Miami Open Masters 2017: Rafael Nadal advances

 Rafael Nadal‘s first fist pump Friday followed his second point in the Miami Open, when he kissed a forehand off the sideline to win a long rally.

He accompanied the celebratory gesture with a skip in his step and then hit the accelerator, holding every service game to beat Dudi Sela 6-3, 6-4.

Thus began Nadal’s latest bid to win Key Biscayne.

”A lot of big motivation,” he said.

He’s playing the tournament for the 13th time and has never won it, although he was the runner-up in 2005, 2008, 2010 and 2014. At 0 for 12, it’s Nadal’s longest drought at any event, and perhaps the most glaring gap in the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s resume.

Does it bug him? He won’t admit to any frustration, but let slip that he still remembers the exact score when he was two points from the title in the third set versus Novak Djokovic.

That was six years ago.

”Against Novak – 6-5, 15-30,” Nadal said. ”It didn’t happen.”

The Spaniard has always enjoyed the atmosphere in Miami, where Latin fans give him enthusiastic support, and he likes the tournament’s hard courts. He’s simply overdue.

”I’m trying my best every year,” Nadal told the stadium crowd after dispatching Sela. ”I’ve been very close four times. I will try to give myself another chance.”

No. 11-seeded Venus Williams, whose third and most recent Key Biscayne title came in 2001, won her opening match against Beatriz Haddad Maia, 6-4, 6-3. No. 1 Angelique Kerber played until nearly 1 a.m. to beat Duan Ying-Ying 7-6 (3), 6-2.

Nadal is 15-4 this year and pleased with his play. He lost to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final, and again in the fourth round at Indian Wells last week.

Against Sela, Nadal served well, erased the only two break points he faced and overcame the occasional errant groundstroke on a windy afternoon.

”It was very difficult to find the right feelings,” Nadal said. ”These kind of days, what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I’m happy with that.”

Making Nadal’s title bid easier will be the absence of six-time champion Djokovic and two-time champion Andy Murray, both out with elbow injuries.

But No. 3-seeded Milos Raonic is back. He won in his first match since Feb. 25, beating Viktor Troicki 6-3, 7-5. Raonic had been sidelined by a right leg injury.

”I’ve prepared the best I can for this tournament,” Raonic said. ”I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, but fortunately it’s a long tournament. Doesn’t mean things can’t change and I can’t get better throughout this event.”

No. 2 Kei Nishikori beat Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3. No. 7 Marin Cilic lost to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American Jack Sock, seeded 13th, advanced when Yoshihito Nishioka retired with an injury leading 4-2 in the first set.

In women’s play, Elena Vesnina made a quick exit only five days after winning the biggest title of her career. Seeded 13th, Vesnina lost her opening match to wild card Ajla Tomljanovic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5.

Vesnina beat Svetlana Kuznetsova in the Indian Wells final.

In a match that took two days because of rain, No. 6 Garbine Muguruza rallied past Christina McHale 0-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4. No. 3 Simona Halep beat Naomi Osaka 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. American qualifier Taylor Townsend eliminated No. 25 Robert Vinci 6-3, 6-2.

Follow this story

Double-amputee Marine vet joins police department

The wounded warrior is now a cop — and he’ll be walking the beat on titanium legs.

Matias Ferreira, a U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal who lost his legs below the knee when he stepped on a hidden explosive in Afghanistan in 2011, is joining a suburban New York police department.

The 28-year-old graduated Friday from the Suffolk County Police Academy on Long Island following 29 weeks of training.

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound rookie passed all the physical training and other requirements just like any other recruit, including running a mile and a half in around 11 minutes. He begins patrols next week, a department spokesman said.

“I just really want to be able to help people,” said Ferreira, who immigrated to the U.S. from Uruguay as a child. “I want to be involved in the community, and the police department definitely allows you to do that.”

Ferreira was on patrol in Afghanistan on Jan. 21, 2011, when he jumped off a roof in a compound suspected of being a Taliban outpost.

“As soon as I landed I knew something was wrong because it was like a movie almost. I heard a noise and everything went black,” he said. A bomb had gone off beneath his legs, amputating both below the knees. “I just saw blood throughout my pants.”

He was evacuated to a local hospital. Within days, he was back in the U.S. being treated for his injuries. Three months later he was wearing prosthetic legs.

“I was up and walking in prosthetics and really just starting my new life,” he said.

That new life has included many activities he had never tried before the explosion. He has played on a softball team of wounded warriors. He skydives, scuba dives, snowboards and rides a motorcycle.

Raised in Georgia, he met his future wife, Tiffany, when his softball team played a game on Long Island in 2012. The couple now has a 2-year-old daughter.

After working as a steamfitter, welding while hanging off bridges and overpasses, Ferreira decided to take the exam to become a police officer. He scored a perfect 100, and his fellow recruits later elected him class president.

