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North American Open 2010
19-27 Feb, Richmond, Virginia

27 Feb, Final:
[2] Nick Matthew
bt [1] Ramy Ashour  11/9, 16/14, 5/4 rtd inj

Matthew takes the title in Richmond
Martin Heath reports

Nick Matthew fought back from 9-7 in the first game and 7-4 in the second game of the final to break the heart of current World No.1 and defending North American Open Champion Ramy Ashour.

Ashour seemed to be playing the kind of freeflowing squash that is his trademark, though Matthew kept pegging him back, using his straight volley drop to force Ashour to reach uncomfortably into the front corners.

It wasn't obvious that Ashour was injured, though maybe because he doesn't play traditional physical, length-based squash. He attacks into the front corners, especially crosscourt, and his wins are predicated upon when he can force the loose shot and how far forward he can get to reduce the risk of playing a winning shot.

The second game was make-or-break for Ashour; win it and he might have gone on to dominate the match. This wasn't to be - Matthew wouldn't let his opponent break free, forcing Ashour deeper and deeper in the court, eventually getting the error.

Matthew's steely resolve and physicality means that he is incredibly hard to break down when he is in a rhythm, and also hard to dominate in more random conditions due to his insistence on making his opponent play one more shot to finish the rally.

Matthew's 2-0 lead proved to be unassailable. Ashour tried for a few points in the third game, though it was a half-hearted effort. He knew he couldn't summon the effort required to come back and win, especially while carrying a niggling injury.

Matthew fully deserved his victory. He laboured through a couple of average matches during the tournament, finding his volley drops and short game in the semi-finals and finals.

"It's never a nice way to win by default, but tonight, obviously, I'll be happy. It's a very hard situation to play in. You just have to think about your normal game and do the best you can.

"He's so quick and his racket speed is so fast and his feet are so fast, it's like he's a ballerina, the way he moves. He's so springy and it's like he's moving on a trampoline, while the rest of us are moving on concrete.

"The problem with squash is it's a game of milliseconds, so if you're off by even one millisecond, that makes a big difference.

"We're very, very close and we always have tough matches, so it was nice to finally beat him again."

The interest now lies in a potential rivalry for the top spot on PSA. This win pushes Matthew closer to that goal, one which he is yet to achieve.

"I just couldn't keep the consistency. Nick played well. You have to be 100 percent to beat him and I don't think I was today. I couldn't push anymore and that's why I decided to stop. I have another tournament in a week and I have to have my legs for that."

North American Open 2010

Round One
21/22 Feb
Round Two
23/24 Feb
25 Feb
26 Feb
27 Feb
[1] Ramy Ashour (Egy)
11/7, 6/11, 9/11, 11/3, 11/5 (53m)
Steve Coppinger (Rsa)
[1] Ramy Ashour
11/4, 11/4, 10/12, 11/4
[13] Aamir Atlas Khan
[1] Ramy Ashour

8/11, 12/10, 11/9, 11/8 (49m)

[9] Thierry Lincou
[1] Ramy Ashour

12/14, 13/11, 7/11, 11/7, 11/8 (76m)

[3] Amr Shabana

[1] Ramy Ashour


11/9, 16/14, 5/4 ret. inj


[2] Nick Matthew

[13] Aamir Atlas Khan (Pak)
11/5, 2/11, 11/4, 13/11 (37m)
[Q] Steve Finitsis (Aus)
[6] Peter Barker (Eng)
 11/9, 7/11, 11/7, 14/12 (50m)
[Q] David Phillips (Can)
[6] Peter Barker
11/8, 11/7, 11/9
[9] Thierry Lincou
[9] Thierry Lincou (Fra)
11/5, 11/6, 11/4 (27m)
Farhan Mehboob (Pak)
[3] Amr Shabana (Egy)
12/10, 11/6, 11/9 (33m)
[Q] Zac Alexander (Aus)
[3] Amr Shabana
11/5, 11/7, 3/5 rtd
[11] Wael El Hindi
[3] Amr Shabana

11/3, 11/7, 11/9 (32m)

