Posts Tagged ‘Marion Bartoli’

PostHeaderIcon Ask Marla #8 – Tips for the Off-Season (Pt. 2 Off-Season Training)

Novak Djokovic stretching

This is the second of a three-part series (Take Stock/Take Time Off, Training Tips for Upcoming Season, and Equipment Changes) that will focus on things you can do to help your game during the off-season.

Sam Stosur jumping rope
Nadia Petrova stretching
Marion Bartoli drilling her groundstrokes
David Ferrer working his core

Question: Do you have any tips/suggestion for off-season training? What should I focus on to help improve my game for the upcoming season?

Answer: Here are three (3) things to remember as you start training in the off-season.

1. Set goals!

Give yourself specific goals for the upcoming season. Whether it’s serve consistency, playing more doubles, or working on your fitness, etc. Just remember to keep them simple and attainable, with a mix of both short-term and long-term goals. If possible, try to set goals that you can measure and track as you go along.

2. Work on your game!

Pick one or two things you want to work on in the off-season, and take the time to work on them. Getting together with friends for practice drills is an excellent way to work on your game. It’s okay to play occasional practice sets, but try to keep the focus on drills. If all you do is compete year-round, it’s easy to develop bad habits that will keep you from improving.

3. Work on your fitness!

This is the perfect time to strengthen key muscle groups that can help your game AND prevent injury. Take the time to develop your rotator cuffs and surrounding muscle groups in your shoulders. Work on your core to help stave off lower back issues. And stretch, stretch, stretch! Working on your flexibility is also a great way to help with injury prevention.

Got a tennis question? Send it via email or tweet for “Ask Marla”, a (hopefully) weekly (or biweekly) question-and-answer with Marla Reid of San Francisco’s City Racquet Shop.

About Marla

Marla Reid is a respected tennis pro/coach in the San Francisco Bay Area. She’s coached nationally-ranked teams and players, and has over 15 years of experience at the NCAA Division I, II, and III levels. Marla owns and operates City Racquet Shop in San Francisco CA.

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PostHeaderIcon Blake’s Final Moment Brings Back My Own

Getty Images/AFP, Matthew Stockman

Getty Images/AFP, Matthew Stockman

First, it was Marion Bartoli who caused me to have flashbacks with her surprise retirement in Cincinnati. This time it was James Blake whose retirement announcement, and subsequent remarks after his loss, brought back the intense emotions that go hand in hand with a final career goodbye.

True to his typical US Open form, Blake lost a 5-set heartbreaker, 6-7 (2), 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), to Ivo Karlovic in the first round. In his on-court speech with Mary Jo Fernandez after the match, Blake was quintessential Blake: humble, unassuming, and appreciative of not only the moment, but also what tennis and its’ fans had given him over the years.

“There are a lot of people here that supported me,” Blake said, “And it’s hitting me now that I’m never gonna have this again in my life, and I need to appreciate every single one of you for being here.”

The crowd gave him an extended ovation for the acknowledgement. He continued:

“That ovation makes me realize that everything I did, every bit of hard work, was worth it. To play in front of you guys, and to do this for 14 years… If I’d just been playing in my backyard it wouldn’t have meant anything. But to do it in front of you guys — I had so many highs and lows in front of you — it really means… it’ll never be forgotten.”

When Marion announced her retirement, I understood the reasons why she chose to step away because of similar feelings I had when making the decision to retire as a professional dancer.  The same was true as I listened to James on-court statement, particularly when he said “I’m never gonna have this again”.

Those words transported me to ’98, and my final dance performance. After the last piece of the night was over, we prepared for the final bow. Since I finished in the center, I initiated the bow sequence. I looked to my right at all the dancers with whom I’d created such special bonds, years of memories flooding my senses, and joined hands with the dancer on my right. The only thought I had was, “I’ll never see this again.”

I did the same with the dancers on my left, and proceeded forward for the bow. I looked out at the audience, many of whom were cheering loudly because they knew that it was my farewell performance, and bit my lip in a futile attempt to hold back the tears. It was a surreal mix of relief and loss that’s still with me to this day.

