On an outer court at the Australian Open last week I watched Kiwis Artem Sitak and Marcus Daniell lose their first round doubles match to a seeded pairing. At set-all and down a break in the third, a blindingly fast exchange of volleys at the net went the Kiwis' way.
As they walked back, Daniell had a word to Sitak, then turned and went up to the umpire, who then announced that Daniell had said the ball came off his knee and the point was reversed. New Zealanders in the small crowd at courtside applauded. I couldn't have been prouder of those two if they'd won the tournament.
I thought the sportsmanship I'd seen was just a Kiwi thing until two days later when I watched a third round singles tussle between two fine young up-and-comers, Belgian David Goffin and Austria's Dominic Theim.
At one point, Goffin hit a shot to the baseline and Theim's return went out, but Goffin's shot was called out and he challenged it. The digital tracker on the big screen showed the ball in and the umpire told them to replay the point. Theim then spoke to her. She announced he'd said he had played his shot before the call. The point therefore went to his opponent.
I have to admit, as a very low grade player, I was surprised at this level of honesty. Down in club competition where players umpire their own ends, tennis breeds a depressing number of line-call cheats.
To really appreciate the integrity I saw at Melbourne you need to have seen top tennis live; television takes the speed out of the spectacle and the sweat. Just about every stroke is pounded with full force and and the ball is a blur. Every player at that level can hit within a metre of the corners at will. They run each other to exhaustion, point after point.
I can't see how it is possible to play your heart out if all along you intend to lose. You'd be at risk of winning.
SHARE THIS QUOTE:
I've been trying to imagine how match-fixing would work in tennis. It is not like cricket where a momentary lapse ends every batter's innings and who would know? A tennis match can come down to a crucial serve but only if both players have given their all up to that point. I can't see how it is possible to play your heart out if all along you intend to lose. You'd be at risk of winning.
I have seen one or two so-called professionals come to Auckland's ATP tournament and not try very hard. Doubtless, a full week of matches didn't suit their planned build-up for Melbourne but they had probably accepted appearance money to be here. That's corruption in my book.
But the point is, if a player is not out to win it is very obvious. The best players can lose in early rounds, as Venus Williams did in Auckland a few weeks ago and Rafael Nadal did at Melbourne, but nobody who knows the game and saw them fighting for form would doubt their will to win.
It is some years since the second-rate frauds I saw were here and they have not been back. I hope they've never had another invitation. If they were on the take from a bookmaker we will probably never know. They are already a disgrace to a sport whose leading exponents for a long time now have not been given enough credit for the spirit in which they play.
It's been 30 years since the game was marred by the likes of Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase and John McEnroe, yet they still seem to characterise tennis in the minds of people who don't watch much of it. Since them, tennis has had a succession of champions, Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, whose conspicuous decency has matched their brilliance on court. They have treated their sport, its followers and their fellow players with unfailing respect.
Writing on Helen Clark's enthusiasm for the TPP, I have left the impression her Government started it. Dame Jenny Shipley points out it began under National in the build-up to hosting the Apec conference in 1999. She also credits Singapore's then Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong. "We agreed to do the Singapore-NZ Free Trade agreement and he also committed to what was then the P3 with Chile. The nature of that agreement was that others could join and so the journey of the TPP began."
Fran O'Sullivan corrects my suggestion that the United States came into the talks only when President Barack Obama came to power. Fran recalls that, thanks largely to the efforts of Phil Goff and Republican trade representative Susan Schwab, the US announced at Apec 2008 that it would start negotiations with the P4, along with three other countries at that time.
As Dame Jenny said, "Success has many parents."