Nadal

If you don’t know the name Rafael Nadal, no rx we don’t know what you’ve been missing. The tennis player just earned his ninth French Open title yesterday in a repeat of last year’s final versus Novak Djokovic, illness making the 28-year-old clay legend (he’s got a 63-1 record!) our HAM of the Week.

Rafa”, as he is known to his legion of fans, is the current world #1, and he’s aced his way into our hearts. He’s a sexy and single Spaniard who has won more than 50 titles in his 13 years of turning pro—what more can we love about our HAM of the Week?

For starters, he is only one of two singles players (behind tennis legend Andre Agassi) to complete a Career Golden Slam, meaning he has won the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open, in addition to the Olympic gold medal (which he won in 2008) in the span of his career.

He’s also an avid soccer fan, having played the sport when he was young in addition to tennis. Though he chose to focus on the latter, he still supports Real Madrid and RCD Mallorca as well as the Spanish national team, fitting for the World Cup, which begins this week.

Rafael Nadal HAM

Rafael Nadal, http://www.hollywoodgossip.com

Turning pro at 15, Nadal participated in events at the junior and senior circuits, winning his first major senior match on the ATP circuit just before he turned 16. But it wasn’t until the following year that he faced current rival Roger Federer at Wimbledon.

By 19, Nadal won his first French Open title in his first appearance at the event, the first man to win the title since 1982. He went on to win the tournament the next three times.

Injury sidelined Nadal in 2012, but he’s obviously emerged as the reigning king of the (clay) court, quite possibly making him one of the best tennis players of all time.

If Nadal ever reaches a final in a tournament, you can bet he’s either going against Djokovic or Federer, the other two players who seem to be challenging Nadal for the best of the best. Nadal has faced Djokovic more than 40 times, with about half of those matches faced in the final round. Nadal has faced Federer 33 times, with 20 of those matches faced in the final.

Rafael Nadal HAM

Rafael Nadal, http://www.tennisnow.com

According to his autobiography, while he does have a game plan against Federer, he’s still looking for one against Djokovic.

We’re not sure about Rafa’s constant habit of biting his trophies, but wow, it makes him so much sexier…

And it’s not everyday that you have an asteroid named after you. According to ATP World Tour, the asteroid is located between Mars and Jupiter and travels through space at 20 kilometers per second. Talk about star power.

Nadal is also charitable; his organization, Fundacion Rafa Nadal, provides educational programs for deprived children and teenagers through sports.

Rafael Nadal, http://www.dailymaik.co.uk

Rafael Nadal, http://www.dailymaik.co.uk

The one sport he’s not good at? Golf. But we’d rather have a superstar with 15 major Grand Slam titles to his name on the tennis court than anywhere else.

As a spokesman for Nike, Nadal also has a collection with the retailer, and has also emerged as a somewhat fashion icon. At just over 6 feet, he seems to be all muscle and pure heart.

Not to mention, being photographed by famed photographer Bruce Weber for the June 2009 issue of Vogue:

Catch up with Rafa at Wimbledon, which starts Monday, June 23. Follow Rafael Nadal on Twitter at @RafaelNadal (he tweets in Spanish and English!) and at www.rafaelnadal.com.

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rafa french open 2014 semi

Torrential rain delayed the start of quarterfinal action on day 11 of the French Open Wednesday and looked like it was going to force the 5th set of both men’s semifinals to be postponed due to darkness.  But both Rafa Nadal and Andy Murray managed to dominate the 5th set of their matches to finish business in record time as the sun was setting over Paris.

monfilsIn what looked like it should be a fast match for Murray, pilule Frenchman Gaël Monfils looked as if he had been playing possum the first two sets – Murray was looking like he was on the ropes. It seemed certain that the match wouldn’t have time to finish before dark, treat but with Murray clearly irritated by the call from the umpire to continue play in the fading light, buy he only needed 24 minutes for the last set to defeat Monfils 6-4, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 6-0 with Monfils winning just seven points in the entire last set.

