Emptying The Notebook Before The US Open

The U.S. Open begins on Monday, August 19th with the Qualifying Tournament which is actually the fifth-largest tournament in the world. It is the only slam Qualifying Tournament where the admission is free. Pretty amazing, huh? This year, Monday was added to the Qualifying Tournament as it used to only be Tuesday-Friday.

Now, I’ll list what is interesting me before I set my eyes on live pro tennis again–its been since March in Miami that I’ve seen live pro tennis. I call it The Believe It or Not segment:

  1. It’s the 40-anniversary of the US Open finals between two New Yorkers, two Queens natives, Vitas Gerulaitis and John McEnroe. Vitas lost the match, but he made the finals of three slams and semis of Wimbledon. After McEnroe won the 1984 US Open, he never appeared in another slam finals. No New Yorker since McEnroe has reached a slam semis since Johnny Mac semi-ed at the Open in 1990.

2. John Isner is now endorsing a sports performance drink called Defy that include CBD oil in it made from hemp plants.

3. Since the French Open, Alexander Zverev, Denis Shapovalov, Felix Augur-Allissime are a combined 20-17. Stefanos Tstisipsas hasn’t been much better. So much for the Young Guns?

4. Sloane Stephens in her last four tournaments has lost to the likes of Konta, Peterson, Bouzkova and Kuznetsova winning a total of one set. One could say her engagement has not been fruitful for her tennis.

5. Four and five years ago, Michael Mmoh, Stefan Kozlov and Noah Rubin all reached either junior slam semis (2015 French Open semis for Mmoh) or finals (2014 Wimbledon). They will all have to play the Qualifying Tournament this year with current ATP rankings of nos. 181, 543 and 196 respectively.

6. Why do so many players seem to dislike umpire Fergus Murphy so intensely? I’ve heard Nick Kyrgios call him a tool and Jack Sock call him the worst umpire in tennis. He seems like a pretty chill, likable guy.

7. Besides the Big 3 of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer and with the absence of Andy Murray and Juan Martin Del Potro, the only other player seemingly who has even a scintilla of a chance to win the US Open men’s title is who?

8. What has happened to my favorite players going into the Open? Ernests Gulbis can’t win a match even in the Challengers. Dudi Sela will play in the Qualis as will Dustin Brown. Sam Groth has retired and my favorite American player, not! Ryan Harrison has basically disappeared from the sport. Brydan Klein won’t even probably get to play in the Qualis.

9. Has anyone in the history of the game pulled their visor so low that you pretty cannot see her face than Sofia Kenin?

10. What happens to female players once they get married or engaged? Ali Riske, Sloane Stephens and Caroline Wozniaki have all swan-dived after either getting married or engaged.

What’s on your mind?

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  • Harold · August 16, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    There was a qualies week a few years ago where Zverev, Rubilev, and Kozlov were all mentioned in the same breath…Is Kozlov playing USTA 5.0 league somewhere?

    Vitas was the life of the party..was one of the last to take out Lendl before he went on his 8 in a row US Open finals..Keith Richards was in Vitas’s box that day( was also there years later as a guest of Wilander)

    Qualies week is getting a lot of ink in the media, and on TV..expect bigger crowds

    Will be there Wed, and Thurs, maybe Sunday

  • Andrew Miller · August 16, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    Dan, I’ll go on limb, say a big 3 won’t win the US Open. Someone big will have the fortune of drawing Opelka and everyone will thank him for breaking the big three curse, then upset fever will take over.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 16, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    How about this one, the US Open has a 62-year-old ball Senior Citizen. Apparently because of New York Labor Laws, the US Open is the only slam that has ball kids (?) over the age of 18 (the minimum age is 14).

