Drawing: Jessica and Nelly Korda

Autographed drawing of golfers Nelly and Jessica Korda

American golfing sisters Jessica and Nelly Korda returned to the UK last month to participate in the Women’s British Open at Royal Troon in Scotland. Due to Covid-19 it was played without a crowd in attendance and Jessica had to withdraw at the last minute because of a non-coronavirus health issue. Both returned to the US and joined the field in the second major of the year, the ANA Inspirational on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at the Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, where Nelly narrowly missed winning her maiden major, finishing second equal after a three-way play-off with the eventual winner, Miriam Lee from South Korea and Canada’s Brooke Henderson. It did however move Nelly up to No 2 in the world rankings.

The daughters of Czech tennis Grand Slam winner Petr Korda, Jessica (27) turned professional in 2011 with Nelly (22) joining her on the LPGA tour six years later. Jessica, who has finished in the top ten in all five majors, has won five LGPA tournaments and Nelly has collected three titles. Both were members of the 2019 US Solheim Cup team.

I sent this sketch to Jessica and Nelly at Royal Troon and was delighted to receive it, signed by both. During the pandemic very few items have been coming back so I was very surprised and especially pleased when the mailman delivered this last week.

Drawing: Nadia Comaneci

Autographd montage drawing of gymnast Nadia Comaneci

One of the world’s best-known gymnasts, Romanian Nadia Comaneci won five Olympic gold medals, all in individual events. At the 1976 Montreal Olympics the fourteen-year-old Nadia became the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect 10 score, a feat thought unobtainable. After performing on the uneven bars the scoreboard only allowed three digits and was displayed as 1.00 until it was announced she had scored the perfect 10. She went on to achieve a further six perfect 10’s at that Summer Olympiad, three on the uneven bars and three on the balance beam.

Four years later at the Moscow Olympics, Nadia won another two golds for the balance beam and floor exercise. She has won a total of nine Olympic medals, collecting a silver and a bronze in Montreal and a silver in Moscow. Nadia also won two World Championship and World Cup gold medals and nine European Championship titles.

Since the early 1990s Nadia has lived in Oklahoma, where she and her husband American gold-medalist Bart Conner operate a Gymnastic Academy. I sent Nadia a sketch a few years ago, which came back signed, but damaged in the post so I sent another smaller drawing last year which arrived back this weekend.

Autographd montage drawing of gymnast Nadia Comaneci

Drawings: Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson

Autographed drawing of cricketer Stuart BroadAutogrpahed drawing of cricketer Jimmy Anderson

Right-arm England seamer Stuart Broad joined fellow countryman and pace bowler James ‘Jimmy’ Anderson in the 500 Test Wickets club yesterday, dismissing West Indian opening batsman Kraig Braithwaite on the last day of the third and final test at Manchester’s crowdless, covid-secure Old Trafford stadium. It spearheaded the hosts impressive 269 run win and secured a 2-1 series victory. Stuart, in his 140th test was not only the Player of the Match with bowling figures of 6/31 and 4/36 and a rapid-fire first innings 62 off 45 deliveries, but he was also named Player of the Series. He is only the second English bowler behind Jimmy to reach such a milestone and joins an elite group of only seven cricketers who have taken over 500 test wickets.

In a nice piece of symmetry, Jimmy’s 500th wicket was also the same batsman, on the second day of the Third Test against the West Indies at Lords in September 2017, in his 129th test match. Stuart and Jimmy are presently the most successful fast bowling pair in world cricket, their credentials with the red ball are unmatched. Jimmy’s 589 test wickets from 153 matches are the most by any fast bowler and places him fourth on the all-time wicket-taking list behind Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and India’s Anul Kimble (619) but ahead of Australian Glen McGrath (563), Courtney Walsh (519) from the West Indies and now Stuart (501).

He signed my drawing at the Headingly Cricket Ground in Leeds in August last year during the Ashes series against Australia. Stuart signed his sketch at the Oval on the last day of the fifth and final test against India in September 2018.

Drawing: Sir Stirling Moss

Drawing of Stirling Moss

On Easter Sunday this year British motor racing legend Sir Stirling Moss passed away peacefully at his Mayfair home, aged 90, after a lengthy illness. Widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all time, even though he did not win a Formula 1 World Championship, Sir Stirling will always hold a unique status in motorsport. He won 16 F1 Grands Prix and was runner-up in the world drivers’ championship on on four occasions between 1955-1958, finishing third for the following three years.

Not limited to F1 racing, he was considered the ultimate all-rounder with 212 victories in various motor racing categories. After becoming a professional driver at the age of 18 in 1948, Sir Stirling was the first Brit to win his home Grand Prix with a narrow victory over his illustrious Argentine teammate Juan Manuel Fangio at Aintree on the 16th of July, 1955.

I drew this portrait of him based on that day, his face with the imprint left by his goggles protecting him from the onrushing oil, dirt and track debris while driving his Mercedes W196. Some, including Sir Stirling believed the five-time world champion, who dominated the first decade of Formula One had allowed him to win his debut Grand Prix in front of a home crowd, a claim the South American consistently denied, saying Sir Stirling was “simply faster that day”. Sir Stirling famously lost out on the 1958 F1 title by a single point to compatriot Mike Hawthorn after vouching for his rival, preventing him from being disqualified when he was accused of reversing on the track in the Portuguese Grand Prix.

A crash at Goodwood in 1962 prematurely ended his involvement in top-level motorsport, leaving him in a coma for a month and partially paralysed for half the year. Such was his aura, which has never faded, the Evening Standard ran bulletins of his progress as a matter of national concern. He did continue to race historic cars and legends events until the age of 81.

