By Mark Wright
Special to the Star-Telegram
MANSFIELD -- If things go according to plan, Jesse Levine won't be back for a title defense. His opponent, though, wants another crack at it.
Levine, the No. 4 seed from Boca Raton, Fla., beat Australian John-Patrick Smith in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday in the singles final of the Futures of the Mansfield at Walnut Creek Country Club.
"Hopefully I'm not back here next year for good reason," Levine said.
Levine reached the third round of Wimbledon in 2009 and climbed as high as 94 in the rankings. But a knee injury late last year prevented him from competing in tournaments for more than five months, causing him to drop more than 200 spots in the rankings.
"I'm slowly making my way up there, and hopefully I'll be back to 94th or higher soon," Levine said.
The comeback trail has been paved with success of late. In addition to Levine's victory in Mansfield, he won two Pro Circuit events last month in Canada.
"It's a steppingstone," Levine said. "When you go back in the rankings, you have to go back to playing the smaller events and get through those. It feels great doing the work and getting back the hard way."
Levine didn't drop a set throughout the Mansfield event. But he said the windy conditions and fellow lefty Smith made for a challenging final.
"[Smith's] a really tough opponent," Levine said. "He doesn't give you a chance to get in very much of a rhythm."
The unseeded Smith, a four-time All-American at the University of Tennessee and the 2011Southeastern Conference Male Athlete of the Year -- an honor for which he beat out the likes of Cam Newton of Auburn -- won his first professional title earlier this year at a Pro Circuit event in Tulsa.
Smith faced a challenging road to the Mansfield final, including a second-round match against No. 6 seed Chris Eaton in which he came back from down a set to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
"Hopefully I keep getting better and improve and come back next year and win," Smith said.
In doubles, 19-year-old Jordan Cox of Duluth, Ga., won a championship match a year after losing in the singles finals in Mansfield.
Cox and 2009 NCAA singles champion Devin Britton of Brandon, Miss., defeated Sekou Bangoura of Bradenton, Fla., and two-time U.S. Open National Playoff champion Blake Strode of Cary, N.C. After dropping the first set, Britton and Cox came back to win 2-6, 6-2, (10-7).
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