Sitting down to dinner the other night in Sydney, the Frenchman received a call from Heineken Open director Richard Palmer offering him a direct acceptance into the tournament. The world No 63 weighed it up and decided he'd take it on one condition. Palmer needed to guarantee a wildcard to his mate and compatriot Sebastien Grosjean - who has Clement as godfather to his children. Palmer agrees and the phone is then passed across the table to Grosjean, who by coincidence happens to be there, and the deal is done. So a coup for Palmer but also Kiwi tennis fans who haven't seen the pair in action here before. They come with big-match temperaments. Clement was runner-up at the 2001 Australian Open, while he beat Grosjean in the semifinals at the same event.
"A la base, nous les Français, sommes les champions du monde des râleurs. J'ai l'impression qu'être français, c'est un peu un handicap pour être le meilleur dans ton sport.
Pour faire du sport de haut niveau, d'autres mentalités sont plus propices".
Grosjean (31) has actually visited Auckland before. He was eliminated in the first round of qualifying in 1997 and he has no good memories of his short stay.
"It's a long time to be back in New Zealand. I try to enjoy myself on the tennis court after so many years travelling and playing tournaments."
The diminutive right-hander has glimpsed his tennis mortality after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2008. He has played very little tennis in the past two years and after peaking at No10 (2002), his ranking is now 677th.
"I am feeling much better," he said. "There is no pain, so I try to come back and play one more year.
"Of course, when you have shoulder surgery, it is never easy to come back, especially when you turn 30.
"They tell me 4-6 months, but I still have pain for nine months ... can't serve or play. You really think how lucky you are to play tennis."