Wimbledon shocker for Levine

DENIS POISSANT, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

WIMBLEDON -- As a Senators fan, it hadn't been the best of years for Jesse Levine. But yesterday's huge 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (7), 6-4 victory over Marat Safin in the first round of Wimbledon will go a long way toward erasing some bad hockey memories.

The left-handed Levine (5-foot-10, 150 lbs.) grew up in Ottawa (living in Centrepointe and going to school at the Hillel Academy) as a Senators fan before moving to Florida in 2000.

SPEZZA'S FRIEND

"I'm a good friend of (Jason) Spezza, he sends me e-mails from time to time to congratulate me," Levine said yesterday. "He loves tennis."

After yesterday's showing, more e-mails likely will be on the way and though Safin is nearing the end of his career, it was nonetheless an accomplishment for Levine, whose father Nathan worked at Westboro Flooring and Decor.

The 21-year-old had eight years less experience, not to mention standing seven inches shorter and 45 lbs. lighter than Safin, a former U.S. Open (2000) and Australian Open (2005) winner.

"He's one of the best players on tour," said Levine, ranked 133rd. "It's big honour for me to have beaten him.

"I watched his (Grand Slam win) on TV in 2000, he played so well."

So how did Levine pull off the win?

"My speed helped me pick up balls that were really hard to get to," said Levine, who remained calm.

"At one point I had to stop and not think about all of this, to concentrate on each point and not the fact that I was beating Marat Safin," he said. "Otherwise I would have had a tough time."

Safin came to Wimbledon ranked 24th and seeded 14th, and was a big favourite against Levine, who never had defeated anyone ranked better than 67th.

Safin eventually got so frustrated that he smashed his racket on the grass.

"For me, when I get upset, I play worse," joked Levine, who achieved his career-high ranking of No. 94 on Nov. 3, 2008. Levine will face Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay tomorrow.


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