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September 1, 1999

Levar Harper-Griffith

Flushing Meadows, New York

Q. Well, I saw you at Kalamazoo. You looked better here than at Kalamazoo?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: We're playing well. It's fun. My partner, Andy, is just great to be around. Just gets you going every match, the bigger the match, the better he wants to play.

Q. And I saw him a few times at Kalamazoo, and he was playing singles. He was pretty cool today?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I don't know. It was kind of like we never really wanted to let it slip away, so we were always trying to make sure we were focused, and focused our first time out. It was good. We played pretty well. We played energetic and stayed calm and focused the whole time.

Q. What kind of program in Brooklyn did you go through?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Actually, I first start the just playing at the parks, Lincoln, Prospect Park. I would go out to Central Park sometimes, and NYJTL, and like I went out to Washington, and that was just the place to be. And pretty much after that, I went with a private coach out in Jersey.

Q. When did you start hanging out in the parks, playing at the parks, what age were you?


Q. How come that instead of basketball or whatever?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Actually, I played basketball. I played baseball. It was the just more I got, you know, into the tennis, the better I got. It was pretty much I just liked the perks of tennis. We don't get to travel as much as with all the other sports. I slowly said, "Hey, maybe I should stop playing the other sports and focus on tennis a bit more."

Q. Not a lot of African Americans in the sport to sort of look up to. Do you find that the more and more there is more interest in that community in tennis?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: There's more interest, and I think the only problem is like when I get to that age, 13, 14, guys can start to lose interest, because they don't have the support behind them. If more kids had the support they would stick with it longer. You might find more African American players playing.

Q. What kind of support are you talking about, programs, funding?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Support, meaning not just from program, but from parents. Tennis, especially coming out of the City, is not the most accepted sport to play parents could just say: Hey, it's all right, go ahead and play. Obviously, tennis is a very expensive sport financially, but you realize if you keep playing, stick with it, someone will notice you, someone will realize that you can play and someone will try and help. I think a lot of people lose focus in the long term.

Q. What area of Brooklyn?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Fort Green area. Around there.

Q. Did you take a lot of ribbing, a lot of guys going: Where are you going?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Yeah, it's hasn't been as bad because I played basketball, but when I would go, they would go, "Hey, here comes Arthur Ashe." You just take it all in stride. You do your thing, do I mine. It doesn't really matter.

Q. What do your parents do?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: My mom's a computer specialist, and my dad was in the Air Force.

Q. You didn't grow up with parents equipped to send you to some academy or anything like that?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: My mom and dad, they had to work real hard to get me the lessons, get me to practice and traveling everywhere, and I definitely appreciate it. It's really hard for some parents to have that kind of dedication for the kids.

Q. What kind of support have you gotten from the USTA?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Within the last year and a half, they have been real supportive when it comes to coaching, traveling, funding with traveling and everything. They have been backing me really well; so, I really can't complain.

Q. I know there's a few players, Mr. Washington has complained there hasn't been enough to be done. James Blake had the same response as you: "Hey, they have been great."

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Unfortunately, I don't want to specifically say anything about the Washingtons. But my situation and the Blake situation -- they have been playing well. They deserve the help. They deserve what they got. And me personally, I feel like I've been playing well and putting up pretty good results. Whatever I get, I feel like I deserve.

Q. You're 17 and not 24.

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Exactly. I'm a little younger than those guys are.

Q. So do you have any plans to try to take the back to get those 13, 14-year-olds? Obviously, you've got a unique perspective to say, "Hey, I was there."

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Definitely. If I could get to somewhere in the sport where it's me just being around the kids, and maybe just being that extra person, get them to stick with it, that would be great. It's hard -- it's hard for me not to, because I was always on the outside looking in. I was always the fan trying to sneak into the stadiums and stuff like that. For me being here now, I would just love to give it back to the fans.

Q. Did you try and sneak in here as a kid?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Oh, I've done it pretty of times at Louis Armstrong stadium when I was younger.

