Ottawa-born Levine a Wimbledon champ

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:44 AM ET

Ottawa has produced its fair share of sports champions, like Stanley Cup winners and Olympic medallists.

Now the city can add a prestigious Wimbledon title to the list, thanks to 17-year-old Jesse Levine.

The Ottawa native, now living in Boca Raton, Fla., captured the boys' doubles title with partner Michael Shabaz of Washington on Sunday over Samuel Groth and Andrew Kennaugh.

Levine and Shabaz fought back from a 3-0 deficit to win the first set 6-4, then cruised to a 6-1 win in the second set to capture the championship.

Levine also advanced to the quarter-finals of the boys' tournament -- his first trip to Wimbledon.

"Just playing on the grass at the All England Club is an experience on its own," said Levine. "And then to win is just another experience of its own and it took everything to another level."

Cheering every point were his parents Nathan and Brenda, and his younger brother Daniel, who all travelled to London to attend the tournament.

Following from their home in Nepean were Levine's grandparents, Morris and Lillian Kimmel, who watched the scores change in real-time on their computer.

LIVED IN CENTREPOINTE

"I sent him an e-mail after and told him that I thought he could hear me yell all the way over in England. I was shouting so hard, every time he made a point," said Lillian. "I nearly fainted when they scored the winning point."

Jesse Levine was born at the Civic Hospital and grew up in the Centrepointe neighbourhood, attending Hillel Academy.

His father worked at Westboro Flooring & Decor, his father-in-law's business.

Jesse played tennis out of the Ottawa Athletic Club and went there nearly every day to play, getting a drive from his grandfather.

But the family moved to Florida in 2000, when Jesse was 13, to live in a warmer climate for the benefit of Daniel, who suffers from colitis.

That's when Jesse's tennis career took off. He attended the Chris Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton and improved his game so significantly that he began thinking about becoming a pro.

Jesse has since moved to Bradenton, Fla., to attend the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which boasts an incredible who's who alumni list that includes names like Borg, Becker, Agassi, Sampras, Courier, Hingis, Sharapova, Kournikova, Pierce and the Williams sisters.

Among boys aged 18 and under, he is ranked 14th in the world by the International Tennis Federation.

"I need to get physically stronger before I can get out there and start travelling and playing with the big boys," Levine said in a telephone interview from his parents' Boca Raton home.

"But when I'm at Bollettieri's, the pros are always asking to hit with me, so I always enjoy that. It's pretty neat," said Levine, who has worked out with the likes of Vince Spadea, Sebastien Grosjean and Tommy Haas, all ranked in the top 50 by the ATP.

Levine will try to improve his U.S. ranking at the USTA's under-18 championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., next month before playing in the U.S. Open in New York.

He'll try to win the singles championship in Kalamazoo, which would give him a wild-card entry into the pro event at the U.S. Open, where he could face the likes of Andre Agassi or one of the players he trains with at the training centre in Florida.

"That would be unbelievable," he said.

Almost as incredible as a kid from Ottawa winning a Wimbledon championship.

"I have a lot of friends and family in Ottawa," he said. "It's always fun to come back."


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