  • jg · August 16, 2019 at 7:32 pm

    Don’t forget the Seinfeld episode with Kramer as a ball “kid” at the Open, I’ll be there Tuesday ( At least) hoping they schedule Cressy that day

  • Hartt · August 16, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    If Medvedev stays at his current level and isn’t totally exhausted by the time the USO rolls around, he has a shot at the title. His odds are 20/1. Surprisingly Zverev is at 18/1.

  • Hartt · August 16, 2019 at 8:05 pm

    FAA did well during the grass season, including finals at Lyon and Stuttgart and SF at Queen’s, so he hasn’t done badly since RG over all. He is 31-17 for the year so far, so he is having a successful season.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 16, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    JG, I don’t have your number, but I’ll get it from Scoop and look to meet up with you on Tuesday. I plan on going, Monday, Tuesday and Friday and probably at least first day of Main Draw and now my favorite day of tournament, the second Thursday where they let you on grounds for Junior matches and Louis Armstrong, first come, first sit, for the mens and women’s doubles. It’s supposed to be in the 90’s for Monday and Tuesday and then cool down a bit.


    Felix’s two tournaments on hard courts after Wimbledon he’s only 3-2 with losses to Khachanov and Cilic. Be nice to see him win a few rounds at the Open.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 7:58 am

    Dan, in answer to your question about which player outside of the top 3 who has any chance at all at the USO, Jeff Sackman has a complicated chart of how the top 128 players could fare at the USO, and he will update that weekly. The first one is from a few days ago, so there will be changes since then.

    But it does not look good for the other players. Novak is at 34.5% to win, followed by Fed and Rafa. But the next ones after them are Thiem at 3.7% and Medvedev at 3.6%.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 17, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Djoko was clinical yesterday in dispatching Pouille. He is looking awfully good. Fed, it might’ve been one match against Rublev, but he did not look sharp. I’d pick Wawrinka for the one guy who could win outside the Big 3. He’s done it before. I know he’s 33 now playing on two surgically-repaired knees, but he’d be my one guy and maybe Kyrgios a distant second.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 17, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Here’s a head-scratcher. Donald Young and Ryan Harrison, who had that fight at the New York Open last year, are a combined 3-9 this year with Harry winning all of the three matches. Young has dipped to no. 199 and Harry to no. 238. Talk about bad karma. Christian Harrison, 25, hasn’t played a match since March.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Becoming a Medvedev fan. He gets smashed by Nadal, Djokovic etc while having a game worth watching. As Dan said, Djokovic beat Pouille handily – Pouille has such a nice game, but no answers for all the ways Novak beats players, from the net, from behind the court – Djokovic knows the game and the court better than anyone alive.

    I think a player will need to serve Djokovic off the court to get a win, knock him on the back of his heels. At least win all their service games and roll the dice in the tiebreaks. With Djokovic playing like this only a few players can take the court and stay with him until the end, win or usually lose.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 8:41 am

    Medvedev handled Rublev without issue. Rublev had two huge wins after qualies. To make a dent in this era Rublev would need to learn how to play like Medvedev and reverse engineer some of his combinations and add that to his game, and up his fitness so he can wear consecutive big matches.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Nobody can beat Djokovic right now, he’s in machine destroyer mode. That’s one notch above beast mode.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Dan, Harrison and DY never developed the consistency. They always say the right things, and then would have a period of excellent training and stuck with it, then changed course. Plus injuries.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 9:29 am

    Monfils once said in a press conference that Gasquet did not enjoy to play in front of big crowds, he preferred to play in small courts or a private court. Implying that Gasquet is too introverted to be a major champion, too shy. He certainly has the game and the weapons but not that burning obsession to be the best. To lay it all on the line.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Dy and Harrison both had some pretty good results but they were sporadic. Never really established a roll of big wins to make other players fear them or worried about them. Just two middle of the road, mediocre players. Tennis is a tough ruthless cruel business, they know as well as anyone. As one struggling Challenger Futures American told me in Sarasota this year, “Tennis is a vicious business.”

