have your palm facing downwards and facing a little to the right, that's all.

Lastly, the follow-through should finish on the left side of your body.

Practice this until it is second nature!!

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Part V -  Incorporating the Legs and the Launch!

Why did I put this as the last part? Because it's easier to add the legs after you figured out the rest of the motion. You don't want to learn too much at once. Learning how to use your legs and launch will give you more racket-head speed which will add more MPHs to your serves!

So first off, before tossing the ball, you want to be leaning your weight on the left leg. Once you want to begin your toss, rock back your weight on to your right leg and then go on your tippy toes with both of your legs and with your legs bent enough that you mantain your balance. As you are going on your toes, both the tossing arm and racket arm should be going up at the same time!  Once they are up and your legs bent and on your toes, you are officially in the trophy position! There are two stances you could use with your bent legs: the platform or the pinpoint. It is up for you to decide which stance you will use.

Right now, you should be in the platform stance (See Federer). 

Some players like to bring their right foot in next to their left foot like Murray. This is known as the pinpoint stance.

Now once you are in one of these positions you are ready to LAUNCH! The tip that works best for me when trying to launch into the ball is that *you want to try to jump up and over your left arm (right arm for lefties)!* Now, when launching yourself at the ball, your WHOLE BODY should be opening up to the net. Last time, we only opened up your upper body to the net because we didn't learn the legs yet. Now that your hip is incorporated, you will be releasing some tremendous racket head speed.

Example of launching over your left arm below



As soon as you open up your whole body to the net and have launched up and over your left arm, then immediately strike the ball.

When you land, you land with your left leg (right leg for lefties).


The great thing about the serve is if you play baseball and know how to throw properly, then you should be able to pick up the serve really quickly because the mechanics are practically the same.

Thank you, this is my guide on the flat serve! Hope you enjoyed!

- Kevin Nguyen

(Leverage) Maintaining Your Arm Position

Posted by CoachKevin on July 19, 2013 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Remember about learning how to make proper contact with the ball from my forehand guide? If not, check it out now (http://simplemoderntennis.webs.com/apps/blog/show/30340831-the-basics-of-the-modern-forehand)

This tip applies to practically every grip.

I explained this a little in the forward swing part of the guide, but now I'm just going to show you guys this up front. Take a look at this picture of Kei Nishikori swinging to the ball (Example 1) and the picture of him after contact (Example 2). Do you notice a similarity? His arm position (Kei's is bent)! He's maintaining the leverage created from the forward swing even after he makes contact with the ball. This helps you develop a consistent-repeatable forehand which will add-on my control over it. You want to try maintaining your arm-position throughout the whole hitting phase and into the follow-through.

Basically, whatever arm position *bent or straight* you started with in the forward swing. YOU FINISH WITH IT. 

Try practicing this the next time you go out and hit. Make sure you start off slow to get it down.

Example 1

 Example 2

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Check out more pros doing it

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Videos of Pros maintaing their leverage from their forward swing

Kei Nishikori: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCinygABTds

Djokovic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLRLP8g7-zY

All the top 10 pros - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOFRQQ1e4Ig

Thanks! Stay tuned for more tips and guides!

Tips on Developing a Topspin Serve

Posted by CoachKevin on July 15, 2013 at 2:25 AM Comments comments (0)

What is the goal when developing a topspin serve? You are trying to get that arch where the ball clears the net a good margin and dips into the court; thus, making it a safe second serve.

When developing a topspin serve, first of all, toss it above your head and almost to the left. Just like hitting a topspin lob groundstroke, you really want to brush the back of the ball leading with the edge of the racket. Make sure you are primarily focusing on spin production so try not to add any forward movement on the ball.

- Get a person to stand right in front of you while you are serving. Try to serve without hitting the person. This will get you to brush the ball more because you are restricting your forward movement in order to prevent from hitting the person.

-Make sure you are gripping the racket very loose.

I hope you find this tip a bit helpful!

Stay tuned, I will try to make a guide on the flat serve and topspin serve in the next 2 weeks!

The Basics of the Two-Handed Backhand

Posted by CoachKevin on July 14, 2013 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)

 

Part I – What grip should you be using? How to grip the handle?