[14] Olli Tuominen

[11] Wael El Hindi (Egy)
11/3, 11/2, 7/11, 11/8 (34m)
[Q] Cesar Salazar (Mex)
[8] David Palmer (Aus)
 13/11, 11/8, 11/2 (39m)
Shahier Razik (Can)
[8] David Palmer
11/9, 6/11, 11/4, 4/11, 11/8
[14] Olli Tuominen
[14] Olli Tuominen (Fin)
11/9, 11/9, 7/11, 11/5 (53m)
[Q] Ryan Cuskelly (Aus)
[Q] Nicolas Mueller (Sui)
11/9, 11/4, 11/8 (34m)
[12] Alister Walker (Eng)
[12] Alister Walker
11/6, 11/5, 11/6 (40m)
[7] James Willstrop
[7] James Willstrop

11/6, 12/10, 11/3 (53m)

[4] Gregory Gaultier

[7] James Willstrop

11-8, 11-9, 12-10 (62m)

[2] Nick Matthew

Aaron Frankcomb (Aus)
11/4, 11/4, 11/8 (36m)
[7] James Willstrop (Eng)
Rafael Alarcon (Bra)
10/12, 11/5, 11/7, 9/11, 11/6 (85m)
[15] Joey Barrington (Eng)
[15] Joey Barrington
11/7, 11/3, 11/3 (32m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier
[Q] Yasir Butt (Pak)
 11/6, 11/9, 11/6 (38m)
[4] Gregory Gaultier (Fra)
Simon Rosner (Ger)
11/9, 11/9, 6/11, 10/12, 11/6 (70m)
[10] Adrian Grant (Eng)
[10] Adrian Grant
6/11, 6/11, 5/0 rtd (35m)
[5] Karim Darwish
[10] Adrian Grant

11/9, 5/11, 11/4, 11/7 (67m

[2] Nick Matthew

Amr Swelim (Ita)
11/6, 11/5, 11/2 (27m)
[5] Karim Darwish (Egy)
[Q] Mohammed Abbas (Egy)
8/11, 11/7, 11/7, 11/6 (45m)
[16] Julian Illingworth (Usa)
[Q] Mohammed Abbas
11/13, 11/9, 11/3, 11/7 (54m)
[2] Nick Matthew
Esteban Casarino (Par)
11/3, 11/3, 11/8 (33m)
[2] Nick Matthew (Eng)

   19 Feb, Qualifying Finals:

   Nicolas Mueller (SUI) bt Adil Maqbool (PAK)                           11-7, 11-7, 11-9 (21m)
   Mohammed Abbas (EGY) bt Jens Schoor (GER)                      11-4, 11-3, 11-5 (26m)
   Yasir Butt (PAK) bt Shaun le Roux (ENG)                       11-7, 6-11, 11-5, 11-6 (44m)
   Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Bernardo Samper (COL)                   11-6, 11-4, 11-4 (29m)
   David Phillips (CAN) bt Scott Arnold (AUS)                  11-9, 10-12, 11-5, 11-1 (44m)
   Ryan Cuskelly (AUS) bt Christopher Gordon (USA)        11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3 (51m)
   Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Gilly Lane (USA)          11-13, 11-9, 1-11, 14-12, 11-8 (98m)
   Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Julien Balbo (FRA)                     11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8 (56m)

   19 Feb, Qualifying Round One:

   Adil Maqbool (PAK) bt Sean Steinour (USA)                          11-6, 11-6, 11-7 (16m)
   Jens Schoor (GER) bt Ehimen Joseph Ehalen (NGR)     11-7, 11-4, 11-13, 11-5 (54m)
   Shaun le Roux (ENG) bt Lazarus Chiluba Chilufya (RSA)        11-7, 11-5, 11-3 (22m)
   Bernardo Samper (COL) bt Willy Clark (USA)                       11-2, 11-5, 11-5 (20m)
   Zac Alexander (AUS) bt Luke Forster (AUS)                          11-7, 11-8, 11-4 (25m)
   David Phillips (CAN) bt Lekgotla Mosope (BOT)    7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-6 (57m)
   Scott Arnold (AUS) bt Patrick Chifunda (ZAM)                     13-11, 11-4, 11-8 (47m)
   Christopher Gordon (USA) bt Fernando Lopez (MEX)             11-6, 11-6, 11-4 (37m)
   Cesar Salazar (MEX) bt Andrew Wagih (EGY)                    11-9, 13-11, 15-13 (50m)
   Steve Finitsis (AUS) bt Jamie Crombie (USA)            11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 12-10 (46m)