MEN’S SINGLES SEMIFINALS FRIDAY

Nadal to play Murray Friday

Can anybody stop Nadal? In an unbelievable match that was looking like a nail-biter early on and perhaps even a loss for top-seeded Nadal, Rafa defeated fellow countryman David Ferrer, the man who lost last year’s final to the eight-time French Open champion.

After a slow start in which he conceded the first set 6-4, Nadal hit back to take the next three sets 6-4 6-0 6-1. The World No.1, who was beaten at Monte Carlo in April by Ferrer, remains a huge favorite to win the title.

Djokovich vs Gulbis

Gulbis defeats Berdych in quarterfinals

Gulbis defeats Berdych in quarterfinals

Ernests Gulbis followed up his victory over Roger Federer by crushing sixth seed Tomas Berdych 6-3 6-2 6-4 to claim a place in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time in his career.

Gulbis will meet second-seeded Novak Djokovic, who was impressive in his 7-5, 7-6, 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic. Djokovic is through to his 22nd Grand Slam semi-final and has reached the last four at 14 of the last 15 Grand Slam tournaments.

WOMEN’S SINGLES SEMIFINALS THURSDAY

Genie Bouchard advances to seminfinals

Genie Bouchard advances to seminfinals

Sharapova vs Bouchard

Maria Sharapova had a sloppy first set vs 35th ranked Garbine Muguruza of Spain in the quarterfinals, but grabbed control of the match by breaking her to go up by 6-5 in the second set and served out the set and easily winning the last set 6-1.

The seventh-seeded Sharapova has emerged as one favorite in this upset-filled tournament. Last year’s champion Serena Williams (1) was easily defeated in the 2nd round by Muguruza 6-2, 6-2. Second-seeded and Aussie Open champion Na Li was shockingly defeated in the 1st round by 103th ranked Kristina Mladenovic of France, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Sharapova will meet 18th seeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. Twenty year old Bouchard is currently on a streak – winning 10 matches in a row – including a run to her first WTA title in Nuremberg, Germany, the week before the French Open began.

Bouchard was inspired to take up tennis when she saw Sharapova’s Wimbledon victory 10 years ago at age 17. However, Genie has made clear that she isn’t intimidated by Sharapova by telling reporters, “We’re not friends, so there is that. Of course as a child I looked up to her and I remember watching her in the finals of Wimbledon and, you know, thought what she was doing was so cool and I wanted to do the same thing. We’re in the semis of a Grand Slam, so I’m going to respect her but not put her too high on a pedestal and really just battle.”

Petkovic vs Halep

Halep Beats Petkovic In Nürnberg Final

Halep Beats Petkovic In Nürnberg Final

Neither Petkovic nor Halep has ever played in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. But they will meet on Thursday for a spot in the final.

Andrea Petkovic, a 28th-seeded German, beat 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani of Italy 6-2, 6-2 and fourth-seeded Simona Halep defeated 2009 champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, also 6-2, 6-2.

TV COVERAGE

The Women’s semifinals is scheduled for Thursday, June 5th at 8 a.m. on ESPN2, as well as on NBC beginning at 10 a.m. (CT).  The Women’s final will be played Saturday, June 7th beginning at 8 a.m. (CT) and shown on NBC.

The Men’s semifinals will begin at 7 a.m. Friday, June 6th on the Tennis Channel and from 10 a.m. on NBC. The Men’s final will be Sunday, June 8th at 8 a.m and broadcast by NBC.

Have a Smashing Day! Smashing Golf & Tennis apparel is now available at the Made in Chicago boutique at 17 E Pearson St, Chicago.

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Nadal Loses in the First Round. (Photo: BBC Sports)

It’s been a wild first few days at the All England Club in Wimbledon, try a record seven players pull out of the tournament, healing while Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer are upset in their second round matches.  Add to this, stuff Rafael Nadal’s first-round upset on Monday and there’s been more excitement and drama on the grass courts of London than we have seen all season.

Men’s Singles – Nadal and Federer Upsets

The first upset came on Monday, the opening day of the tournament, when world #5 Rafael Nadal was defeated in the first-round by Steve Darcis – ranked #135 – in three sets 7-6, 7-6, 6-4.  Nadal in the post match interview declared that it was “not a tragedy” and refused to blame his exit on his persistent knee injury.