Like James, I’d practiced my profession for fourteen years; with many highs and lows along the way. Through it all, I knew that I could always count on the support of the audience. Their presence gave me, and my art, a sense of purpose. Through the good reviews and the bad, the injuries and the excitement, they helped me more than they will ever know.

Unlike me, James kept it together for his final moment. But I guess that doesn’t really matter, does it? What matters is the totality of the career you had while laying it all on the line in front of your fans. It’s an amazing (and overwhelming) feeling when you get to the end, and see it all in front of you… and then realize that you’ll never see it again.

PostHeaderIcon The Week that Was: A 2013 Western and Southern Open Wrap


(Re-Post from Tennis Panorama)

Champions have been crowned, nets have been taken down, and the past week in Mason is fading as we turn our attention to this last week of tournaments in the US Open Series. But before we move on, let’s take a look at the lasting, and dramatic, moments from this year’s edition of the Western and Southern Open as we head toward the start of the US Open.

Rafa Nadal

Rafa wins the men’s title, beating John Isner 7-6(8) 7-6(3) in a final that featured no breaks of serve. It’s his 9th title of the year, his fifth Masters Series title and third hard court Masters title of the year, and is his record-setting 26th Masters Series title. All of this from a guy who everyone counted out this season because of his bad knees. I hate to use the term “favorite”, but if Rafa isn’t one of the favorites for New York then we’ve got a problem.


Victoria Azarenka

Vika beat Serena Williams 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6) in a match that perhaps didn’t showcase their best tennis, but definitely finished with a bang in a third-set tiebreaker. This was her second hard court win over Serena (Doha) and puts her back into the conversation as a threat to Williams’ chances for a title defense. It’s good to see that her Wimbledon injury issues are behind her.

John Isner

Big John beat three players in the Top 10 for the first time in his career en route to the finals (Raonic, Del Potro, Djokovic), playing some of his best and most aggressive tennis ever. He was extremely upbeat in his post-match press conference, and for good reason. Though he was beaten by Nadal in the final, his serve was never broken, and he made Rafa play his best tennis to come out on top. He’ll still struggle at the US Open because of the best of 5 set format, but you can bet that no top guy is looking forward to THAT match.


Serena Williams

Serena lost the final against Vika in quizzical fashion. She raced through the first set, but let her level drop badly in the second. She then battled back from behind in the third only to get broken while serving for the match at 5-4. In the tiebreak, she was behind until 5-all, and then double-faulted to go behind again. The best server and mover in the women’s game served poorly and moved poorly. One can only hope that she leaves this behind heading into New York.


Marion Bartoli

The buzz of the tournament was decidedly off-court as Marion Bartoli called it a career after a three-set loss to Simona Halep. It was a decision borne in the moment of feeling that she just didn’t have the desire to go on and deal with the pain in her body.  It’s a decision that many pro athletes face, and not an easy one at that.  Though there was much shock and second-guessing of her decision, she seems to be at peace with it for now. Let’s check back in a year or so when her body is feeling better.

Bob and Mike Bryan

The Bryan brothers defeated Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez of Spain 6-4, 4-6, 10-4 to take the men’s doubles title.  It was their fourth Cincy title, their 10th on the year, and the 92nd of their career. It was also their 25th Masters Series title. No matter how many titles these guys add to their resume, for them it’s still all about the fans, as evidenced by the fact that they signed every item and took every picture asked of them by the waiting throng on the Grandstand court. A class act.


Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai

Hsieh Su-Wei and Peng Shuai defeated Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Kveta Peschke to take the women’s doubles title in Cincy: their third title of the year (Rome, Wimbledon, and Cincinnati). The pair is 7-0 in finals, which is a remarkable statistic for any doubles team. They are adding more events to their schedules in the hope of qualifying for the year-end championships in Istanbul. It would certainly be a great accomplishment if they are able to do so.

The US Open Series

Serena Williams has taken the top prize for the women in the US Open Series. The men’s top spot is still up for grabs, and is dependent upon whether or not John Isner plays this week in Winston-Salem. He’s currently just a few points behind Rafa, so could take it with a good week of play. But with the US Open coming up in a week, he’s going to have to think long and hard about the effects of all this tennis on his fitness heading into one of the toughest Slams.