Q. What's the secret?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I don't know if I can tell you about the secret, because I might get a couple guys in trouble. But it's a good to have friends that are ball players, put it that way.

Q. How old were you back then?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I practiced here for, I don't know how long, since I was like nine, ten. I practiced here all the time.

Q. You had home-court advantage?


UTSA: Did you play in the programs here?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Reebok had a program here, and I was never in that program really. They always had a small group here, and the kids could come and play for free, and I would just come out and hit.

Q. When was the first time you played on grass?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: A couple years ago I went to Philadelphia and played in that tournament. I was like 14. It was fun. I know when I came this year, it was just the best feeling in the world. That tournament is great. I love it.

Q. So have you turned pro yet?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Not yet, officially. I'm definitely going to try the pro Tour. Definitely take the fall off, at least, and see what happens.

Q. So for terms of this tournament you're still --

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: In terms of this tournament, I'm still an amateur, yeah.

Q. I heard after Kalamazoo, I heard you were kind of getting closer?


Q. How are the courts in Brooklyn? I were they good sports? The Prospect Park courts?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: It just all depends where you go. Prospect Park wasn't bad. They maintained it pretty well. Kids just go out with themselves or whatever. The courts are pretty good. It's just they don't have anyone to play on them.

Q. Who did you play against?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: When I was young, just all the kids in that neighborhood. A couple kids from Brooklyn. I had a good friend Ebo Libo (ph) used to play all the time. Trillian Brown (ph), Jerry Neptune, guys in the area, and they were really good players, and they were all out of the Brooklyn-Queens area.

Q. How many set of straps have been --

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: You're lucky if you find one out there.

Q. Did you bring your own?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Actually, I have my own net. Sometimes you go out to the court and there wouldn't even be a net.

Q. What kind of racquet did you use? Did your parents have a racquet, or did you have any exposure to tennis at all when you were like four and five?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I got into tennis from my mom. She loved tennis. She would take me out to the Open. She took me out when I was two days old to the Open. She loved it, and had she introduced me to tennis, and she would always get me a racquet and carry me out and play or do whatever.

USTA: Did you say two days old?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I was born on the first week Friday, and she took me out there. She got out of the hospital Saturday morning and took me out Monday.

USTA: Your birthday is September 4th?


USTA: So September 6th, 18 years ago.


USTA: 18 years ago on Labor Day. Yeah.

Q. Did you have a favorite player growing up?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: I just loved going out and watching anyone play. When I was younger, guys like -- when I started to enjoy watch, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras in the 90s started playing really well. Ivanisevic was out there doing really well. Courier, Agassi, Gomez, all those guys. Now I'm walking around saying "Hi" to Courier and Ivanisevic these guys: Hey, how you doing.

Q. Do you get star struck at all?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Oh, I mean -- you've got to try and act like you're cool about it, but every time you pass them, you smile a little bit. These are guys I've been watching on TV since I was like eight. It was kind of hard not to.

Q. What school did you go to in Brooklyn?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: My mom always worked so I could go to private school. She wanted to keep me away from some of the dangers of it, and I wouldn't get involved in it. I went to Berkeley Carroll, and she sent me to Delphi Academy in Brooklyn, Bay Ridge. She always tried to make sure that I was occupied. I wasn't just going home alone just doing nothing, getting in trouble.

Q. Did you guys live in a brownstone or a building?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: We lived in a co-op building, like downtown, Paul Street.

Q. You're now in a tennis academy down in Florida?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: My parents moved down there. I'm going to go with them still.

Q. What academy is it?


Q. Is it strange being down in Florida?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: A little bit. A little bit slower. Pace of life is a bit slower, a little bit warmer. But it's pretty nice. Can't really complain.

Q. Is Andy down there, too?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Andy is in Boca. He trains with a private coach down in Boca.

Q. Real big lifestyle change for your parents?

LEVAR HARPER-GRIFFITH: Yeah, it is, but my dad loves it. He's retired. Just enjoying life. Does some work for the school in the area. He's just loving it.

Q. Retired Air Force?


End of FastScripts….

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