Jesse Levine walked off the tennis court, an easy 6-3, 6-2 win Wednesday wrapped up with a beautiful backhand winner down the line.
His immediate reward for beating marathon man Michael Yani in just over an hour and a half was to head to a practice court to put in more work.
"Just worked on a couple things. Red (Ayme) gets me out there to get me ready for the next (match)," the 20-year-old Levine said about the practice session with one of his coaches from the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy.
Happy, but never satisfied, work is rarely done for the Canadian- born American who is on the cusp of taking the next step in the maturation of becoming a top-level professional player.
"I am feeling confident right now," Levine said after moving into the quarterfinals of the $50,000 Hurricane Tennis Open being played this week at the Racquet Club of El Conquistador. "I have been training really hard the last couple of weeks and it shows that hard work pays off."
Bollettieri has a mantra when it comes to Levine. The famed tennis coach constantly preaches for Levine to move forward. Though it is a little tougher to do so on the dusty clay courts at El Conquistador, Levine was successful enough when he worked his way to the net against Yani to take a giant step toward regaining the confidence he had when he put together a 24-1 record at the University of Florida and followed that with a strong start to his professional career this past fall.
After training with Roger Federer for 10 days in July, Levine chose to leave UF and started his professional career with a wild- card spot in the U.S. Open. He lost in straight sets to Nikolay Davydenko but two months later he won his first tournament, a $75,000 Challenger event.
That was just the beginning as Levine went on a 16-match win streak to win another Challenger tournament and reach the semifinals of yet another. Along the way he won 8 of 9 matches against players ranked in the top 200. Among his victims was John Isner, a player Levine beat in a collegiate match to end Isner's 46-match win streak.
After getting to the second round of the Australian Open in January of this year and reaching career-high ranking of 151, his progress has slowed somewhat. He did win a round in the San Jose Open before losing to James Blake, and he was a practice partner for the U.S. Davis Cup team in February, but Levine hasn't been able to add another tournament title.
He is eager to get back on the fast track toward the top 100 in the world. Levine's movement Wednesday translated into not allowing Yani to dig in like the former Duke player did Tuesday when he went more than three hours to outlast Raian Luchici.
Backed by his own little cheering section of friends from the University of Florida, Levine jumped to a 4-1 lead in the first set against Yani. Levine held serve the rest of the way to take the set.
He took a 4-0 lead in the second set, then overcame one loose game, where he lost his serve, to break back for a 5-2 lead. He easily held serve the final game of the match to reach today's quarterfinal match with Mariano Puerta, a player who reached the final of the 2005 French Open before losing to Rafael Nadal in four sets.
"I like playing on clay. I think (Puerta) likes it a little better," Levine said. "That would be a pretty cool match."
In the past, Levine sometimes gave his opponents a little too much respect. And there have been times when he has had trouble closing out matches. Wednesday his only hiccup came at 4-1 in the second set when he played a careless game and had his serve broken.
"I didn't keep my foot on the gas," Levine lamented. "But I felt really solid and I made a lot of returns."
Levine was able to break right back, with Yani helping out with a pair of double faults.
In losing the match, Yani seemed to be on the wrong end of every close call. Several times calls where overturned in Levine's favor, with ball marks on the court providing the evidence.