The Roger-Rafa Rivalry

Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal squared off for the 31st time in their careers in a Friday quarterfinal match in Cincy. Though the rivalry is not nearly what it was a few years back, this match more than brought back a taste of the glory days. Rafa battled back from a set down to win in dramatic fashion as Roger began to falter in the third. These are the kinds of moments that you dream about as a tennis fan. And on Friday, we got a chance to experience it.

Maria and Jimmy

After months of waiting for “the reveal” of the Sharapova-Connors partnership, Maria Sharapova was unceremoniously bundled out of Cincy in a loss to Sloane Stephens that could only be described as puzzling. She flew through the first set, and then couldn’t keep the ball in play for the latter part of the second and third sets. A few days later it was announced that Jimmy Connors would no longer be her coach, to no one’s surprise…

Doubles Scheduling

In general, doubles got the short end of the stick in Cincinnati, with most doubles matches relegated to outer courts throughout the week. Even in a tennis-savvy town like Cincinnati, the rule of “out of sight, out of mind” still holds true. Doubles attendance was low at many matches, and the attendance at the men’s and women’s doubles final could greatly have benefitted from being played in tandem with the singles finals as they do in Miami. I hope it’s something that’s considered for 2014.

There’s more that could be pulled from this week, but we’ll end the list here and turn our attention to a new week of tennis in New Haven and Winston Salem. Goodbye from Cincinnati. See you next year!

PostHeaderIcon I Understand, Marion!


Marion Bartoli Retires

Marion Bartoli Retires

Marion Bartoli shocked everyone in the tennis world tonight by announcing her immediate retirement from tennis after a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 loss to Simona Halep of Romania. Actually, “shocked” is an understatement of epic proportions, because virtually no one saw hints of this coming.

Marion was asked if she’d discussed this with her father, Walter, before coming to Cincinnati, and she said “No”. But she also mentioned that he wasn’t surprised when she called after the match to tell him of her decision.

“I called him after the match and said, ‘You know what, dad, I think it’s my last one’.  And he said, I kind of felt it.  I kind of knew it somehow.  I can see it in your eyes and see your body and see and know all the work you have done to make it happen. I’m so proud of you.  I will support you in anything you’re doing.”

That may sound good coming from one’s father, but for many others it may still be hard to understand why she would leave the game after winning the biggest title of her career.

However, I’m not one of them. I may not understand what it’s like to win Wimbledon, or travel the world as a pro tennis player, but I completely understand what happens to an athlete at the end of their career when they decide it’s time to stop.

As I’ve mentioned in a few earlier pieces, I used to be a professional dancer. My career started in Chicago (1985) with a company called the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theater, and ended in San Francisco (1998) with ODC/San Francisco.

I had a wonderful career.  But over time, the wear and tear on my body was undeniable. I needed constant physical therapy, and even had a cortisone injection in my foot to walk/balance without pain.

The breaking point came in Newark, NJ as I was getting ready for a 10AM performance. It was cold, I was tired, and the only way I could get my body ready for the performance was by spending 20 minutes in a hot shower.

As the water hit me in the face, five words came out of my mouth that changed everything. “I can’t do this anymore.” after the show, I told my best friend in the company that I was going to retire. A little later I called my parents and told them the same.  The decision seemed rash, but wasn’t. There was too much pain, too little fun, and nothing left to give. I just wanted to walk without hurting.

So yes, I get it Marion. Once the switch gets flicked mentally, that’s it. You’re done! No other explanation needed.

The beauty is that she’ll always have her Wimbledon title (in addition to her others), and great memories from a wonderful career. But now there can be more. “There is a lot of excitement as a woman.  There is a lot of excitement as a wife.  There is a lot of excitement as a mother.  There is a lot of excitement to come up.”

And perhaps the greatest short term goal of all, walking normally and without pain.

PostHeaderIcon Who’s to Blame for All of the Marion Bartoli Hate

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

Matthias Hangst/AELTC

What could Marion Bartoli possibly have done to deserve the hate and derision that she’s received online since winning Wimbledon?

It’s a puzzling question because Marion’s a thoroughly delightful young lady. She’s forthright in a sport filled with athletes who keep their cards close. She’s not afraid to show her vulnerable side, and is similarly not afraid to share her hopes, and whims. Remember her Pierce Brosnan crush from 2007?

