NBA Hall of Famer Julius Erving said today that he is the father of 18-year-old Alexandra Stevenson, a rising American tennis star who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon today.

"I acknowledge a relationship with her mother in 1980," Erving said in a statement. "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. I am pleased to see Alexandra, at 18, doing so well and I applaud her mother's efforts and courage."

Erving, now a vice president of the Orlando Magic, and his wife, Turquoise, have been married since 1972 and have four children. Erving said he has met Stevenson only once, at age 3, and told the Associated Press it was "her call" about whether they would renew their relationship. He said he has been financially supporting Stevenson, who attended a prestigious San Diego private high school and has had extensive individual coaching throughout her tennis career.

Alexandra's mother, Samantha Stevenson, is a freelance journalist who covered the Philadelphia 76ers when Erving was at the height of his NBA career. When asked about Erving's statement today, she said she will have "no comment ever" on the situation, remarking that "I'll go with it to my grave." Her daughter also declined to comment.

The identity of Alexandra's father was only the latest of several controversies involving the Stevensons at Wimbledon. First, they got into a dispute with the WTA over prize money after the Tour said Alexandra did not follow the proper channels to declare herself a professional. Wimbledon officials stepped in, decreeing that she will be paid for this tournament, although by then the family was embroiled in another storm caused by controversial comments Samantha Stevenson made to the British press.

The issue of Alexandra's parentage was raised Wednesday when the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel published a copy of her birth certificate, which lists Erving as her father.

"I just focus on my tennis and let everyone else deal with all that," she said when asked how she has maintained her composure. "I'm quite oblivious to most of it. I haven't been reading any newspapers, just playing tennis."

Her approach appears to have been successful, with her latest victory coming over fellow qualifier Jelena Dokic today. By defeating the 16-year-old Dokic, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3, Stevenson became the first qualifier in Wimbledon history to reach the women's semifinals. John McEnroe reached the men's semifinals as a qualifier in 1977.