Shining moments: Fairness prevails

As a promising 15-year-old tennis player, Matthew Stohl found himself embroiled in a quarterfinal match at the United States Tennis Association Intermountain Sectional Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., on June 16, 1994.

He beat his opponent in the 16-and-under age division, 7-5, in the first set and was leading in the second set, 6-5.His opponent, the tournament's No. 2 seed, opened service on the next game and fired an apparent ace past Matt. However, Matt thought the serve landed out of bounds and the umpire agreed, calling the serve "out."

After that call, Matt won the next three points to set up set and match point.

At that point, Matt thought that his opponent still seemed upset over the earlier call, so he approached the net so the two could talk about it. Matt suggested they begin the game over. The umpire said repeating the game from the beginning was unheard of and suggested it might make sense to go back one point, but not three.

But Matt said he wanted to make sure that if he won, everyone would agree it was fair, so the game was restarted at love.

His opponent came back to win the game and tie the set, but then Matt prevailed in a tiebreaker to win the match.

A crowd of teaching professionals, coaches, other players and parents milled around the court after the match discussing Matt's act of fairness, something they agreed they had never seen happen before in competitive tennis.

Then came further verification that Matt's act of fairness had made a positive impact. Because of his behavior on the court, he was selected as winner of the tournament's sportsmanship award. He received a letter informing him of the selection from Fritz Garger of the United States Tennis Association Intermountain Section. Mr. Garger wrote: "The Sportsmanship Award represents the highest achievement in conduct and behavior during highly intense competition. You are to be commended for your efforts. The actions you displayed during your match . . . were inspiring."

Matt went on to take third place in the sectional competition, good enough to earn an endorsement qualifying him to subsequently play in three national tournaments.

He is president of the teachers quorum in the Mount Olympus 8th Ward, Salt Lake Mount Olympus North Stake, and a student at Skyline High School.

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