She chats with fans, carries no sense of entitlement because of her status as a pro, is sincere, thoughtful, and singularly undeserving of the ill will that she’s received this past week.

Poor Marion didn’t even have the Venus Rosewater dish in hand before the first negative comments arrived, notably from the BBC’s John Inverdale during the final.

“I just wonder if her dad, because he has obviously been the most influential person in her life, did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe, ‘listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker’.”

He framed it within the context that if she wasn’t going to be like Sharapova with respect to looks, height, and long legs, she needed to be (and is) a determined fighter. Sadly, his disrespectful comment was meant to be a compliment.

Inverdale issued an apology, of sorts, saying “I’ve apologised to Marion by letter if any offence was caused, and I do hope that we can leave the matter there.” But of course it didn’t end there for many who, like Mr. Inverdale, felt that Marion was not a fitting Wimbledon champion, and not deserving of their respect.

The blog Public Shaming compiled a cross-section of tweets that were sent to Marion and/or included her Twitter handle.  Many are offensive, and not fit to reprint. The following are the best of those with no profanity. I remind you, these are the “good” ones.

“bartoli is too ugly to win wimbledon” – @CamShu (active profile/deleted tweet)
“Someone as ugly and unattractive as Bartoli doesn’t deserve to win” – @Willshow95 (recently protected tweets)
“I demand an investigation into whether Bartoli in fact has a penis #Wimbledon” – @MillerJA9 (active profile)
“Bartoli is such an arrogant disrespectful masculine whore! I really don’t like her.” – @clairegrey95 (deleted profile)
“Bartoli you fat lesbian looking lump of shit, you let lisicki win now god damn it!” – @Lukeewharton (active profile)

(Along the “she must be lesbian” line of thought, 115 of 150 searches this past week were made using variants of bartoli and lesbian. Thankfully, there were no obscene comments. I’ve reprinted these tweets – with Twitter handles – to publicly call out those who feel okay in assaulting others under the guise of internet anonymity.)

It’s not surprising, however, that people who don’t know Marion would have negative feelings given the lack of respect she’s received over the years from the tennis establishment. She’s been the ongoing subject of negative commentary regarding her coach/dad, her odd training regimen, her on-court quirks, her fitness, her issues with the French Federation, etc.

If Marion’s not shown respect by the establishment (and associated media), why are we surprised that the general public, who are often clueless about players not named Serena or Maria, would have a hard time accepting her as a champion?

To be fair, not everyone has participated in these negative Marion discussions. Many notable commentators and players have rooted for her success. But the typical storyline on Marion has never been overly-positive about any aspect of her game or life, outside of the tired discussions about her high IQ.

In the interest of full disclosure, I also criticized Marion regarding her Champions Ball dress.  I felt that the tight black mini-dress wasn’t befitting the occasion. It wasn’t a sexist critique, nor did I hold her to a different standard than Andy. If he’d shown up in shorts, I would have criticized him too!

I like Marion, and am happy for this great triumph after all that she’s endured. No matter her quirks (which are arguably not as bad as Rafa’s), she’s always worked hard to become a better player. And her father, who got her to this point as her coach for most of her life, loves her very much. These are the important points, not her looks or any other nonsense.

The tennis establishment has made it easy for people like Inverdale and the haters because of its’ focus on good looks and star power. It stands to reason that if those at the top of the food chain are dismissive, then we can’t expect those at the bottom to be any better.

For her part, Marion’s shown tremendous class.  When told of Inverdale’s comments she replied, “It doesn’t matter, honestly. I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact. Have I dreamt about having a model contract? No. I’m sorry.”

“But have I dreamed about winning Wimbledon? Absolutely, yes. And to share this moment with my dad was absolutely amazing and I am so proud of it.”

You should be very proud, Marion, and I hope you finally get the respect that you deserve.

