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Crimson Tennis Star Plays for Pleasure

By John L. Powers

Moments after John Levin had successfully defended his individual singles title at the New England Tennis Championships two weekends ago, he was approached by Boston's only female sportswriter.

After a volley of the usual questions--"Did you feel badly about beating your own doubles partner in the finals?", etc., Levin burst out laughing.

"Do you want to turn professional after you graduate?" she had asked.

"It was really funny," Levin recalls. "She had asked me the question in all seriousness. Obviously, she had never seen me play before."

To anyone who has seen Levin play once in his four seasons at Harvard, the question was absurd. Levin plays tennis well, but he plays it strictly for enjoyment.

As a senior at University High School in West Los Angeles. Levin performed well enough on California's cement courts to earn a ranking among the top ten junior players in the state. He had developed a fine serve-and-volley game, strengthened it with a strong forehand slam, and put it to good use on the hard, quick cement courts.

Clay Courts

But when he brought his game to Harvard, he encountered trouble. Most Eastern colleges play on clay courts, and the only comparable composition at Harvard was the Palmer Dixon indoor courts which the squad used only in bad weather.

"I used to pray for rain," says Levin. "The California courts were so fast that all you really needed was a good serve and volley to be a decent player. The clay courts slowed the game down considerably, so there was an element of craftiness that I hadn't needed before."

Levin added a considerable amount of shotmaking techniques to his already powerful serve-and-volley style during his freshman year, and a the top singles player on his freshman team, was capable of handling nearly all the clay-court players he faced.

After two matches as a sophomore, he ousted captain Bernie Adelsberg from he number-one spot on the varsity, and despite a lingering cold which cost him six matches, kept it throughout his junior season, capturing the New England singles title in the process.

Perfected Style

This spring, as captain of the Crimson squad, Levin perfected his tennis philosophy.

"With the exception of two players, I could pretty much defeat anyone in the East without too much trouble," he says, "so I decided to be a little more relaxed and easygoing on the courts, figuring that the psyche value could carry me through a few matches."

So Levin grew a mustache and goatee, and began to enjoy his role as Harvard's "tall, lanky Californian." One sports publication dubbed him the "Big Bopper," and Levin had established a unique style.

Levin's style won him all but two matches this spring. The verbal psyche helped. Last weekend, playing with Rocky Jarvis at first doubles, Levin had just missed a devastating forehand slam. Glancing at his Yale opponent and breaking into a grin he said, "I really wanted to demolish you that time." The Yale tandem fell, 6-2, 6-1.

A group I student, Levin will attend Stanford ed school next year, then hopes to enroll at Harvard Business School. In all probability, his tennis "career" is over. But if you ask Levin, he will probably say, "I never really had a career. I just played a lot of tennis."

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