 


The two-handed backhand does not exactly have a magic grip you should be using with your non-dominant hand; however, a continental grip is the best choice for your dominant hand. Your dominant hand should be gripping the racket on the bottom end of the racket, whereas your non-dominant hand is placed right above it. Your grip for your non-dominant hand should be some kind of forehand grip – an eastern or semi western grip is ideal. (See Picture above for a visual of the two-handed grip)

 

Once you have the two-handed backhand grip down, move on to the next step.

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 Note: Your non-dominat hand is always the boss of the two-handed backhand.

Part II – Coiling your body and proper footwork


 

Once you get into your two-handed backhand grip in the ready position, you begin the coiling phase of the stroke by stepping to the left with your left foot. As you are stepping to the left, take the racket straight back and turn your shoulders far enough to where you can see your right shoulder in front of you. Now once you are turned, step in with your right foot so that it is in front of your left leg to add forward momentum into your shot. (See Picture above for examples of the coiling and footwork)

 

You are now ready to move on to the swinging phase; the difficult part.

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Part III – The forward swing phase and the follow-through


 

Note: Before moving on to the forward swing phase, it is important to know when dropping the racket head, that it is up to you to drop your arm into a straight-arm position like John Isner of USA or in a more bent position like David Ferrer of Spain. I personally recommend the straight-arm.

Now once you have stepped into the ball, when doing the forward swing, your body is what swings and accelerates your arm. You begin the forward swing phase by opening up your body to your target; also known as uncoiling. And as a result of the uncoiling, the racket will naturally fall into the buttcap position (See picture above) and then immediately your arm will spring and accelerate forward through the ball, creating tremendous racket-head speed and easy power. 


Once the hitting arm has been accelerated through the ball, the follow-through should often be over your shoulder where the left arm is a position where it looks like you can look at your watch.



 

 Check out video examples of Murray:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJSoKdF5qqk


FAQ:

Q:How similar is the backhand technique to the forehand?

A:It is essentially the same thing in terms of the use of the core (body); a lefty forehand but with the right arm for extra support.

This is my guide on the basics of the two-handed backhand. Hope you find it helpful!

 _K

 

 

 

 

The Basics of the Modern Forehand

Posted by CoachKevin on July 12, 2013 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (5)


PART I – Learning how to properly make contact with the ball and how to strike the ball properly

First off, when learning the forehand, it is often taught making them use a full backswing. I find this to be really difficult for some people, and it prevents them from learning how to make proper contact with the ball. So, I find it better to teach people by having them already in their contact point phase of the stroke before learning the full stroke.

 

(See picture above) As you can see the contact is made with elbow in front of the body with the racket face practically perpendicular with the ground. I often see people at contact having their racket faces too opened up which causes balls to fly high and go out.

 

Notice how his wrist and racket show a 90 degree angle relationship. It looks like an L shape between his arm and racket. This is crucial when achieving leverage for your stroke.

 

When working on developing our contact point, have your student go into the contact point position as much as possible, similar to (picture above), with the arm bent and in front of the body and the torso should try to be parallel to the net. Make sure you are not gripping the racket too hard. Try not to apply too much pressure on the handle - stay relaxed and pretend you are holding a bird enough that it won't gly away yet won't choke. Have someone feed you a few balls and work on the contact point; remember that it is crucial that when hitting the ball that the racket face is at most parallel to the net or slightly even a bit more closed. To strike the ball properly, you need to be HITTING THROUGH THE BALL, not brushing it for topspin. It is essential to hit through the ball because that is how you get the control over your power and spin. It’s a common misconception that players BRUSH the ball for topspin. Brushing is mainly used for topspin lobs (where you send the ball really high in the air) and wicked angles. Practically every pro hits through the ball.

What does 'hitting through the ball' mean?

 People often mistake 'hitting through the ball' as a linear push through the ball. Well, that actually is 'hitting through the ball' but that's not how it is done anymore in the modern game. Doing this actually slows down your racket-head speed. So what do I mean by 'hitting through the ball'? The idea is, your swing from the forward swing phase to the follow through should connect smoothly. Try swinging your arm around and notice how your arm travels in circurlar path. Imagine a half-circle in front of you; you want to trace it with your racket. You want to find the ball at the correct time in the circular path (The contact point position which is addressed). That is the most natural way to be hitting the ball. Check out this golfer for an idea of how the swing represents a circular path.