27 Feb, Final:
[2] Nick Matthew
bt [1] Ramy Ashour  11/9, 16/14, 5/4 rtd inj
      details to follow

26-Feb, Semi-finals:
Ashour & Matthew To Contest
Second Richmond Final

Ramy Ashour and Nick Matthew, the world's top two players, will contest - for the second successive year - the final of the North American Open  after prevailing in contrasting semi-finals at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

World number one Ashour closed in on the head-to-head record against his illustrious Egyptian compatriot Amr Shabana by beating the reigning and four-time World Open champion in a 76-minute marathon in which he twice had to come from behind.

Shabana started the match in control, playing crisp length and carving in deadly volley drops at will. Ashour's astonishing speed allowed him to retrieve and win the scrappy rallies, which is all that he had at the beginning of the match. The nucleus of Ashour's armoury, the backhand crosscourt volley drop, was not firing as well is it had been all week.

Shabana, the 30-year-old third seed, led in the first three games, though the 22-year-old top seed pegged it back each time, firing in some incredible power forehand crosscourt nicks.

The former world number one looked to have it sewn up after he breezed through the third game, though let Ashour back in the fourth. It was not until the decider game that both players played at their full potential.

It was Ashour who received the momentum at the end of the game - though it could so easily have been a different outcome – as the event favourite secured the 12-14, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8 victory which takes Ashour into his 24th PSA final in just over five years.

"It's just amazing, the way Shabana plays," said Ashour later. Every time I go on court with him, I think it's going to be easier – but it never happens!

"I had such a tough match – it's never easy to play him. He's one of the smartest players ever.

"It was more of a mental game today, than physical. I'm really glad I'm in the final," added Ashour.

In the other all-English semi, world number two Matthew faced seventh seed James Willstrop, his Yorkshire rival against whom he boasted a 12-8 head-to-head advantage.

Willstrop, winner of the last Super Series event at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York, never really looked comfortable for the whole of the match. The 26-year-old from Leeds did take a lead in the first two games, though he was half the player of the previous round.

Matthew was hitting a more precise length and bringing the ball short enough on the volley drop to make Willstrop lunge, intercepting the next ball to end the rally at the back of the court.

It was a pattern that was repeated through the match. Willstrop briefly looked in control in the third game, though Matthew levelled the score and went on to win 11-8, 11-9, 12-10 after 62 minutes.

"I'm delighted with the way I played tonight," said the 29-year-old from Sheffield, now in his 32nd Tour final.

Matthew praised the help he and Willstrop had been getting from England Squash coach David Campion: "We've done a lot of work on my short game this week, so it's nice to see it finally coming off.

"I'm just delighted to get it off 3/0 – which gives me the chance against Ramy when I'll be relatively fresh," concluded the Englishman.

Photo Gallery


Willstrop Ousts Gaultier
In Richmond Upset

Two of the greatest national rivalries in world squash will entertain the semi-final crowd at the North American Open in Richmond after Egyptians Ramy Ashour and Amr Shabana, together with Englishmen Nick Matthew and James Willstrop, came through the quarter-finals.

Seventh seed Willstrop produced the only upset of the day when he beat fourth seed Gregory Gaultier – repeating the win over his career-long French rival in the Richmond final two years ago, but avenging two most recent losses to the former world number one from Aix-en-Provence.

The clash was billed as the potential match of the tournament: Gaultier reached No1 in the world only a few months earlier, while Willstrop won the year's first Super Series event, the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions, in January in New York.

Both players started out at a furious pace, with Willstrop managing to hit a slightly better length, allowing him to dominate the middle of the court.

"Gaultier never really controlled any point in the match, though he is a great fighter," commented a tournament spokesman. "Through sheer will, he managed to win a few scrappy points towards the end of the second game to force a tie-break."