However, it was obvious that he was in pain, as he went down to the Belgian (Darcis.) Nadal was barely able to use his backhand and was limping at times. Nadal was also clearly annoyed by suggestions that he had focused too much on the clay-court season and was not prepared for Wimbledon.

“On grass it’s difficult to adapt your game when you don’t have the chance to play before and I didn’t find my rhythm,” said Nadal, who decided to rest instead of playing the grass court tournament in Halle, Germany.

Federer Suffers Earliest Wimbledon Exit Since 2002

Sergiy Stakhovsky def Roger Federer in 2nd Round (USA Today)

Defending champion Roger Federer suffered his earliest exit at Wimbledon since 2002 with a second-round defeat to Sergiy Stakhovsky Wednesday. Seven-time winner Federer lost 6-7, 7-6, 7-5, 7-6.

Stakhovsky is ranked No. 116 in the world while Federer is ranked No. 3. The victory is Stakhovsky’s first against an opponent ranked in the top 10. Sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew from his second-round match because of an injury, one of seven men and women to do so on day three.

Murray Wimbledon 2013 (Photo BBC Sports)

Thus, with Federer, Nadal and  Tsonga having exited the competition,  Andy Murray’s title hopes may be realized.

The top-ranked player in Murray’s side of the draw is 15th seed Milos Raonic.

The top seed, Novak Djokovic, moved on defeating Florian Mayer of Germany, who is ranked No. 34 in the world, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

One would assume that the way looks clear to a Djokovic vs Murray Final at the end of the fortnight, but with the bizarre Wimbledon happenings this year, anything can happen.

Women’s Singles – Sharapova Upset

Sharapova falls during her match vs Larcher De Brito (USA Today)

Maria Sharapova was knocked out of Wimbledon by a 131st-ranked qualifier on a day when injuries forced the withdrawal of seven other players.

The third-seeded and 2004 Wimbledon champion, Sharapova, lost 6-3, 6-4 to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal in the second round.

“I just wasn’t there,” Sharapova said.  “She played really great tennis… All the credit to her. She played really well from start to finish.”

However, she was heard telling the umpire: “These courts are dangerous.” Sharapova fell three times during her match on the slippery grass.

Azarenka twisted her knee in her first round win. (Getty Images)

Second-seeded Victoria Azarenka has pulled out of Wimbledon after hurting her right knee in her opening-round win, minutes before her second-round match against Flavia Pennetta on Wednesday.

Early in the second set of her match against Maria Joao Koehler, Azarenka did the splits near the baseline then crumpled to the grass, clutching her right knee and sobbing.

Sharapova and Azarenka were seen as the top challengers to Serena Williams for this year’s women’s title.

Wimbledon TV Coverage

ESPN2 will begin coverage at 6 a.m. CT and will run throughout the day.  You can also catch their coverage beginning at 5:30 a.m. on ESPN3 if you’re viewing online, and the official Wimbledon website has some live video options as well.

Thursday’s notable matches are listed below:

Men’s Singles

No. 1 Novak Djokovic vs. Bobby Reynolds
No. 4 David Ferrer vs. Roberto Bautista Agut
No. 7 Tomas Berdych vs. Daniel Brands
No. 8 Juan Martin Del Potro vs. Jesse Levine
No. 12 Kei Nishikori vs. Leonardo Mayer
No. 13 Tommy Haas vs. Jimmy Wang

Women’s Singles

No. 1 Serena Williams vs. Carolina Garcia
No. 4 Agnieszka Radwanska vs. Mathilde Johansson
No. 6 Na Li vs. Simona Halep
No. 14 Samantha Stosur vs. Olga Puchkova

 

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wimbledon-2013 logo

Wimbledon, medicine the third of the four grand slams of the tennis calendar year, there begins today in London. Tennis’ brightest stars and biggest names from around the world will be competing for the Wimbledon trophy that is awarded to the winners of the oldest and most prestigious tennis tournament.

