Former Ottawa star shines

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:48 AM ET

Ottawa native Jesse Levine is no stranger to success on the grass courts of Wimbledon.

A former junior doubles champ at the All England club, he got the best of an old opponent yesterday in his first Wimbledon experience in singles as a pro.

Levine, 20, now living in Boca Raton, Fla., defeated American Donald Young, 18, in the first round of the championships, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4.

He won three-straight matches in a qualifier to get into the main draw, and went into the match ranked 137th in singles. But Levine has a history of upsetting Young, who was ranked 85th, beating him in the final of the U.S. Clay Court 14s in 2001.

Young went on to become the No. 1 ranked junior in the world in 2006 when Levine hooked up with him again in the final of the U.S. Junior National Championship. Levine had to forfeit the match because of food poisoning.

Levine beat Young last November in the finals of the JSM Challenger in Champaign, Ill., for his second-straight win as a pro and went on to a 16-match winning streak.

He overcame a bit of a slow start yesterday for his second win in a Grand Slam event.

"After the first set, I knew it was going to be a long match," Levine told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel after the match. "At the end, I feel I definitely could have gone a fifth, but I didn't want to. I blew a double-break lead in the fourth when I started going for a little too much instead of just playing my game."

He will now go on to face 26-year-old Jurgen Melzer of Austria. Melzer, another lefty, is ranked 72nd in the world.

Levine grew up in Centrepointe and played his tennis at the Ottawa Athletic Club before the family moved to Florida in 2000 when he was 13.

He stopped by the OAC in December when he was in town.

"He was out there hitting with the little kids, hitting with the older kids. He was inspiring them," said OAC pro Tony Roth yesterday. "The thing with Jesse is he's such a great person. The guy loves tennis. He's not doing it because somebody told him to do it. He just sparkles with it.

"It's always huge when you see somebody who started here, learned here and competed here win like this. It's a fantastic thing."

Levine went 24-1 as the No. 1 player for the University of Florida as a freshman last year, but dropped out to turn pro in August and played in the U.S. Open, losing in the first round to fourth-ranked Nikolay Davydenko. He was 4-11 for his career and 2-7 this year on the regular circuit going into yesterday's match.

He had some success in Challenger events last year, winning back-to-back tournaments for his first pro wins, including the one over Young. He was invited to practice with world No. 1 Roger Federer in Dubai last summer for 10 days as Federer wanted a lefty sparring partner to get ready for Rafa Nadal.

Levine was also invited to be a practice partner with the U.S. Davis Cup team in February in Austria.

"Jesse has shown a lot of promise since last summer, improved his ranking a lot and he's a great kid and incredibly hard worker," U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe told the Miami Herald. "Our guys have a good read on which guys are working really hard and they were pushing to invite Jesse."

Levine was also a qualifier for the Australian Open earlier this year and won his first-round match. He won the Wimbledon junior doubles title in 2005 with partner Michael Shabaz.


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