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Don’t want TP to turn into DY Watch and Harrison Watch. I do have something to say here! Both are neither mediocre nor middle of road players – solid top 40 with upside. Harrison’s athleticism alone was the stuff Agassi had been talking about, with better athletes finding tennis. DY had and still has the great touch and anticipation that turns good players into better players.

    Just that at the very point where they’d figure everything out and had an excellent stretch (they’ve both had several of these) their games would become unglued.

    This isn’t that abnormal – the composition of the top hundred is volatile. That’s the nature of a merit based sport. I don’t recall all of us saying why is Paire becoming (x y z) or Schwarzmanm, back from the dead?

    Yet that’s constantly happening. On the women’s side it’s like Giorgi. Flashes of brilliance or even a great tournament, then first round losses everywhere.

    With Harrison and DY generally it’s predictable. They have some great coach, or DY gets a solid girlfriend or something, then stability, then chaos. Harrison – he rides wins his first tournament says sky’s the limit then slowly but surely, he’s faced with new tests.

    At his best he was making it close and winning more than losing. At his worst players would figure out that Harrison scolds himself and let him unravel.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Applause for Tim Smyczek (retires). Smyczek was another king of the challengers, riding excellent challenger results into main draws. I like his game a lot.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 9:53 am

    I’ll keep rooting for those vets. It’s enjoyable to see them play well. Scoop once wrote about Harrison when he plays well and it’s true, it’s seeing a great athlete go for the jugular. It’s great to see DY play well, where he employs some Grosjean-like old school strategies and shows deadly touch at net. Beautiful when it’s working, painful when it isn’t.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 10:03 am

    I remember Hewitt beat Dy in D.C. and praised his game but said his backhand needed more pop. Dy had some headline making upsets vs bigger names through the years. Harrison was always just a little better, results attest to it.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 10:10 am

    Scoop, I think you nailed it on Gasquet – he doesn’t have “that burning obsession to be the best.” I think you could add other French players, like Tsonga, to that. They can have a good tourney but then sort of disappear for a while.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 10:30 am

    They are both great players, can tussle with the very best of the best but something is missing in their mental make up that is not missing in Fed Rafa Djokovic.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 11:16 am

    Ahh here are the Gasquet comments. I think you are right, he doesn’t have that champion’s mentality. Perhaps all that early success was too easy, winning juniors, beating up Roger and Murray and Del Potro. It never made him hungrier.

    He is without a doubt the best player never to make a Slam final.

    I don’t understand this blog’s obsession with Harrison and Young. Scoop is right, both are mediocre and have been passed by the Fritz/Tiafoe/Opelka generation. They both got to around No. 40 in the world and were classic journeymen. It’s not head scratching at all why these guys lose since they have lost a lot in their career.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Smyczek is a great story, someone who got the most of his talent and consistently created problems for top players.

    Many people on Reddit hate him for his anti-abortion work but that has nothing to do with his tennis career, which was terrific.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Just here for the tennis. Smyczek maxed his game. He wasn’t consistent enough or powerful enough or good enough to stay out of the challengers long enough to make more of a mark on tour. But he did well enough for himself to say he did as well as past talents such as Salzenstein. Better than guys that ruled the tournaments I played such as Hugo Armando, who know one knows nor should care about.

    One reason I love reading about the national tournaments that Dan goes to. Some of these kids hit a ball better than I can in my dreams. Most junior college players worth a nickel do too. Some of the higher ranked local college female players do too.

    That’s why Smyczek etc set a nice example. Just that when you look at his game in context say, he didn’t do as well as No Russell, or Robert Kendrick king of the challengers. Not sure what kind of coach he’d be beyond maybe the college level. Nonetheless he gets kudos for maxing his talent and beating more talented players.

  • Dan Markowitz · August 17, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    DY is one of the most interesting American players in that his junior career was second to none and even Johnny Mac said when he was like 10 that he just saw the Second Coming of himself. Then the fact that he actually became a 40-ish player and reached US Open Rd of 16 twice and is the only black player to really make it as a male player, all makes him an interesting player.

