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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.”

Sharapova loses to Rybarikova at Kremlin Cup

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MOSCOW (AP) Maria Sharapova was beaten by Magdalena Rybarikova 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the first round of the Kremlin Cup on Tuesday, ending her bid for a second title in two weeks.

Sharapova, who won the Tianjin Open two days ago, brought her usual power but lacked accuracy with some wild swings on key points.

“I felt fine physically, to be honest, especially after having played five matches in five days (in Tianjin). That was a big surprise,” Sharapova said. “Maybe I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been … Maybe if this tournament hadn’t been in Moscow, I wouldn’t have played it.”

Sharapova was under pressure on serve from the start and saved six break points before finally being broken to 6-5. She responded by breaking Rybarikova, but Sharapova’s double fault at 4-3 in the tiebreaker handed the Slovakian the momentum to close out the set.

Rybarikova, seeded eighth, sealed the match after saving two break points to lead 5-4, then breaking Sharapova in the next game. Rybarikova will play Alize Cornet in the second round.

Six months after she returned from a 15-month doping ban, Sharapova is still trying to move back up the rankings from her current position of 57th. Her first tour appearance in Moscow in a decade drew a large and enthusiastic crowd despite taking place on a Tuesday afternoon.

Also Tuesday, seventh-seeded Julia Goerges beat Russian qualifier Polina Monova 6-0, 6-3 to set up a second-round meeting with Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan.

In the men’s Kremlin Cup tournament, sixth-seeded Damir Dzumhur defeated Thomas Fabbiano 6-3, 0-6, 6-2.

Maria Sharapova wins her 1st title since doping ban

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TIANJIN, China (AP) Maria Sharapova won her first WTA title since returning from a doping ban after defeating Aryna Sabalenka to win the Tianjin Open on Sunday.

The Russian, a tournament wild card, overcame Belarusian teenager Sabalenka 7-5, 7-6 (8) despite trailing heavily in both sets.

Sharapova last won a title at the Italian Open in May 2015.

The former top-ranked player and owner of five major titles, including the 2006 U.S. Open, tested positive for the newly banned drug meldonium at the Australian Open in January 2016. That led to a 15-month doping ban, which expired in April.

“Such a special, special tournament, and victory for me, one that I’ll remember forever,” Sharapova said. “Sometimes you never know when it will all come together but it happened to me this week in Tianjin.”

Sharapova displayed resilience as she came from behind in both sets to overcome her 19-year-old opponent.

Sabalenka led 4-1 in the opener and 5-1 in the second before relenting to Sharapova’s greater big-match experience. It was Sharapova’s 36th WTA singles title.

The 30-year-old Sharapova played in her first Grand Slam tournament following the ban at the U.S. Open in August, where she reached the fourth round. Sunday’s result will lift Sharapova up to No. 57 in the world rankings.