Levine stepping up at Hurricane Open
By JOHN LEMBO
Jesse Levine stopped listening to the murmurs long ago.
He has turned a deaf ear to the folks who told him he had no chance when he was 16, a great chance when he was 18, and the others who told him he was too small to play tennis.
"I just do what I can and give it 100 percent every time," Levine said, "and just see what happens."
Things are happening for the 20-year-old Levine at the Hurricane Tennis Open at the El Conquistador Racquet Club, where he scored another victory Wednesday to move into the $50,000 tournament's round of eight.
"There's guys out there who are smaller than I am," said the 5-foot-9, 150-pounder. "You have to compensate for things - you have to be able to take the ball early instead of trying to muscle with these guys that are stronger than you.
"I'm not going to lie - I'm not one of the biggest guys, but I think I'm pretty fast, and I get to a lot of balls. And I move well."
Levine moved well enough to dispatch of Michael Yani 6-2, 6-3 in quarterfinal action Wednesday, pushing the third seed one step closer to reaching the finals.
"I think I played really well," he said. "I felt really solid, I made a lot of returns and made him earn every point."
He did it with speed and smarts - the sort of tools the Canadian native has utilized his entire career.
That's how he defeated 6-9 John Isner in 2007, back when Levine was a freshman at Florida and Isner was a senior at Georgia. Isner was the No. 1 college player at the time and didn't lose another regular season match that year.
The left-handed swinging Levine, who has worked at the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy served as a practice partner with the U.S. Davis Cup team in early February at the request of captain Patrick McEnroe. He hit with guys such as Andy Roddick, James Blake and Bob and Mike Bryan.
But Levine is focused on the present, which is looking good - especially since he has won all three of his matches at The Hurricane Open in straight sets.
"I'm happy to get out there and straight sets and get off - not too long of a match," he said, "to stay fresh in the tournament."
Prior to turning pro, Levine spent one year as a Gator, going 24-1 at No. 1 singles. A couple of his friends from Florida were part of his cheering section Wednesday.
"It was a great year. It was a lot of fun," he said. "College is a great place - especially the University of Florida. I still keep in touch with all the guys there. . . . I go see home matches when I come."