    Harry too had an auspicious beginning and then the great match in the Grandstand against Stakhovsky and Mats Wilander pegged him as a Top 3 player. And with Harry, the showdown with Kokkanaikis in Cincy, he harkens back to McEnroe and Connors and Tarango, the three crazed lefties of American tennis. Harry has never been afraid to engage in fisticuffs or verbal spats.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 12:50 pm

    Don’t know where else to put this so it’ll go here – Kuznetsova bts Barty SS. Kuz is having a good tournament – maybe feels every minute on the court is a bonus.

  • catherine · August 17, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Is it true that Sveta is a Colonel in the Russian army or is that an internet rumour ? If true might explain her visa problems which forced her to miss Washington. She certainly played pretty attacking tennis here – had Barty on the back foot with lots of UEs.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    I only saw the last few games of Kuznetsova vs Barty, but Kuzzy was playing great. I hope she wins the tourney.

    I am still trying to get over her conservative outfits of late, simple and in solid colours. This does not seem like Kuzzy!

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    I like Kuznetsova a lot. Always strikes me like Giorgi as a femme Agassi, with a better game than either. Hits a huge ball, shows great sense and knowledge of game. Just never know which Kuznetsova shows up! Her legacy is good among the Russians. Beat out Dementieva

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    Dan is right about lefties!!!

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    Best true lefty is Kvitova? Nadal is a forced lefty.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 1:12 pm


    Quite obviously you have Arthur Ashe, James Blake and Malivai Washington (who reached the Wimbledon final) as black players who accomplished more than Young. Tiafoe already has won a title and achieved a higher ranking.

    I think it just shows that McEnroe and Wilander can’t really evaluate talent if they thought Young and Harrison could reach top 5. Not surprising since Mac is another Kyrgios enabler who keeps stating the fiction that he is the most talented player ever to lace it up.

    I am going to have to agree with Scoop that both were quite mediocre. And fitting that they had that embarrassing fight. Harrison made fun of Young’s height – a 3rd grade insult worthy of Kyrgios – while Young made up a racism story. Kind of shows you why both are losers. Young is actually known best for his incredible losing streak while Harrison had the fight with Kokkanakis and also threatened to fight Tiafoe last year in Geneva in a match I witnessed in person.

    Good riddance to both. It’s sad that classy guys like Blake and Todd Martin never get talked about.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 1:30 pm

    Gasquet vs Goffin is underway. David is up a break to lead 4-1. So far David has been sharper. Gasquet not looking like he did yesterday.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 1:57 pm

    Jeff, you were in Geneva? Tell us more. That was the match where Tiafoe won in three and did a Lebron James arms gesture and Harrison quipped, He thinks he’s Lebron. Martin Blackman found out about that and emailed Harrison that he considered it racist on Harrison’s part to say that. Harrison earlier had invited Tiafoe to his wedding but Tiafoe replied that he didn’t want to be around all those white people. I got the inside INSIDE scoop.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 2:32 pm

    Kenin is sneaking up on the field, so this is good for her at the US Open. Haven’t enjoyed her game, but she hits a big ball and plays with ferocity. If anyone plays conventional tennis against her she’s probably going to win, and she has confidence going into the heart of the season. And she’ll be seeded.

    Prediction, she’ll make week two.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Goffin won pretty handily in SS, 6-3, 6-4. He was by far the better player, much steadier. David had 27 winners to 14 UFEs and for Richard it was 15 winners to 23 UFEs. David won 67 points, Richard had 44.

    This will be the first time Goffin plays in a Masters final.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    I am not a huge fan of Kenin’s game either, but I admire the way she fights.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Goffin!!! That is indeed a great result for Goffin, and a nice win. Gasquet has played some great Masters and slam tennis before, and it’s been good to see him find his game. He reminded me of how well he can play, top tier as his best.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    Goffin is just a better tougher smarter bolder player than Gasquet, mentally tougher. Kenin is an uncanny talent.

