USTA.com: What has your experience been like as a Davis Cup practice partner?Levine:
Jesse Levine was selected as a U.S. Davis Cup Team practice partner for the first round tie between the U.S. and Austria in Vienna. Levine, 20, currently resides in Boca Raton, Florida and recently reached the second round of the main draw at the 2008 Australian Open. Get to know the rising American star in the exclusive interview he gave to USTA.com.
So far it has been unbelievable. Unfortunately the other hitting partner has been a little under the weather so I have had to compensate for two hitting partners instead of just one. But it has been a lot of fun and I’m not complaining, you can’t get better practice than with Andy, James and the Bryan brothers all week long. I hit a little wall today in practice with Andy after I hit with James this morning. It is hard work but I love it and it’s a lot of fun and it’s definitely given me a lot of preparation for my upcoming tournaments.USTA.com: Is this a goal of yours to one day make the senior team?Levine:
Definitely, it is so cool watching these guys. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, going out there and cheering them on. I know what the team atmosphere is like; I went to college for a year. I’m not used to sitting on the bench but I’ll definitely be out there cheering them on tomorrow so it will be fun.
USTA.com: A Davis Cup tradition is to lightly haze the practice partners. What have you had to do?
Levine: They made me make a little speech at the dinner and it was good fun. I had a couple guys on the ground laughing but it wasn’t as bad as some of the other things that I’ve heard. It was fine. I feel I did a pretty good job and I got some high-fives when I finished the speech so it was fun.
USTA.com: What kind of constructive criticism have you gotten back from the guys or Patrick?
Levine: Andy helped me out yesterday after we played some sets. He helped me out with some of my shots, saying that I could good things a little better with some of the balls I was hitting or should have done something when I did not do it. It has been great. I look up to those guys and it is really cool of them to be helping me out. It is a great experience.
USTA.com: A lot of people say Americans can not play on clay. What is your experience been with it? Do you feel good on the surface?
Levine: I do not mind the clay. I grew up playing on the green clay in Florida. It is obviously not the same but I think it is just a bad stereotype. Andy and James are great athletes, they can play on anything and the Bryans have won the French Open so they are all right on the clay. It is definitely just a stereotype that is out there. If you are a great athlete like those guys, you can play on anything.
USTA.com: How far along are you in the progression of where you want to be in your career?
Levine: My next goal is to crack the top 100. I am 174 in the world now. That is the next goal and then I’ll set a new one after that one. And hopefully it gets accomplished.
USTA.com: What do you tell young kids trying to get to the next level?
Levine: You have to put in the work. Working hard day in and day out is a big factor. I feel if you work hard and keep going for it that things will happen.
USTA.com: What has the USTA’s role been in your development?
Levine: It has helped me a lot, especially with coaching. In juniors I traveled with Jay Berger a lot and it’s funny because now Jay is here. I am at Davis Cup with Jay, getting the opportunity to work with him again so it has been real good. And the fact that the USTA Player Development Facility is in Boca Raton, Florida now is amazing because my house is there. So usually I go home for a little holiday and now I can spend some time with the family and train at the same time. So I am not complaining and it is great.
USTA.com: What kinds of things do you do at the Player Development Academy?
Levine: It's a lot of drills and a lot of matches because they have so many players. You get a lot of technical work, a lot of strategy, a little bit of everything. The coaches there obviously know what they are doing and it is great.
USTA.com: Is there any pressure being part of that next generation of American players?
Levine: I have not really thought about it. I don’t think so.
USTA.com: What do you do away from the court?
Levine: I'm pretty social. I went to the University of Florida so I like to go to Gainesville and see my old friends whenever I get a chance. I am also pretty big into other sports, I follow basketball and hockey. I am a pretty big hockey fan – the Ottawa Senators are my team. My cousins all live there (Ottawa) and whenever I go back, we go to games. It is good fun.