The Frenchman stuck to his natural game of fast-paced hitting and counter-attack in the third game, though it was ineffective as Willstrop closed out the last few points to win 11-6, 12-10, 11-3 in 53 minutes.

It took Nick Matthew 14 more energy-sapping minutes to conquer compatriot and England team-mate Adrian Grant 11-9, 5-11, 11-4, 11-7 to set up his second Tour meeting this year with fellow Yorkshireman Willstrop after the pair contested the Swedish Open final earlier in the month.

Matthew, 29, from Sheffield, and 26-year-old Willstrop, from Leeds, have been persistent rivals since their junior days – and Willstrop, currently 8-12 down on their PSA head-to-head record, is looking for his first win since December 2007.

Like last year's runner-up Matthew, defending champion Ramy Ashour is one match away from his second successive appearance in the Richmond final after beating experienced Frenchman Thierry Lincou 8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-8.

Lincou, a former world number one, produced a fantastic display of fighting squash against the touch and speed of Ashour, the reigning world number one. The ninth-seeded Frenchman played tight squash and dominated the top seed in the first game and up to mid-way through the second.

At 10-8 to Ashour in the second, Ashour hit two crosscourt volley drops into the tin - an unusual occurrence! The 22-year-old from Cairo regained composure and Lincou started to tire. Two more crosscourt drop-shots and this time they went in: game to Ashour 12-10.

Ashour went on to produce some spectacular shot-making and retrieving to carve out his impressive four-game victory in 49 minutes.

Reigning World Open champion, and four times winner of the sport's ultimate title, Amr Shabana needed just 32 minutes to despatch Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed from Finland, 11-3, 11-7, 11-8.

The 30-year-old third seed from Giza produced a clinical display of precision squash to end the Finn's Richmond run – and set up a head-on clash with young Egyptian rival Ramy Ashour.

The pair will be meeting for the 15th time on the Tour since October 2006 – eight of which were in finals. Shabana was the victor in November's World Open final in Kuwait, but Ashour prevailed in their most recent clash in December's semi-finals of the Punj Lloyd PSA Masters in India.

24-Feb, Round Two, bottom half:
Matthew Tested By Abbas In Virginia

Second seed Nick Matthew claimed his anticipated place in the quarter-finals in Richmond – but the world number two from England had to fight back from a game and 8-6 down to overcome Egyptian qualifier Mohammed Abbas.

Abbas has spent most of the past 12 months struggling with plantar fasciitis, a debilitating injury of the bottom of the foot. The 29-year-old from Giza was as high as No13 in the world, and currently lies at 60. Title success in December's Edmonton Open showed that he is getting back on track.

Matthew, winner of the Swedish Open earlier this month, played patient squash - up and down the backhand wall, waiting for the opportunity to attack Abbas short. The experienced Egyptian stayed with Matthew's pace, frustrating the Englishman by playing textbook glass court squash.

The 29-year-old from Sheffield slightly increased the pace, and was able to stand forward – but Abbas eventually started to show signs of lack of belief towards the end of the second game and then signs of fatigue in the third. Thereafter Matthew was in control and wrapped up the match 11-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-7 to earn a surprise last eight clash with fellow countryman Adrian Grant.

Londoner Grant, the 10th seed, faced Egypt's former world number one Karim Darwish, seeded five. Darwish was in control the first two games, using his racket head speed to cut the ball straight into the front corners on any opportunity. Grant is a great athlete, though could not break Darwish's metronomic rhythm and silky touch.

The Englishman found his way into the game in the third, stepping up the court, hitting the ball with a little more pace to build up a 5-0 lead. But, taking a ball in the front corner, Darwish rolled over his ankle.

After a three-minute time out, Darwish then conceded the third game for another two minutes - though his efforts were to prove fruitless. A recurrence of an old injury forced Darwish to concede the match: Grant was gracious in victory, though nonetheless looking forward to competing in another quarter-final.

The other second round matches produced a quarter-final clash which is the repeat of the Davenport Professional Championship final in Richmond in 2008 - between long-time European rivals James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier.