Wimbledon is the only grand slam which is played on grass; the French Open is played on clay and the US and Australian Opens are played on hard court. Wimbledon is played at the All England Cub in Wimbledon, London where it has been held since 1877 and lasts  two weeks.

Let’s take a look at which players are the early favorites heading into the tennis season’s most coveted and conservative event.

Men’s Singles Championship

Federer Def Murray 2012 (Photo: Telegraph.co.uk)

Until this year, no man had won eight titles at the same Grand Slam. Rafael Nadal just won No. 8 at the French Open. Now, Roger Federer can try to match him at Wimbledon.

Federer is the defending champion and he’s still as good as it gets on grass. He finally ended a 10-month title drought by winning a tuneup tournament on grass at Halle, Germany. Wimbledon is the major tournament he’s most likely to win if he’s going to add to his record total of 17 Grand Slam titles.

Nadal second-round defeat at Wimbledon last year (Photo: telegraph.co.uk)

However, he may be going home early, as Federer could face Nadal in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon due to Friday’s draw that placed the third-seeded Federer and No.5 Nadal in the same half.  The winner of the Federer vs Nadal match will most likely go on to meet home favorite Brit, Andy Murray, who is seeded No.2 in the semifinals – all three wound up on the same side of the draw.

Djokovic, meanwhile, is on the other half and at most would need to beat only one of that other trio to earn the championship.

Brit Andy Murray trying to win at home (Photo ITV.com)

Murray once again will try to give Britain its first male champion at Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936. Last year, Murray became the first British man to even reach the final since 1938, then lost to Federer in four sets. However, Murray did go onto win the Olympic singles gold medal at the All England Club, beating Federer in the final.

In September at the U.S. Open, Murray became the first British man in 76 years to win any Grand Slam singles title. He pulled out of the French Open with a back issue, but won the grass title at Queen’s Club June 16th, so all appears fine with his back.

Nadal and No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic together have won 11 of the most recent 13 Grand Slam titles. Those two, plus Federer, have collected 31 of the past 33 titles. Add Murray to the mix , and these four seem a good bet to win the championship this year.

My Pick for the Men’s Title

Novak Djokovic winning 2011 Wimbledon title (Photo: dailymail.co.uk)

Coming off of his French Open victory, I would normally pick Nadal.  But because of the seeding at Wimbledon, Nadal will be in line to face Roger Federer, Andy Murray or Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, and he might have to beat all three to win – hard for someone even as hot at Nadal.  So while Nadal may be my personal favorite to win the championship, due to the easier draw, I’m going put my money on Novak Djokovic for the title.  But I think anything can happen here – so you won’t want to miss any of the action.

Who Can Beat Serena?

Serena 2012 Wimbledon (Photo: NYTimes.com)

It’s hard to imagine anyone ever being a bigger favorite to win a Grand Slam title than No. 1 ranked Serena Williams is at Wimbledon this year. She comes in as the defending champion; she’s on a 31-match winning streak – the longest single-season run in women’s tennis since her older sister won 35 in a row in 2000.

Serena is 74-3 since last year’s Wimbledon. Williams has claimed three of the last four major titles to raise her career total to 16 — two less than Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Williams vs Sharapova in the Final (Photo: Guardian.co.uk)

There are other women capable of winning the title, especially Maria Sharapova, who won the title in 2004 by beating Williams in the final.

[However] “I don’t see a weakness,” three-time Wimbledon champion John McEnroe said. “She’s playing the best tennis of her career. She’s not only in the best place I’ve ever seen, I think she’s the best player that’s ever lived. I said that a while ago, but she’s cementing it in everyone’s mind. She’s just a level above anyone. There’s no doubt about it.”

Serena Williams will need to keep her emotions and her wardrobe in check over the next two weeks. Wimbledon has a strict dress code that will limit Williams from her normal ‘colorful’ outfits that she is known to wear during the grand slams.  Furthermore, Williams has had a bad dose of press lately, first publicly commenting on a controversial Ohio rape case of a 16-year old girl and just recently, taking shots at Sharapova who is allegedly dating one of Serena’s exes.  More details on this story HERE.