Note: You are usually in the right path in correctly hitting through the ball if you are neither really brushing the ball nor really knifing the ball (which creates backspin).


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FOLLOW THOUGH (IMPORTANT INFO ON WHETHER OR NOT YOU'RE HITTING THROUGH CORRECTLY):

 

On the end phase of the stroke,you want to finish across your body right next to your shoulder to complete the circurlar path. When you follow-thru, *your arm should finish in a position where it looks like you are checking the time on your watch (THIS HOW YOU FINISH THROUGH THE BALL CORRECTLY) (see picture below)*. .


 

 

 

 

Practice this until you feel like you can confidently move on and learn the full technique by incorporating your body.

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Part II – Coiling your body and learning the backswing

Note: The whole motion on the forehand, it is essential that you grip the racket as loose as possible while still having control over your racket. However, when you make impact with the ball, realize that your grip will naturally tighten up, but this is something not to think about. Just know that this is normal.

THE LOOP AND COIL


 

When coiling your body, you want to turn your torso, shoulders and feet sideways to the left fence (right fence if you are a lefty) for an open stance forehand. You should be loading your weight on your right leg (for righties) - See Picture above.

Note: For a closed stance forehand where you step in with your left foot (for righties) you still want to coil your upper body - torso and shoulders and transfer the load to your left leg.

It is important to have some kind of loop in your backswing because it adds racket-head speed which increases power and spin potential. When beginning a loop on your backswing you want to make sure you turn your shoulders to the right fence with your left arm on the throat of the racket (Picture above).

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Now let go of the racket with your left arm and keep it positioned pointing at the right fence. Also as you are doing this, move your racket-hand back just pass your right shoulder to begin the loop. See picture below

Note: For rhythm purposes it is best that you are already in this position once the ball has bounced. That way, your loop can smoothly transition into the set-up position.

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SET UP POSITION:

Then, in a relaxed manner, drop your racket-hand down to about the level of the ball (See picture above). Remember that the tip of your racket should be facing towards the back fence, because if it was facing the side fence, it would make the swing more complicated on the forward swing. You are now in the setup position where you are just about to swing at the ball. Now we are just about ready to learn the hardest part of the forehand stroke. It is the most neglected explanation of the forehand stroke. It is what happens between the setup position and making contact with the ball. It is called the forward swing.

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PART III – The Forward Swing (The Final Part before the contact point [Addressed in Part I])

Note: This is the most difficult part of the stroke and many people fail to grasp how it truly feels. So it is okay not to get it the first time.

 Why do tennis players need a strong core? Because of this part.

This is the part where having a loose grip on the racket and a relaxed arm matters most. You NEVER want to power up your shots by swinging just your arm as fast as you can. In tennis, the body essentially swings and accelerates the arm. YOUR ARM IS PASSIVE AT THIS MOMENT.

Now, when entering the forward swing, you begin by pushing off your right leg which initiates the core and the hips.  **As a result of the opening up of the hips and core, your racket will lay back into the ''buttcap'' position (Just like the pictures above) and then your arm and racket will spring forward and accelerate through the ball on its own**. This is the most complicated and important piece of the stroke because it creates the leverage and insane racket-head spead for effortless power. It's like a sling-shot effect.

Also note that federer and novak's arm positions in the buttcap position are different. Federer has a straighter arm and Novak has a more of a bent arm. This is a preference, so choose what works best for you. It is crucial that you stick with one of those two to develop a consistent forehand.



Refer back to part 1 to see the explanation of the follow through.

Reference video of Djokovic slomo forehand: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLRLP8g7-zY 

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Remember do not mechanically combine these steps when hitting your forehand. You want to smoothly combine the steps.

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Summary


Picture 1: This is called the ready position where your dominant hand is prepared in its forehand grip and the non-dominant hand is holding the throat of the racket.

Picture 2: Once you know a forehand is coming, you begin by turning your shoulders just enough that your left shoulder is just below your chin. As you are taking the racket back, your left hand should still be on the throat of the racket.

