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I was reading an excerpt of tennis player Agnieszka Radwanska's recent interview in which she talks about fellow athlete Maria Sharapova's return from drug suspension. The following are the exchanges between Agnieszka and the interviewer:

Q: Maria Sharapova will return from her doping suspension in less than two months. Do you think she’ll be welcomed back to the tour?

A: To be honest, I don’t know. And for me it doesn’t really matter. I think you have to ask people how they’re going to react, but I don’t know.

Q: So for you nothing changes when she comes back?

A: I don’t think so especially that she can really play great tennis after a year break. That’s what she did the last time with her shoulder (injury). I don’t think she’s going to lose the match rhythm. I think she’s going to be a dangerous opponent from the first round. You can play her in the first round, it’s going to be an interesting draw with her not being seeded. But yes, for sure it’s not going to be a good draw.

My friend and I hold opposite opinions as to the meaning of "I don’t think so especially that she can really play great tennis after a year break". She insists that Agnieszka does not believe Maria would play great tennis when she comes back and I disagree. Which one of us is correct? Thank you in advance.

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    That doesn't sound correct to me at all. Words are missing in my opinion. "I don't think so especially considering [that] she can really play..." is probably how I would write it or I simply would use a totally different sentence structure. – Anthony Apr 7 '17 at 17:44
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    What @Anthony said. Idiomatically, I'd say particularly is more natural than especially in the cited context, but it looks to me as if the missing element is I don’t think so, particularly given that she can really play... Note the comma, which would normally be included in the written form (or alternatively, a dash / hyphen). – FumbleFingers Apr 7 '17 at 17:50
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    It's an interview, so of course it's not standard written English. But to me it's unambiguous--Agnieszka believes Maria can play great tennis. I will defend this phrase by phrase if anyone is interested; but the OP is right. Note also the draw here is the order of play based on ranking. – Xanne Apr 8 '17 at 3:54
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    @WS2 It is perfectly grammatical to me, even if it's not very elegantly worded and not very well punctuated. She's answering whether anything will change; to paraphrase slightly: “No, I don't think [that anything will change]. In particular, [the fact] that she can play really great tennis after a year-long break [will not change]” — or just “Nothing will change, especially that she can play really great tennis after a year-long break”. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 8 '17 at 6:50
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    @WS2 No, that one is not correct obviously, but that's a different construction. In the interview here, the “that…” clause is the subject of a second clause (with the implicit verb repeated from the first clause, which has an implicit verb taken over from the question). “That she plays great tennis has not changed”. The “that” clause replaces “nothing” from the question. If your example were parallel, “that he is overweight” should replace “he” from the question, and you'd end up with “that he is overweight does not take sugar”, which is clearly nonsense. His overweight can only be a --> – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 8 '17 at 7:42
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What does "I don't think so especially that she can really play great tennis after a year break" mean?

This is a transcript of an interview. Note that "I don't think so" is an answer to the question, "So for you nothing changes when she comes back?'

How were things before? Agnieszka Radwanska, who is giving the interview, and Maria Sharapova have been competitors, both top-ranked. Agnieszka is now ranked sixth among women; Sharapova has no formal ranking because she hasn't played for a year. So "I don't think so" means that nothing changes in terms of MS being a competitor to AR.

Nothing changes, "especially that she can play really play great tennis after a year break."

"especially that"--she might have said this better, but what could she mean? Especially since, especially because, especially in view of the fact that? AR recounts that MS can play great tennis after a year break. She is referring to a shoulder injury in which MS, in the top five, was out for a year and returned to come back, after a few defeats, to the top five.

AR goes on to say only positive things about MS--she won't lose match rhythm, she will be a dangerous opponent from the first round.

You can play her in the first round, it’s going to be an interesting draw with her not being seeded. But yes, for sure it’s not going to be a good draw.

I am not an expert on seeds and the draw in tennis. However, the seeded players--the top 32--are set up so they don't play each other in the first round. The draw is (apparently) both the chart of who plays whom at each stage and the process of randomly drawing from successive seeds and eventually from unseeded players and placing them on the chart. If MS were seeded, AR would not have to play her in the first round. But in the present circumstances, a top-seeded player could end up playing her in the first round--and "for sure it's not going to be a good draw." This is further confirmation that AR views MS as a formidable opponent.

So again context matters--especially the question being answered, as well as the tennis histories of the two women and what AR is talking about when she speaks of "the draw." The OP is right.

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