My Pick for the Women’s Title

Kvitova def Sharapova 2011 (Image: bettor.com)

Although Sharapova put up a fight in this year’s French Open final against Williams, she wasn’t really much of a hurdle and has lost the last 13 times they’ve played.

Petra Kvitova, the 2011 champion, seems to have the grass game figured out. No. 2-ranked Victoria Azarenka is a two-time semifinalist; Agnieszka Radwanska and Marion Bartoli have each also been the runner-up.

Still, it’s hard to imagine any of them beating five-time champion Williams if she’s healthy. Considering Serena’s game is even better on grass, it’s difficult to pick anyone to defeat her at Wimbledon.

The only place Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams can meet at Wimbledon is in the final. It’s my prediction that they will meet again. There’s no doubt that Serena will win her 6th Wimbledon championship in 2013.

Wimbledon TV Coverage

ESPN, the sole television home of the live Wimbledon tennis tournament, has 140 hours of coverage scheduled over the two-week period beginning Monday, June 24. (Note: ABC will air encore Wimbledon coverage on June 30, July 6 and July 7 – The July 6 and July 7 telecasts will be encore presentations of the singles finals.)

Monday, June 24
6 a.m.-4 p.m.: First round, ESPN
Tuesday, June 25
6 a.m.-4 p.m.: First round, ESPN
Wednesday, June 26
6 a.m.-4 p.m.: Second round, ESPN2
Thursday, June 27
6 a.m.-2 p.m.: Second round, ESPN2
Friday, June 28
6 a.m.-4 p.m.: Third round, ESPN
Saturday, June 29
7 a.m.-3 p.m.: Third round, ESPN

 

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Nadal Winning French Open for 8th Time (NYTimes.com)

The 2013 French Open culminated on Sunday with Rafael Nadal winning a record eighth title with a straight sets 6-3 6-2 6-3 dismissal of fellow Spaniard David Ferrer. Commentator and tennis legend John McEnroe summed it up best midway through the match, advice “This is like a heavyweight versus a welterweight”.  This match was all Nadal – the undisputed “King of Clay”.

Protesters Disrupt French Open

French Open Protestor (ABCNews.com)

The final was briefly interrupted by a man protesting same-sex marriage by waving a lighted flare. Nadal was serving for the second set at 5-1 when a shirtless man with a white mask ran onto the court and came to within a few feet of Nadal.  The intruder was quickly tackled by security staff, check but  red smoke was still billowing over the court as play continued. What was surely an incredibly scary situation for everyone involved, the incident clearly shook both the players on the court and the fans in the stands.

Nadal Triumphant (Newsday.com)

Understandably shaken, Nadal dropped his service but quickly regained his composure to close out the set in the next game.

After which point, there was no doubt that this was going to be a short match, lasting only 136 minutes. A stark contrast to the 277 minute Nadal vs Djokovic semifinal match Friday.

This is Nadal’s 12th grand slam title – especially sweet after his prolonged eighth month absence due to a knee injury – only returning to match play in February. He also becomes the first man to win the same grand slam title eight times – breaking out of a tie with Roger Federer and Pete Sampras – both of who have seven wins apiece at Wimbledon. Nadal also broke the men’s record for match wins at Roland Garros, where he improved to 59-1, with his lone defeat against Robin Soderling in the fourth round in 2009.

Nadal def Ferrer (Photo: AP)

Nadal has beaten every one of his top rivals in Paris: Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Ferrer. “If he continues that way, who is to stop him?” Ferrer asked.

“It’s clear this year means something very special to me,” Nadal said. “Five months ago nobody in my team dreamed of a comeback like this, because we thought it would be impossible. But here we are today, and that’s really fantastic and incredible.”

Serena Wins 16th Grand Slam

Serena def Sharapova

No. 1-ranked Serena Williams won her first French Open championship since 2002, when she beat her sister Venus. Serena dominated the clay Saturday with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Maria Sharapova.

Eager to repeat the elation of 2002, and motivated by the disappointment of 2012, Williams used terrific defense and her usual powerful hitting in Saturday’s final.