  • Hartt · August 17, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    Mention of Washington reminded me of who Kuznetsova admired.

    “I had posters in my room of MaliVai Washington, Marcelo Ríos, and (Yevgeny) Kafelnikov. It’s very weird but this is who I liked. Later I was a big fan of (Marat) Safin.”, she said. (Wiki)

  • Dan Markowitz · August 17, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Yeah, tell us about it Jeff, not many of us (have any of us?) ever seen a match in Geneva. And wow, Scoop, that is some inside info. Wow, Harry just can’t seem to get out of the fire line of controversy.

    Well, yes, Ashe, Washington and Blake all have had far better careers than Young, but in the last 20 years, Young has been the only black American playing on the tour with the exception of Blake and now Tiafoe. And Blake going to Harvard and growing up in Fairfield, Ct. always struck me as having much of the silver spoon in his mouth than Young.

    DY is one of those junior champion stories like Kristian Pless or Al Parker who had pedestrian pro careers, but Young’s actually had a decent pro career. 124 career wins is nothing to sneeze at. Harry’s also got 117 wins so these guys are a little better than mediocre.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    Dan, very true re: DY career. It’s not bad for a former junior #1. Guys like Gianluigi Quinzi (ring a bell? I didn’t think so…), even Kozlov, Pless like you said, Peliwo…for every Lendl there’s a Peliwo.

    In the U.S. alone – David Witt, Palmer, Scott Humphries, Goldstein, Ryan Thacher, Ryan Wolters – all heralded players. All a level below Kudla, and for the most part Kudla has been a level below anyone else with some time in the top fifty.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 3:50 pm

    Dan, Harrison also was rebuked by Martin Blackman for tweeting that Justin Smollet and DY both faked their racial accusations which both turned out to be counterfeit. Blackman did not like Harrison comparing Young to Smollet. Harrison ended up getting rid of USTA coach Michael Russell over it, pretty much through with USTA.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    Kenin, aggressive. Throwback to the big ball bashers of the WTA. But that’s tennis. Whatever game players used to get success they stick with. Whether they learn anything after that is a sign they’re here to stay.

  • Jeff · August 17, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Wow I didn’t know all that about that Tiafoe-Harrison situation.

    I went to the first day of the Geneva tournament, actually got a lot of good photos and of that match. Too bad you don’t have a feature to attach them on comments. It’s in a picturesque club, though my ticket wasn’t that expensive – I think 25 euros considering it’s the first round of a 250.

    There were a lot of Americans there, I saw Querrey and Johnson practice and Wawrinka as well. Wawrinka was working his way back from injury. I saw Jared Donaldson (remember him?) defeat Istomin in 3 sets, I think. I saw Sandgren get crushed in his first set and then blow away his opponent and then he signed tons of autographs for kids while his blonde Fox news girlfriend was there. They have since broken up.

    Sadly, I only watched one game of Guido Pella since I had no idea he would blow up. Then I saw Gojowyzk beat Karlovic as well.

    The Tiafoe-Harrison match was quite interesting and I remember a good bit, it was an evening match. Harrison’s wife was there as well. Tiafoe came out strutting to the music but I think he usually does that?

    Then the first set, he basically tried to outhit Harrison and blow him off the court from the start. I thought it was kind of disrespectful and a tactical mistake because Harrison was a savvy vet and was playing good defense to stay in the point until he could force Tiafoe into mistakes and Tiafoe got frustrated. Both players kept breaking serve but Harrison won the first set.

    The second set was quite different as both players dominated on their serves, though Harrison still looked to be on top and was frustrating the younger player. It went to a tiebreaker and Harrison was up 5-3 and Tiafoe then took the next four points. I think the 5-4 point was kind of an amazing winner for Frances and he celebrated big-time or maybe it was the 5-5 point.

