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Dr. J Is Tennis Pro's Dad

Former basketball superstar Julius Erving, also known as Dr. J, acknowledged Friday that he is the father of 18-year-old tennis phenom Alexandra Stevenson.

The rising tennis star reached the Wimbledon semifinals this week, amid reports that she is the basketball great's daughter.

"I acknowledge a relationship with her mother in 1980," said Erving. "My wife, who has known from the beginning, and children are aware of this situation."

"All matters concerning Alexandra since her birth have been handled privately through counsel," Erving continued. "I am pleased to see Alexandra, at 18, doing so well and I applaud her mother's efforts and courage."

Erving said he has met Stevenson only once and that it was "her call" about whether they would renew their relationship. He said he has been supporting her financially.

"I haven't talked to her," said Erving, a vice president of the Orlando Magic. "I only met her once, when she was 3 years old. She was brought to me at a basketball clinic at a public school."

Erving and wife Turquoise have been married since 1972 and have four children.

The possibility of Erving being Stevenson's father became public this week when The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel published a copy of her birth certificate. Erving initially denied being her father.

Erving said in his statement by telephone from Orlando, Fla., he would not make any other comments about Stevenson.

Stevenson, who lives in California, became the first qualifier in Wimbledon history to reach the women's semifinals Friday. She beat another qualifier, 16-year-old Jelena Dokic, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3.

"I understand they are being besieged because she won her match today," Erving said. "Getting this statement out will help."

Stevenson graduated from high school in May and is playing her first tournament as a pro. She skipped and hopped to net after Dokic hit a forehand long on match point.

An aspiring stage performer and ballet dancer, Stevenson curtsied theatrically to all corners of the Court 1 stadium as her mother, Samantha Stevenson, hugged her coach, Craig Kardon.

The mother has stirred Wimbledon since the start of the tournament, with accusations of racism and lesbianism on the women's tour and a dispute over prize money.

"I just focus on my tennis and let everyone else deal with all that," the daughter said before Erving made his statement. "I'm quite oblivious to most of it. I haven't been reading any newspapers, just playing tennis."

Stevenson's mother is a free-lance journalist who worked as a sports writer in Philadelphia when Erving starred there for the 76ers.

So far, the mother has refused to discuss the father of her 6-foot-1 daughter.

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