Picture 3: As the ball is coming towards you, put your weight on your right foot. Then, let go of your left hand from the throat of the racket and keep the hand towards the left fence. While you are doing this, your racket arm should begin to move past the right shoulder and begin to be set down just like the picture shows. The racket should be set about leveled with the ball and the tip of the racket should be pointing at the back fence to make the transition from the set up to the forward swing more smooth.

Picture 4: You begin the forward swing by pushing off the right leg which opens up the  core and hips. As a result of your cores and hips, your racket will lay back in the buttcap position and your left hand will go back.

Picture 5: As a result of opening up the hips and the core to your target, the racket will accelerate through the ball on its own.

Picture 6: To properly decelerate, you should finish across your body where your arm is in a position where it looks like you are checking your watch. Your rotation should naturally decelerate towards the left fence.

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 For more examples of forehands, watch slow motion footages of pros from these wonderful youtube channels like:

 

Novak Djokovic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxAznGbRBTY),

 

Kei Nishikori (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCinygABTds),

 

Thomas Berdych (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_bOwhlGGgo),


FAQ:

Q:How long is the racket in the buttcap position?

A:Your racket is in the buttcap position for about only 0.100 seconds.

Q:Is my arm actually passive on the forward swing?

A:For the most part, yes it passive. The core is what accelerates your arm. However, the type of follow through you want (lasso whip, over the shoulder, across the shoulder) I would say that's the only part your arm plays in the stroke, but it's still not even that active.

 

To end this off, I want to remind everyone that this is the basics of the modern forehand. Hope you guys stay tuned as I will post a tip in detail on how to direct your shots.

 _K

 

 

Use your instincts!

Posted by CoachKevin on July 10, 2013 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

In the fast game of tennis, your instinct is a very important asset that should be used in your arsenal. Some may have it, some don't.  Tennis is not jsut a ball-bashing sport, it's a tactical game. Here are a couple of good tips that you should apply next time you play tennis.

1. Sense danger - be aware that you just got yourself into defense. If you know you just hit a ball back that you know your opponent is going to attack on, bring your court position more back a couple of inches! That way you have enough time to defend the attacking ball.

2. If the story is the other way around, then if you know that the ball you just hit is going to trouble your opponent (let's say a deep ball into the open court) then bring your court position up more right onto the baseline to get ready for the weak response. That way you will take time away from your opponent - making him run more. And also you can shake up his feet and hit the ball behind him!

Pay Attention to your Court Position!

Posted by CoachKevin on July 8, 2013 at 1:25 AM Comments comments (0)

When playing out a rally, you might find yourself constantly on the stretch or on the run because you were probably taught to always recover back to the middle. 

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, you just need to be more mindful about your position on the court and where you're aiming the ball. During a forehand to forehand rally exhange (assuming both are righties), you don't want to recover right back on the middle. You want to be in the middle of your opponent's targets as much as possible!

If you aim to your opponent's forehand, you need to cover the higher percentage shot selection, which is cross-court back to your forehand. You should be recovering more towards your forehand side because not only is it your opponent's high percentage shot, you will be in the middle of his targets!

Basically, if you hit a shot down the line, be prepared for your opponent's cross-court shot! If you hit cross-court, chances are he's going to hit cross court back unless he's going to be a dare-devil and go down the line. When this happens during the cross-court exchange, adjust your recovery position leaning a little back towards the middle but still to the right so you're prepared to get that risky down-the-line, and still be able to cover their high-percentage play; the cross-court.

Stay tuned for more tips!

I've been coaching a boy named Joseph

Posted by CoachKevin on July 7, 2013 at 3:25 AM Comments comments (0)

To introduce Joe, he did not have a forehand until I started working with him. It was a disaster. I began working with him in the beginning of summer. We work once a week, and to be honest, his forehand has developed into a lethal stroke - probably developed a lot faster than people who work with a coach at least 3 times a week in the bay area. He now feels a lot more confident about it, and can really rip it when he chooses to. However, he is still new to this modern technique and working only once a week, it will take a bit to really get it down. 

This is a picture comparison of a pro and him in the buttcap position. I really broke it down for him and addressed the problems in this comparison. And since then, we just kept working the mechanics of his stroke to get the forehand he has now. 


I will try my best to get a video of how his forehand looks like now. I just taught him the secrets of using the hips and feet, and now his racket head speed is phenomonal. 


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