Seventh seed Willstrop, winner of the Tournament of Champions in New York, produced a workmanlike performance to dispose of fellow Englishman Alister Walker 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.

Frenchman Gaultier, the fourth seed, faced 15th seed Joey Barrington. The Englishman put up a good fight in the opening game, but Gaultier ultimately took control and moved through to the quarters unscathed after an 11-7, 11-3, 11-3 victory.

23-Feb, Round Two, top half:
Tuominen Topples Palmer
In Richmond Upset

Flying Finn Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed, produced an impressive upset in the second round of the North American Open  in Richmond when he beat long-time rival David Palmer, the eighth seed from Australia, to claim a place in the quarter-finals.

The 30-year-old from Helsinki is clearly at home in the Richmond surroundings as Tuominen was repeating his unexpected victory over the US-based former world number one at the same stage two years ago.

But, this time, the Finn went onto court 3-16 down on a career head-to-head record which dates back to November 1999 and includes three successive losses to Palmer over the past 16 months.

Tuominen twice led, and twice Palmer drew level before the underdog maintained the pattern to close out the match 11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8 after 67 minutes.

Tuominen will now face third seed Amr Shabana after the four-time world champion from Egypt beat compatriot Wael El Hindi 11-5, 11-7, 3-5 (rtd).

"El Hindi pulled his hip in the first point of the match though hung around until the third game," said event spokesman Martin Heath. "Shabana fully took advantage of his opponent's lack of mobility with devastating length and devastating volley drops."

Veteran Frenchman Thierry Lincou, the No9 seed, also upset the form book with a straight games win over England's sixth seed Peter Barker to secure a quarter-final berth for the third year in a row.

"Both players have similar styles, with low risk, attacking length, always pushing forward looking to volley and increase the pace," explained Heath. "It was Lincou's deft volley drops and ability to control the middle that made the difference - with Barker only creeping in front of Lincou at 6-5 in the third, two games down."

The 33-year-old from Marseille will now line up against top seed Ramy Ashour, the defending champion from Egypt who took four games to quash 13th seed Aamir Atlas Khan 11-4, 11-4, 10-12, 11-4 in his first Tour meeting with the 19-year-old from Pakistan.

"Ramy started the game as relaxed as ever, dropping his racket head to cut in some devastating straight and crosscourt drops," said Heath. "Aamir fought bravely to clinch the third game – but eventually his lack of tactical experience meant he was going for the winning shot too early, exposing himself to Ashour's wristwork and artistry."

22-Feb, Round One, bottom half:
Abbas Ends US Interest

Egyptian qualifier Mohammed Abbas produced the only upset on the second day of first round action in the North American Open when he beat 16th seed Julian Illingworth to end US interest at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

The 29-year-old from Cairo is fighting back to top form after spending most of last year sidelined by injury. Illingworth, the five-time US champion from Portland ranked 32 in the world, took the opening game – but Abbas, a former world No13 bounced back to claim his 8-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6 upset after 45 minutes.

Abbas will now face second seed Nick Matthew, the in-form Englishman who arrived in Richmond following successive title successes in the Swedish Open and the British National Championships.

The 29-year-old world No2 from Sheffield despatched Paraguayan wild card opponent Esteban Casarino 11-3, 11-3, 11-8.

Matthew led a group of five Englishmen through to the second round. Indeed, James Willstrop and Alister Walker will meet in an all-English last 16 battle after successes in the opening round. Willstrop, the seventh seed who lifted the trophy in the year's first PSA Super Series 2010 event at the JP Morgan Tournament of Champions in New York, defeated Australian Aaron Frankcomb 11-4, 11-4, 11-8.

Alister Walker was after revenge when he faced qualifier Nicolas Mueller, a rising star from Switzerland to whom he lost in last year's Irish Open.

"Mueller came out of the blocks like a bullet from a gun and went 8-2 up in a matter of minutes, firing in some excellent winners to the front," said a tournament spokesman. "Walker finally found his composure and started to gain his range and rhythm and clawed his way back to 8-9. From here he was matching Mueller's aggressive volleying and continued through to take the game 11-9."