    Harrison got up an early break in the third set but Tiafoe broke back and finally gained the upper hand. This part of the match Frances played well but he was outplayed for two sets and the first few games of the third. A crushing loss for Harrison, who tactically was spot on in my view.

    I didn’t see the celebration you said – or at least notice it to be anything unusual. Doesn’t he always do that LeBron james routine? The handshake was definitely testy but abrupt and there was some chirping from each bench after. It didn’t look too heated but more like Harrison’s typical demeanor when he loses to some player he dislikes.

    But that really was a tough loss considering he outplayed him for a good part of the match but I would say Frances being more talented helped him get through even though he was a little naive but he did stop going for low-percentage winners as the match progressed.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 4:27 pm

    Always wary of Harrison getting too many mentions. Can’t help it. He’s a drama player with talent. Rublev deserves more press and Medvedev too, but they’re too steady and solid as people!

    So: just watched some YouTube of Harrison from March 2019. He still has a strong serve and some excellent 1-2 combinations, which work well on the ATP tour or the challenger levels against most players. The combos may come from doubles, and some of his net play from doubles pays off too.

    Nonetheless, I’m seeing Harrison struggles with basic issues. In other words: he doesn’t show the consistency of a ball machine and is very much a hot and cold player. He continues to stand behind the baseline and hit off the back foot. His stance makes him prone to shanking forehands to the doubles alley, and he nets a lot of first serves, pulling down on them. They don’t hit the tape – they hit mid net. He generally waits to see what his opponent gives him on a return, rather than employ a Plan A or Plan B out there. His movement overall could be more fluid. He loses points he should win, and was lucky to face an opponent that wasn’t anywhere close to being as good as Harrison.

    He also seemed less fit. Still strong, not slow, just not what he has been in terms of overall fitness. His movement was good. His approach to the match was “going to play well enough to win, nothing more or less”. A little sloppy.

    So: that’s not going to win ATP matches. It works against worse players, not better ones. And the lackadaisical approach to warm up etc suggests Harrison needs some healthy peer pressure and support – a good coach, some good practice partners, a game plan, and some perspective.

    This looked like a better player than Harrison version October 2015 – more complete game. But a more careless player. That’s not going to fly.

  • Andrew Miller · August 17, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    Jeff, nice match report. Harrison sounds like his game was still intact. Tiafoe as you’re saying a better player. Good to hear Harrison had a game plan. I think that’s an indoor tournament? So he would have gone with some SV. But, you laid it out beautifully.

  • Scoop Malinowski · August 17, 2019 at 7:37 pm

    Good account of the match. It was testy in part because Tiafoe rejected Harrison’s wedding invite, with the white people comment. And then after the Martin Blackman taking Tiafoe’s side and going against Harrison which was absurd. TOugh grudge battle.

  • Jon King · August 18, 2019 at 8:44 am

    First a correction of another comment, Kenin is certainly not a “ball basher” even a little bit. We have trained at the same courts many times. She is very, very precise, especially on her backhand side. But her power is mediocre at best. Her wins come from consistency on her ground strokes, mental toughness, and a good enough drop shot to get players moving. She has also changed her serve this year. In January she was literally falling backwards while serving. Her father heard the commentary on TV and made some changes. Her serve has improved a ton since the beginning of the year.

    The question was asked what happens when the women get engaged or married, why the drop off. The single minded focus in training and matches is incredible. It consumes your entire life. Competing with players who are 100% focused on tennis while a newly married or engaged player is split between tennis and trying to build a relationship is very hard. Just a small lowering of focus puts them at a disadvantage. Same with Sloane Stephens, super talented, can win any match, but she has always had a lot of outside interests. Her personality lends itself to broadcasting and she will no doubt have a huge career someday off the court. But she does not have the single minded focus like other less talented but higher ranked players.

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