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Raonic beats Nadal, keeps Brisbane title defense on track

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BRISBANE, Australia — Rafael Nadal was up a set and had a break point against defending champion Milos Raonic when he sent a forehand just wide.

It was a mistake the 14-time Grand Slam champion wouldn’t recover from.

Raonic made the most of the reprieve, holding serve in that fifth game of the second set and then attacking Nadal’s serve in the eighth to swing the momentum his way in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal win Friday at the Brisbane International.

The top-seeded Raonic broke Nadal’s serve again to start the third set, and calmly held on for only his second win in eight matches against the Spaniard.

Raonic served 23 aces and hit 50 winners to just 19 for Nadal, who could only convert one of his seven break-point opportunities.

As well as the big, deep service returns, Raonic also repeatedly went to the net, trusting his instincts and putting pressure on Nadal.

“Today the mentality behind the match was what sort of kept me around,” Raonic said. “Some moments things weren’t looking great. I wasn’t efficient coming forward. I was missing some shots I shouldn’t be. I was rushing.

“But at least I kept myself there, and I was able to always recuperate the next point. That’s what I have to be most proud of.”

Nadal, coming back from a layoff after an injured left wrist curtailed the end of his 2016 season, beat Raonic in an exhibition tournament last week. But Raonic played with more intensity in Brisbane, and Nadal said a couple of lapses were costly.

“Probably if I put that passing shot forehand cross, I had the break in the second set, big chance that we will be here one hour before with a victory,” Nadal said. “That passing shot was long, and that’s it. Then he had the break and match changes.”

Nadal said three wins at the exhibition tournament, two wins and a close result in Brisbane gave him confidence his progress was good ahead of the Australian Open, where he is desperate to make amends for a surprising first-round exit last year.

Still in contention to start back-to-back seasons with a Brisbane title, Raonic will play seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov – a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 winner over No. 4 Dominic Thiem – in the semifinals.

U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka and third-seeded Kei Nishikori will meet in the other semifinal match.

The second-seeded Wawrinka beat unseeded Kyle Edmund 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-4 to reach the semifinals in his first trip to the Brisbane tournament.

In the previous three years, Wawrinka won the title in Chennai in the first week of the season before heading to Australia for the season’s first major.

Wawrkina has a 4-3 lead over Nishikori in career head-to-heads, including the semifinals at the U.S. Open last year, but Nishikori won two of the three meetings in 2016.

Nishikori has now reached the semifinals four times in seven visits to the Brisbane International, needing just an hour for a 6-1, 6-1 quarterfinal win over Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson.

“I think I played one of the best matches so far, really dominating from the baseline and serving good today,” Nishikori said. “Everything was working well.”

U.S. Open finalist Karolina Pliskova will play Alize Cornet in the women’s final on Saturday.

Cornet was leading 4-1 when French Open champion Garbine Muguruza retired with a right thigh injury. Pliskova beat sixth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal match.

“A little bit of luck never killed anybody,” said Cornet, who finished last year ranked No. 46 but now expects to be seeded at the Australian Open. “I’m just going to take it. I really enjoy the fact that I’m in the final. It’s a big day for me, yeah.”

Muguruza didn’t think the injury setback would trouble her at the Australian Open.

“It will not stop me,” Muguruza said. “Cornet was playing good. I couldn’t match her level today. I had some pains, and I thought it was smarter to take care of my body.”

Judge briefly closes courtroom in Ex-tennis star case

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NEW YORK (AP) A New York judge hearing a disciplinary case against a police officer who wrongly arrested tennis star James Blake temporarily sealed the courtroom.

Judge Rosemarie Maldonado said she had to close the proceeding for about 10 minutes Wednesday because attorneys were going to ask about Officer James Frascatore’s (fras-kuh-TOHR’-eez ) disciplinary record with the department. State law requires that these records remain private.

Frascatore testified that he sneaked up on Blake near Times Square two years ago because the former tennis pro had been misidentified as a target of a credit card fraud operation.

Blake was tackled to the ground and arrested before police figured out who he was.

Blake has said the officer should be fired. The officer says he did nothing wrong.

Ex tennis star Blake testifies about his mistaken arrest

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NEW YORK (AP) By former pro tennis star James Blake’s account, the man approaching him in 2015 outside his hotel caused no alarm because he looked like an old high school buddy.

Blake found out the hard way that it was instead a plainclothes police officer who mistook him for a suspect in a fraud investigation.

On Tuesday, Blake testified at a police department disciplinary trial that the officer never identified himself before throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him. When police realized their mistake, said Blake, they released him without an apology from the officer.

“It shouldn’t happen to me. It shouldn’t happen to anyone,” Blake testified. “There needs to be accountability for everybody.”

Officer James Frascatore this year rejected a deal asking him to forfeit vacation days to resolve New York Police Department internal charges that he used excessive force. The NYPD administrative judge who’s hearing the case will recommend a potentially more severe punishment, including dismissal from the nation’s largest police force, to the police commissioner.

Frascatore, who denies he did anything wrong, also will take the witness stand. He has been assigned to desk duty pending a decision about his future.

The officer “looks forward to correcting the false narrative which has surrounded this case for two years,” said his attorney, Stephen Worth.

Blake’s arrest – captured in a security video – came at a high point of the national debate over police use of force against unarmed black men. The 37-year-old American, once the No. 4 tennis player in the world, is the child of a black father and white mother; Frascatore is white.

The NYPD has said that Blake matched a photo of a suspect sought in the case and that race wasn’t a factor. But after the video was made public, city and police officials took the unusual step of apologizing and establishing in Blake’s name a fellowship aimed at helping people who accuse police of abuses to get full reviews by a police oversight agency.

Blake, in his new book about sports and activism, “Ways of Grace,” describes going from peacefully waiting for a ride to that year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament to finding himself with his “face pressed to the concrete.” Fearing he could make things worse by resisting, Blake told himself to cooperate until the officer pulled him up.

“This is an absolute mistake,” he recalls telling the officer. “You have the wrong person.”

The half-dozen officers at the scene did little to check out his story until an officer who appeared to be a supervisor showed up several minutes later and let him go, Blake says.

Humiliated, his first instinct was to let it go before his wife asked him what he’d do if the same thing happened to her.

“That’s when I got angry,” he writes.

Responding to reports of the encounter, the NYPD initially added insult to injury by claiming Blake had only been detained for a couple minutes and was never manhandled or handcuffed, he says. He decided to seek out hotel security, which showed him the video proving he was slammed down and kept cuffed at least 10 minutes.

The next day, he decided to speak out about the incident on “Good Morning America.” And now, he is using his book to share his takeaways.

“It should not matter that I’m a tennis star … to be treated respectfully and not have my rights taken away from me from law enforcement,” he writes.

His case, he adds, “speaks to a larger issue in America – the use of excessive force by law enforcement, especially against minorities.”