“He has served this great country with outstanding distinction, and will now serve and protect the residents of Suffolk County,” Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said in a statement.

Ferreira acknowledges the job will bring challenges, but approaches his new career with a sense of humor. He said he was once asked during academy training whether he has concerns about injuries.

“If I break my leg, I go in the trunk and put on a different one and I keep on going,” he said.

He lives by the motto that “life without limbs is limitless.”

“The only disability we have is the ones that we make,” he said.

Follow this story

Venezuelan-American in Doral helps refugees arriving in South Florida

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) teamed up with the mayor of Doral Friday to honor a woman and her organization, which is helping those who are fleeing to South Florida from Venezuela.

“They’re coming because they want to live in freedom,” Patricia Andrade told Local 10 News.

Andrade’s mission is to help families who are seeking political asylum in the United States from Venezuela. 

“We live off donations and give for free because the Venezuelans are short of money,” she said.

The Venezuela Awareness Foundation, known as Raices, works out of a storage facility in Doral. It’s also where they keep the many items they collect through the help of donations. 

Raices has four storage units full of supplies, bed linens, appliances and other items to help people start a new life in the U.S.

“Every unit is $345 a month,” Andrade said.

The group seeks to help Venezuelan immigrants integrate into American life, defend the victims of human rights violations and provide aid for those in need. 

“Getting used to the new culture, making sure your kids have a good future, making sure you have a job,” Doral Mayor Juan Carlos Bermudez said.

“We get around 100 people per day,” Andrade said.

David Bavaresco, a 21-year-old martial arts champion and vocal critic of Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro, is among those whom the group has helped. 

“We don’t have food. We don’t have human rights. We don’t have medicines for people who are dying,” he said.

Bavaresco and his family came to South Florida to escape the crisis in their country. 

“I’m starting to work and compete. At first it was hard, but it’s now more stable,” he said.  

With the situation in Venezuela worsening, asylum claims are reaching record numbers.

According to the Pew Research Center, Venezuelans account for 10,221 asylum applications filed between October 2015 and June 2016, which is up from 3,810 filed during the same time period the year before. 

Andrade and her movement received an honor Friday from the office of Diaz-Balart, recognizing her tireless work to help other Venezuelans. 

“It’s an honor as a Venezuelan-American. It’s an honor,” Andrade said. 

Follow this story

Hacking suspect’s parents say he won’t flee

Karim Baratov’s parents want him back home, sitting at the dining table where they shared dinner nearly every night as a family of four, and where they now sit to make the case publicly that the young man accused of hacking emails for Russian agents is not a flight risk.

Baratov’s father, Akhmet Tokbergenov, and mother, Dinara Tokbergenova, spoke exclusively this week to CNN in their Hamilton, Ontario, home, just one mile away from Baratov’s tony residence.

“We are just four of us. He would never leave us. Because he always feels like he is responsible for us,” his tearful mother says. “And he knows I would die if he would go somewhere.”

Authorities in the United States say her son has the skills and money to go somewhere — and escape justice.

Federal prosecutors in northern California, where an indictment was issued last month, say that Baratov worked with three other people — including two Russian intelligence officers — to get names, email addresses and passwords from at least 500 million Yahoo accounts. That allegedly helped them to gain access to accounts from other Internet companies, such as Google.

The Tokbergenov family says Baratov is innocent — and falsely portrayed.

When news of the indictment came out, news articles featured photographs and videos Baratov posted on social media.

One shows him posing with an Aston Martin and Mercedes parked in his driveway. Another shown on his YouTube channel features someone in a Lamborghini Gallardo doing donuts in a snow-covered field.

How could such a young man acquire all of these toys, plus a home?

A post on Baratov’s Facebook page, which has been made private since his arrest, says as a student he found ways to achieve success after he was suspended from high school for a few weeks for “threatening to kill my ex-friend as a joke.”

He wrote that the time off gave him a chance to focus on “online projects” and “really move my business to the next level,” adding that as a high schooler, he was able to afford driving a BMW 7 series and pay off a mortgage.

His parents are unhappy with the implication that their son, 22, leads an extravagant life.

That’s not the case, they say.

“Young men (are) always trying to show their success and to appear like they (are) successful more than they are,” said Akhmet Tokbergenov.

Baratov took out car loans and mortgages just like anyone else, they said.

“Yeah, he was creating an image, I think,” his mother said. “But in reality, he’s a different person. He’s so kind and he’s so quiet.”

‘We’re not Russians’

Karim Baratov was born in Kazakhstan, a Central Asian country and former Soviet republic. His parents have different last names from Baratov, who was given his grandfather’s name to honor him — a common custom among Kazakhs.

In 2007, the family pulled up stakes and emigrated to Canada in pursuit of a better life. Karim was 12, his sister was 17.

“Canada can give the best opportunity for the young generation and that’s why we moved to Canada,” Akhmet Tokbergenov said.