Serena Served 10 Aces (Photo: AP)

Topping her great hitting, Williams served 10 aces in the final, including three in the final game, and the last coming on match point at 123 mph – her hardest serve of the day.

“Eleven years,” Williams said in French during the trophy ceremony. “I think it’s unbelievable. Now I have 16 Grand Slam titles. It’s difficult for me to speak because I’m so excited.”

The victory completed her rebound from a shocking loss to 111th-ranked Virginie Razzano in the first round at the French Open a year ago. Since that defeat she’s 74-3, including titles at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, the London Olympics and the season-ending WTA Championships.

French Open Finals (ESPN.com)

At 31, she became the oldest woman to win a major title since Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1990 at age 33. Her 11-year gap between Roland Garros titles is the longest for any woman.

Now comes the switch to grass, and she’ll be a heavy favorite to win Wimbledon for the sixth time. Wimbledon 2013 begins on Monday, June 24 and ends on Sunday, July 7 and I’ll be back in a couple weeks to cover the classic event at the All England Club.

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The semifinals did not disappoint this morning at the French Open in Roland Garros, try France. Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic in a five set thriller that has left the tennis and sports world buzzing! Read on for the must know details and a preview of the Men’s and Women’s Finals, the climatic finish of the 2013 French Open.

Five Set Djokovic v Nadal Semi – Highlight of the French Open

In a five set thriller at Roland Garros Rafael Nadal defeated Novak Djokovic 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-7, 9-7. This epic match is sure to be the highlight of the 2013 French Open, if not the Grand Slam year, with Nadal set to be the heavy favorite in the semifinal Sunday vs. Ferrer.

Nadal defeats Djokovic (Photo: skysports.com)

Rafa had a several opportunities in the 4th set to put the match away, but Djokovic showed everyone why he’s currently ranked #1 and pulled out that set in the tiebreaker. There was some concern that Nadal, coming off an injury and not playing a 5-set match in 18 months, would be able to last the 5th set.

Nadal def Djokovic (Photo: SI.com)

The tense fifth set will be a match that will be deemed one of the classics of all time with countless remarkable shots when the point should have already been over. The fifth set alone lasted longer than Serena’s entire match vs Errani the previous day. There is no tie-breaker in the 5th set, and the match must continue until the a player is up by 2 games, which ended 9-7 with Djokovic hitting his last shot out of bounds.  It looked like Djokovic just lost his focus at the end, arguing a little at the umpire about watering the baseline area, during the change of sides.

Men’s Finals

Nadal vs Ferrer Sunday

Ferrer def Tsonga (Photo SI.com)

PS Tsonga and Ferrer also played Friday.  Ferrer beat Tsonga in straight sets, 6-1, 6-7, 6-2 in an anti-climatic match following the Nadal vs Djokovic nail-biter.

My prediction – not really going out on a limb here, but Nadal will win his 8th French Open on Sunday at 8 am on NBC in 4 sets.

Women’s Finals

Serena vs Sharapova Saturday

Serena easily defeats Errani in Semi (Photo: Reuters)

Serena Williams advanced to the French Open women’s final for the first time in over a decade. She faces Maria Sharapova, who is making her second straight final appearance as defending champion at Roland Garros at Saturday at 8 a.m. CT on NBC.

Despite her champion status, the second-seeded Sharapova hasn’t had much success against Williams throughout her career. Serena leads the all-time series 13-2, including 5-2 in finals.

Williams, the women’s overall top seed, has been utterly dominant to this point in the tournament, and has only dropped one set and boasts a 30-match winning streak coming into the championship round. Sharapova may be the defending champion of this tournament, but she will be at a major disadvantage on Saturday taking on a player who has dominated her in recent matchups.

Sharapova def. Azarenka (Photo: usatoday.com)

Maria Sharapova, the defending champion, struggled in the second set but overcame 11 double-faults to win a semifinal against Victoria Azarenka, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

My prediction – Sharapova hasn’t beaten Williams in nine years, and looks set on adding another title to the trophy case.

 

 

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