The 27-year-old 12th seed from Leeds continued his assault to claim a well-deserved 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 victory – and a second round clash with Willstrop, who is also from the same Yorkshire city.



21-Feb, Round One, top half:
Coppinger Tests Champion Ashour
In Richmond Opener

Defending champion Ramy Ashour made it through to the second round of the North American Open in Richmond – but the world number one from Egypt was taken the full distance before overcoming unseeded South African Stephen Coppinger in the first round at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

In a surprise turnaround on the opening day of the tournament, world No45 Coppinger fought back from a game down to lead title-holder Ashour 2/1. But the event favourite from Cairo restored order to take the next two games to claim a dramatic 11-7, 6-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-5 win after 53 minutes.

The 22-year-old, who topped the world rankings for the first time in January, will now face Aamir Atlas Khan after the 19-year-old 13th seed from Pakistan despatched Australian qualifier Steve Finitsis 11-5, 2-11, 11-4, 13-11.

Ashour will be joined by two fellow countrymen in the last sixteen. Third seed Amr Shabana, the four times World Open champion from Giza, saw off Australian qualifier Zac Alexander 12-10, 11-6, 11-9, while Wael El Hindi, the New York-based No11 seed from Cairo, ended Mexican interest in the event by beating qualifier Cesar Salazar 11-3, 11-2, 7-11, 11-8.

Veteran campaigners David Palmer and Thierry Lincou, both aged 33, secured comfortable first round wins: Australian Palmer, the former world number one and world champion who next month begins his 17th year on the PSA World Tour, faced Canadian Shahier Razik, winner of the North American Open title in 2005.

After a see-saw first game, eighth seed Palmer made quick work of the 32-year-old from Toronto to win 13-11, 11-8, 11-2 – and set up a second round clash with career-long Finnish rival Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed.

Frenchman Thierry Lincou, also both a former world number one and World Open winner, took on Pakistan's Farhan Mehboob. But Lincou's experience was too great for the 21-year-old from Peshawar as the ninth seed clinched an 11-5, 11-6, 11-4 victory in just 27 minutes.

20-Feb, Qualifying Finals:
Australians Excel In
North American Open Qualifiers

A trio of Australians will join the main draw of the North American Open in Richmond, Virginia, after successes by Zac Alexander, Ryan Cuskelly and Steve Finitsis in the qualifying finals at the University of Richmond.

Alexander became the lowest-ranked player to qualify when he beat Colombian Bernardo Samper 11-6, 11-4, 11-4 in 29 minutes. The 21-year-old from Brisbane will take on third seed Amr Shabana in his first ever meeting with the four times World Open champion from Egypt.

"This is my first time qualifying for a Super Series event, so I'm very pleased with the win today," said Alexander, ranked 105 in the world. "I’ve never played Bernardo in a PSA match but we train together in New York a bit so I knew it was going to be tough out there. Now I’m just looking forward to playing either tomorrow or Monday."

New York-based Ryan Cuskelly dashed US hopes of success in the qualifiers when he beat New York-born Christopher Gordon 11-7, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3.

"I found it a little tough to get going today because I have played a lot of squash the last couple of months," said the 22-year-old from New South Wales who is already competing in his seventh PSA event of the year.

"But all credit to him, he stuck in there and made me work for it," added the world No51 who now meets Olli Tuominen, the 14th seed from Finland.

Steve Finitsis had to battle for 56 minutes to overcome higher-ranked Frenchman Julien Balbo 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8. The Queenslander now lines up against Aamir Atlas Khan, the 13th seed from Pakistan.

There was further US disappointment when Mexican Cesar Salazar beat Gilly Lane, the American number two from Philadelphia, 11-13, 11-9, 1-11, 14-12, 11-8 in a 98-minue marathon.

"I didn’t start the first game too well and, though I lost it, I felt I was getting a better length at the end - then I got it together in the second and felt in control," explained the 22-year-old from San Luis Potosi who now faces Egypt's 11th seed Wael El Hindi.

"In the third I didn’t do anything, rushed to finish the points and totally lost the plan. By saving a few match balls in the fourth, it gave me the confidence for the fifth and I think he felt the pressure."


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