PostHeaderIcon Ten Final Thoughts on Marion, Andy, and the Most Unpredictable Wimbledon in Memory

The Times of London

The Times of London

Who am I kidding?! There’s absolutely no way I could ever encapsulate all of the nuttiness of this Wimbledon fortnight into ten final thoughts. So without further ado, here’s a special edition “Twenty Final Thoughts” on a Wimbledon that will, once and for all, stop commentators from mentioning Fred Perry as the last British male to win the title. Or at least I hope so. 🙂

  1. Marion Bartoli started as a 100-1 longshot for the title. No one gave her (or anyone) else a legitimate shot because of Serena Williams’ momentum coming into the tournament. Two weeks later, the vindication for years of Fed Cup slights, fitness criticisms, and training critiques at the hand of her father must have been tremendously SWEET as she held aloft the Venus Rosewater dish. Note to Marion: feel free to smack the BBC’s John Inverdale over the head with your dish!
  2. With a masterful win over Novak Djokovic in the men’s final, Andy Murray will no longer have to hear about Fred Perry, or be weighed down by the expectations of a nation. One year ago, he cried bitter tears on Centre Court and was embraced by his countryman for the brutally honest display. This year, there were only smiles (from both him and Ivan Lendl, but more on him later) and a very un-British fist pump as he held the trophy aloft on the AELTC balcony. Bloody brilliant!
  3. The Bryan brothers further cemented their place atop the history books with their victory in the men’s doubles final. It was their third Wimbledon title. More impressively, it was the final piece of their “Golden Slam” after earning gold at the London Olympics, and consecutive titles the US Open, the Australian Open, and the French Open. If they successfully defend their US Open title, they’ll be the first men to accomplish a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver. And who said American men’s tennis was done?
  4. Lisa Raymond fell short of adding to her Slam total when she and Bruno Soares (BRA) lost a heartbreaker to eventual champs Daniel Nestor (CAN) and Kristina Mladenovic (FRA). Disappointing for sure, but a great result for a player who could easily be retired and resting on her laurels as the “Grand Dame” of US women’s doubles.
  5. Sabine Lisicki played the tournament of her life…that is, up until her disappointing performance in the ladies final. What seemed initially like “Sabine’s destiny” for a Wimbledon title quickly turned into “Sabine’s nightmare”. In what could only be described as the worst timing EVER, she crashed back to Earth after glorious defeats of Elena Vesnina, Sam Stosur, Serena Williams, Kaia Kanepi, and Aga Radwanska in successive rounds. Previous tears of joy turned into tears of an opportunity lost. She might be able to come back again, like Marion, to contend for the title. And then again she might also suffer more injury setbacks and never contend again. Let’s hope for the former.
  6. Instead of coming to Stanford to defend her title at the Bank of the West Classic, Serena is staying in Europe and playing the Collector Swedish Open…on clay. It’s an odd choice to be sure, but less odd when viewed through the prism of staying closer to her coach/more-than-coach, Patrick Mouratoglou. Her loss in the Wimbledon R16 to Sabine was unexpected and disappointing, but I’m sure Serena will be fine. She knows her place in history is already assured, and will have another chance to add to her Slam total at the US Open.
    Food for thought: just think how odd it’ll be if Serena goes through 2013 – at the peak of her career – and only wins one Slam at the French Open, her worst-performing Slam and on her worst surface.
  7. Novak Djokovic played one of his worst finals since losing to Roger Federer in the 2007 US Open final. In my breakdown of the final, I noted that Novak was edgy throughout, and lacked focus until it was too late in the game. Additionally, his shoe/footing issues were inexcusable for a player of his elite stature. But to his credit, Novak was gracious and in good spirits during his on-court interview with Sue Barker. Such maturity is wonderful to see, and makes him a great (and likable) role model.
    On a side note, people are noticing his increasingly lean stature. “Optimally lean” is one thing, but Novak is beginning to look an unhealthy level of thin! His gluten-free diet served him well in the first few years, but now seems to have left him with little in the way of reserves.
    (I’m not a doctor, it’s just my opinion. Please take it as such.)
  8. The folks at Wimbledon reported that this was the same grass used in last year’s Championships and Olympics. If that was the case, then why weren’t the players better prepared for the challenges of the same “Slip N Slide” tennis they played at the Olympics? Here’s hoping that they all make notes in their day planners for next year’s tournament, and bring appropriate shoes.