Karim found friends and transitioned well into his new life, his father said.

The family eventually settled in the quiet, posh town of Ancaster, about an hour outside of Toronto, where rows of beige townhouses are lined up in neighborhoods and BMWs and Mercedes are a common sight.

The family speaks Russian fluently, as well as Kazakh, and identify as ethnic Kazakhs.

While Baratov has never been to Russia, according to his parents, his father — an agricultural consultant — travels there three times a year to meet a business associate who owns a Kazakh company. And though the history of his homeland is deeply intertwined with Russia, Tokbergenov emphasizes: “We’re not Russian, we’re Kazakh people, and Kazakh people is so very different than Russian.”

The allegation that his son communicated with Russian intelligence agents and was part of a hacking scheme is unsettling to Tokbergenov.

“It’s bad. It’s not my son,” Tokbergenov said. “And personally, I prefer to stay (away) from Russian government, from those implicated officers, from that organization I don’t even want to mention.”

An unknown career

The Tokbergenov family said Baratov never interacted with the other men named in the indictment and that they have no idea who the three men are.

The February indictment, filed in San Francisco near Yahoo’s headquarters, alleges that two of the men, Dmitry Dokuchaev and Igor Sushchin, are officers of the Russian Federal Security Service, a government intelligence and law enforcement agency.

Dokuchaev and Sushchin allegedly contacted Baratov and the fourth suspect, Alexsey Belan from Latvia, and directed them to steal information about users’ information from email providers. The FBI is seeking all three, saying they were last known to be in Russia.

Baratov, the indictment claims, was given information taken from the Yahoo hack, to be able to get email account passwords from providers, including Gmail.

The US arrest application says payments were made from Dokuchaev to a PayPal account registered to a Karim Baratov with a matching date of birth and addresses — one that corresponds to Baratov’s home address, the other to his parents’.

In court documents, US authorities say, “The investigation to date has not revealed any legitimate employment for Baratov.”

Amedeo DiCarlo, Baratov’s attorney, has called his client an “entrepreneur.”

When asked, the family would not elaborate on what kind of business Baratov ran.

“I know that he was good in computers and he’s operated computer business,” Akhmet Tokbergenov said. “He was very good in web creating. That (is) all I know.”

A significant flight risk?

Baratov remains in Canadian custody while his attorney fights a US extradition request and plans to seek bail at an April 5 hearing.

If he is released on bail, US authorities contend, Baratov could flee the country and continue to conduct his business and destroy evidence against him. Documents cite liquid assets, allegations of working with the Russian government — which has shielded a co-conspirator indicted in the scheme — and his ability to work from anywhere in the world.

Baratov allegedly received more than $200,000 in payments to a PayPal account, but court documents also show that he has accounts with the online payment service WebMoney, which allows users to withdraw money in 90 countries.

Authorities also describe a July 2015 trip to Jamaica that Baratov took that was documented on social media. In the application for arrest, they claim Baratov used a Jamaican IP address to access an account he used to hack into email accounts.

According to his family, Baratov is solely a Canadian citizen and only has a Canadian passport. US authorities describe him as also being a Kazakh citizen.

When making the case as to why Baratov should not be granted bail, US prosecutors point to the case of his alleged co-conspirator, Alexsey Belan.

Belan was arrested in Greece in 2013 on a separate hacking allegation. Belan was released on bond and fled to Russia, benefiting from “the protection afforded by Russian government officials, and from US law enforcement’s inability to reach him in Russia,” the arrest application states.

CNN asked DiCarlo, Baratov’s attorney, about the US claims that his client “presents a significant flight risk” and is documented to have received PayPal payments for his work.

“The public will know the truth of such allegations from the court proceedings,” DiCarlo replied. “All their evidence is unfounded and completely exaggerated.”

His family stands behind him

Baratov’s father says “it’s impossible” that Baratov would leave Canada if granted bail, and points to the fact that Baratov’s cars and home are all still here, though the latter is up for sale.

Akhmet Tokbergenov and Dinara Tokbergenova live within minutes of Baratov, and share stories of him cooking and buying groceries for them when they were sick, and of him waking up to take his mother to work at 5 a.m. so she wouldn’t have to take a cab.

“We’re very close to each other, we don’t have anybody else,” Tokbergenova said, through tears. “When (all this) happened, it just destroyed our life.”

Follow this story

Dead teen’s parents get bill for guardrail that killed her during crash

When the parents of Hannah Eimers, 17, were mourning her death, the last thing they were expecting was a bill from state authorities.

They were charging Hannah for a guardrail that was damaged during the crash that killed her.  

Authorities later said the $3,000 bill sent to Stephen Eimers’ daughter was a “mistake somewhere in processing,” according to The Tennessean

What upset the Eimers the most was that during the Nov. 1 impact, Hannah suffered the fatal injuries when the guardrail passed through the side door and failed to stop the car.


Follow this story