Former player James Blake was crash tackled to the ground and surrounded by five plain-clothed New York police on Wednesday outside the official US Open hotel in what was a case of mistaken identity.
The tabloid New York Daily News reported the two-time Open quarter-finalist, who is African-American, was waiting on 42nd street around noon in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel for a car to take him to a corporate appearance.
The newspaper said he suddenly saw someone racing toward him and the next moment was knocked to the cement on one of the busiest Midtown Manhattan streets.
The player was then handcuffed, with police claiming they suspected him of working with a theft ring they insisted was operating in the area.
The officers eventually realised their error, letting Blake go after 15 minutes of duress and questioning.
California-based Blake said he would likely pursue the matter legally.
“It was definitely scary and definitely crazy,” said the former world No.4.
He suffered a cut to his left elbow and bruises to his left leg.
“To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is. In my mind there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody,” Blake said.
“You’d think they could say: “Hey, we want to talk to you. We are looking into something. I was just standing there. I wasn’t running …
“It’s blatantly unnecessary. You would think at some point they would get the memo that this isn’t okay, but it seems that there’s no stopping it.”
New York police later issued a statement saying the allegation of improper use of force had been referred to the department’s internal affairs bureau for investigation.
“Today James Blake was detained by police in midtown Manhattan in regards to an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, after being misidentified by a cooperating witness,” the statement said.
“Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately.”
Blake said when he saw what turned out to be a police officer running at him, he assumed it would be an acquaintance.
“Maybe I’m naive, but I just assumed it was someone I went to high school with or something, who was running at me to give me a big hug, so I smiled at the guy,” he said.
The officer, not wearing a badge, then knocked him to the pavement and forced him roll over face down without explanation.
After being detained, the paper said Blake was unceremoniously released, with the officer who tackled him offering no apology.
Blake was reported to be ready to demand an apology from the New York police as well as considering possible legal action against those officers involved.
“I have resources to get to the bottom of this. I have a voice,” Blake said.
“But what about someone who doesn’t have those resources and doesn’t have a voice? The real problem is that I was tackled for no reason, and that happens to a lot of people who don’t have a media outlet to voice that to.”