  9. This was Mohamed Lahyani’s first time as chair umpire for a Wimbledon men’s final. Speaking for myself as a chair umpire-in-training who struggled in my first attempts at chairing a practice match, it was oddly comforting to see someone as seasoned as Mohamed also struggle: with nerves and the enormity of the occasion. In spite of all Novak’s demonstrations, I think he did a pretty good job.
  10. After a shock defeat to Steve Darcis, it was great to see pictures of Rafa Nadal hanging out with friends and playing poker. He’s always been one of the fiercest competitors on tour, but with maturity he’s also begun to understand his physical limitations to better understand and work with his body issues. He’s also learned to relax, and enjoy his time away from the game. That’s a good thing for all of us who want to see him stick around a little longer.
  11. Poor Roger Federer! He’s currently no. 5 in the rankings after he was unable to defend his championship points from last year. With more points to defend from Cincinnati, and points dropping off from the Olympics, Roger is at real risk of a God-awful draw for this year’s US Open. (Not that he would have an easier time with a “normal” draw.) He’s added clay court events in ATP 250/500 events Gstaad and Hamburg to his summer schedule, presumably to help offset the point loss. Unfortunately, it’s probably too little to make a difference. We’ll find out when the US Open begins in late August.
  12. Congratulations go to David Ferrer for his rise to no. 3 in the rankings. He’s certainly been a model of consistency at the top level of the game, but there are questions of his legitimacy at the top of the rankings with the Big Four. Is this the ATP’s version of Caroline Wozniacki’s ascension to no. 1 atop the WTA rankings?
  13. Whatever amount Ivan Lendl is being paid by the Murray camp for his coaching services is worth every pence! In the year and some odd months since coming on board, Andy has won an Olympic gold, his first major title at the US Open, and now owns an historic victory at Wimbledon. It didn’t always seem that this would be the case in the first months of the partnership, but they proved us wrong. He’s even smiling sometimes…
  14. Tennis pundits and commentators everywhere take note. Jerzy Janowicz is the ONLY member of the young guns to actually live up to the hype: not Raonic, Dimitrov or anyone else. Please adjust your pre-tournament Grand Slam previews accordingly.
  15. I’m not saying that I’m giving up on Tomas Berdych and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, but I think I’m gonna have to give up on Berdych and Tsonga. Or at least until they begin to consistently show that they won’t mentally buckle  and crack down the stretch.
  16. Lost in the chaos of the women’s draw was the solid play of no. 4 Aga Radwanska, the only top player that played to her seeding by making the semifinal round. Though she fell to Lisicki in a tight semifinal, she impressed many (myself included) with her improved aggressive play. She’ll always struggle against the harder hitters, but you never know what might happen if she gets another good draw at a Slam and manages to get through that tough final game.
  17. Speaking of losing semifinalists, how ’bout that Juan Martin Del Potro? His match against Novak Djokovic was a classic. I never expected him to play so well after suffering a severely hyper-extended knee in an earlier match, but he proved me wrong with his surreal high-velocity hitting and spectacular court coverage. I hope this finally shows that he’s “back” after wrist surgery.
  18. Wimbledon was exceptionally (and happily) quiet with the early round ousters of the game’s loudest “grunters”. Azarenka, Sharapova, Jovanovski, Larcher de Brito, et al were gone by the second week, and ears all over the world rejoiced at being able to watch women’s matches in relative piece. Now if only we could stifle the continual TV commentary…
  19. With a quarterfinal showing, Sloane Stephens had a great Wimbledon by most standards. And really, who would ever have guessed that she’d be the last American, male or female, standing in singles? While I applaud her performance, it’d still be great if she could perform well at smaller events. The Citi Open in DC would be a great start.
  20. I love doing my “Shock or Not?” column, but found myself up against it during this fortnight when every round had scores of new shocks. So for the record, I’ll just chalk up the entire Wimbledon fortnight to one big “SHOCK” (which, oddly enough, ended in relative normalcy for the men’s draw).
    There’s much more I could say, but it’s time to move on and prepare for the US Open Series. Though I was wrong with virtually every single one of my pre-tournament predictions (and later round picks), this was a more than worthy two weeks of TV viewing. Even if you were less than thrilled with the upsets leading to the women’s final, seeing Andy Murray lifting the trophy as Wimbledon champion was a thing of beauty. As Chris Evert tweeted on Saturday, “It’s never too late for a great beginning!”
    Until next year…
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