Tennis player Jesse Levine is flying the Maple Leaf but he’ll have to wait until later this year before making his Davis Cup debut for Canada.
Levine, who was born in Ottawa but moved to the U.S. at age 13, recently decided he would prefer to play for his native country and Tennis Canada petitioned the International Tennis Federation on his behalf.
However, ITF rules dictate that there is a 90-day waiting period from the time a player applies to change nationalities before they can represent their new country in international competition. Tennis Canada knew it would be a longshot to get clearance for the Feb. 1-3 tie against Spain, but was hoping an exception could be made.
Justine Albert, the head of Davis Cup and Fed Cup for the ITF, said the final decision was made last week.
"He has not been approved as eligible by the Davis Cup committee for the forthcoming tie," Albert said from London. "But he has been deemed eligible for the next tie."
Should Canada defeat top-ranked Spain next month in Vancouver, the next tie would be played in April against either Croatia or Italy. A loss would see Canada fall into a qualification playoff matchup in September.
"Unfortunately we got the bad news that I won’t be able to play in the first tie against Spain," Levine said on a conference call. "But I’m really excited to be able to be there and practise with the team and get involved, and just be there to support the guys and do everything I can to help out the team until I’m eligible to play."
A spokesman said Tennis Canada appealed the ITF decision but it was rejected.
"It’s unfortunate but I did this for the long run, not just the first tie," Levine said.
Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., will be Canada’s top singles threat against Spain when the two sides meet at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre. Toronto’s Daniel Nestor is the doubles anchor for the 12th-ranked Canadian side and Vasek Pospisil of Vancouver rounds out the team’s core.
At No. 104, Levine would be Canada’s second-ranked singles player behind Milos Raonic (No. 15).
Pospisil has the No. 128 spot, Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., is next at No. 168 and Peter Polansky of Thornhill, has the No. 183 position. Rising star Filip Peliwo of Vancouver — the 2012 ITF junior world champion last year — is also a young Canadian player to watch.
It’s unclear who will get the fourth roster spot.
Canadian team captain Martin Laurendeau must announce his roster 10 days before the start of play but can still make changes after that deadline. Levine, a 25-year-old southpaw, reached a career-high ranking of No. 69 last January.
He knows a lot of the Canadian players from their junior days and hopes that practising with them ahead of the Spain tie will help build chemistry. Laurendeau said Levine is a solid player and has had success in both singles and doubles.
"He can volley, he’s got the feel, he can drop, he’s got good hands," Laurendeau told The Canadian Press last week from Australia. "Given the chance, he can hold his own and do his share of damage playing doubles.
"It’s not at the top of his priorities but given the chance he can take on most of the teams out there."
Levine earned a spot in the main draw for this month’s Australian Open by defeating Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-2, 6-1 in a U.S. Tennis Association playoff. He’s officially listed as a Canadian at this week’s Heineken Open in New Zealand and will take on American Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals Thursday.
Spain dropped a 3-2 decision to the Czech Republic in the 2012 Davis Cup final. The loss prevented the Spaniards from claiming a sixth Davis Cup crown.
Canada maintained its spot in the World Group with a 4-1 victory over South Africa last September in Montreal.