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Ruthless Pliskova routs Cornet, wins Brisbane title

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BRISBANE, Australia — A ruthless Karolina Pliskova won all but five points in the first six games to set up a 6-0, 6-3 rout of Alize Cornet in the Brisbane International final on Saturday night, setting an ominous tone for the first Grand Slam tournament of the season.

The U.S. Open finalist will return to a career-high No. 5 ranking for the Australian Open, which begins Jan. 16, after winning her first Brisbane title and seventh on the WTA tour.

The first set lasted less than 20 minutes, with third-seeded Pliskova not dropping a point on serve until the last game. Cornet, who was unseeded and ranked No. 41, didn’t get on the scoreboard until she held to open the second set.

“I didn’t miss almost whole set in the first set,” Pliskova said. “Yeah, I was feeling pretty good today.”

Cornet said she couldn’t get a read on Pliskova’s serve, rating it as more difficult to handle than 22-time Grand Slam winner Serena Williams’ serve.

Pliskova is “serving really, really well. I mean, I played Serena a few times, and I could always be able to return a first serve … somehow,” Cornet said. “When you have a serve like this, it’s such a weapon. It’s pretty much nightmare, actually.”

The 24-year-old Pliskova had a breakout season in 2016, reaching her first Grand Slam final – beating both Venus and Serena Williams before losing to Angelique Kerber at the U.S. Open – and helping the Czech Republic win the Fed Cup.

On the men’s side, Milos Raonic’s title defense ended in a 7-6 (7), 6-2 semifinal loss to Grigor Dimitrov, who will play third-seeded Kei Nishikori in Sunday’s final.

Dimitrov fended off set point in the tiebreaker and converted his own moments later. He broke Raonic’s serve twice in the second set.

Raonic didn’t blame the late finish Friday in his comeback quarterfinal win over Rafael Nadal, or the toll that playing the 14-time Grand Slam winner took on his body.

Dimitrov “made it obviously very difficult (and) I didn’t turn around and bring the performance I needed to bring,” Raonic said. “I was just a tidbit slow. ”

Raonic made the semifinals at the Australian Open last year, reached his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and finished the year at No. 3 in the rankings. But he hasn’t won a title since his success in Brisbane last year. He thinks his preparation can change that in 2017.

“I feel very good about it,” he said. “I’m on that right track – I feel like if I can avoid that hiccup, I can have a very, very good time in Melbourne.”

Nishikori beat U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka 7-6 (3), 6-3 to reach the final for the first time at the season-opening tournament, ending a run of three semifinal defeats. He has a 3-0 record against Dimitrov, who lost the 2013 Brisbane final to Andy Murray.

Wawrinka, who won the Chennai tournament in India in the first week of the season for the three previous years, had treatment on his left ankle in the first and second sets but didn’t expect it to cause him any trouble at the Australian Open.

Nishikori took full advantage, converting his first break point in the second set to take a 3-1 lead when Wawrinka missed consecutive backhands. The No. 2-seeded Wawrinka broke back immediately, but dropped his serve again in the next game.

Wawrinka beat Nishikori in the semifinals of the U.S. Open last year; his only win in their past four matches. Now they’re tied 4-4 in career meetings.

Nishikori was making his seventh trip to Brisbane, and playing a semifinal for the fourth time.

“I tried many times, and this is first time to get Sunday, so I’m really happy,” the 2014 U.S. Open finalist said. “And especially beating Stan today, it was a good start of the year. Tomorrow it’s going to be maybe tougher match, but I look forward to playing the final.”

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.”