The rhetorical phrase “Who do you think you are, Stirling Moss? was the question supposedly often asked by British policemen when stopping speeding motorists. Sir Stirling himself was apparently asked that very question by an officer who took some convincing about the identity of his esteemed infringer. Compactly built, soft-spoken, patriotic, modest and competitive, Sir Stirling once said, “I’m a racer, not a driver” and motor racing in the 1950’s was not so much a technical challenge, but more a test of instinct and daring. He was knighted in 2000.

I sent the sketch to Sir Stirling two years ago, hoping he could sign it, but received a very nice reply from his wife, Lady Susie, explaining that he was still suffering from a serious chest infection, caught while on holiday in Singapore and after months in hospital, was convalescing at home. He would be happy to sign it for me once he was feeling better. Sadly Sir Stirling never recovered. However, a few years earlier, he kindly signed and dedicated a photo for me, commemorating his 1955 victory.

R.I.P Sir Stirling.

Autographed photo of Stirling Moss

Drawing: Annika Sorenstam

Autographed drawing of golfer Annika Sorenstam

Autographed drawing of golfer Annika Sorenstam

One of the greatest golfers in history is Annika Sorenstam. In a professional career spanning sixteen years from 1992-2008, the Swedish sensation and former World No.1 had 93 professional wins, the most of any player in the women’s game, including ten majors. She won the US Women’s Open, the PGA Championship and the ANA Inspiration (formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship) three times and the British Open. She also tops the LPGA career prize money list. Annika competed for Europe in the Solheim Cup on eight occasions, winning six and won the World Cup, representing Sweden in 2006.

Annika’s list of Awards is a long one, most notably winning the Player of the Year eight times and the 2004 Laureus World Sports Awards Sportswoman of the Year. I sent this drawing to Annika at her Academy in Florida, where she kindly signed it for me.

Drawing: Roberto Bautista Agut

Autographed drawing of tennis player Roberto Bautista Agut

The season-ending ATP Finals at London’s O2 Arena gathers the world’s top men’s tennis players in singles and doubles in the final showdown of the year. The top 8 ranked singles players were all present this year plus two alternates in case of injury. They are not always the No. 9 and 10 ranked players, but this year was an exception.

Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut and the flamboyant Frenchman Gael Monfils filed the reserve positions respectively. It can be a thankless task, practicing everyday and staying match fit, but not getting to play a match in the unique arena. At the time of writing with one day to go in the pool play before the weekend’s semis and final, neither alternates have been required. Oh, they do get paid for the week’s work – $US116,000 and if they did get to play and win a match, then an extra $US215,000 is deposited into their bank account.

It’s been a great year for Roberto. At 31 and given the young ages of half the field, he’s almost in the veteran category. The quick counterpuncher with a consistent all-court game with nine ATP tour titles broke into the world’s top 10 for the first time, with an impressive set of results, winning the Qatar Open and reaching the quarters at the Australian Open and the semi-finals at Wimbledon.

He signed my drawing yesterday after arriving at the North Greenwich pier for yet another practice session, resigned to the fact he probably wasn’t going to get a match, but knowing he’s finished the season as the 9th best male player on the planet.

Drawing: Matteo Berrettini

Autographed drawing of tennis player Matteo Berrettini

The 23 year-old Italian tennis player Matteo Berrettini was ranked outside the top 50 men’s single players at the beginning of the year, but played his way up the rankings to become world No. 8 and secure the last spot in the singles field at this years ATP Finals at London’s O2.

The tall, all-court player with a strong serve and forehand had his dazzling momentum momentarily stopped during Wimbledon, after making it to the second week, only to meet Roger Federer, who dismantled the young Roman in little over an hour. While congratulating him at the net, Matteo jokingly said to the Swiss maestro, “Thanks for the tennis lesson, how much do I owe you?” He obviously was a good student and learnt fast.

In only his second full year on the ATP Tour he has won three singles and two doubles titles and reached the semis at this years US Open, losing to eventual winner Rafa Nadal.
Matteo signed my sketch outside the O2 Arena before the team photo was taken last Friday.

Drawing: Daniil Medvedev

Autographed drawing of tennis player Daniil Medvedev

Rising tennis star Daniil Medvedev is one of four singles players, 23 years of age and under at this year’s season-ending ATP Finals at London’s O2 Arena. The 6′ 6″ Moscow-born right-hander with a double-handed backhand possesses superior lateral movement and excels from the back of the court.

He is currently ranked No. 4 in the world, reaching six consecutive tournament finals this year, winning 29 of his past 34 matches including his first two ATP Masters 1000 titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai, a crown on his home soil in St Petersburg and a maiden Grand Slam Final at the US Open, losing to Rafa Nadal in five sets.

Daniil signed my sketch last Friday after the team photo was taken outside the O2 Arena.

Drawing: Stefanos Tsitsipas

Autographed drawing of tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas

Half the singles players in this years ATP Finals at London’s O2 Arena are under the age of 23. The youngest is 21 year-old Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world. The tall, aggressive baseliner won his opening pool match yesterday against fellow Finals debutant and even taller Daniil Medvedev, the first time he has beaten the Russian in six match-ups.

Born into a tennis family in Athens, Stefanos started taking lessons at the age of six, becoming the worlds No. 1 junior. In 2016 he won the Wimbledon Championships Boys’ Doubles title with Estonia’s Kenneth Raisma. Last year he won the Next Gen ATP Finals and reached three tour-level finals, winning his first title at the Stockholm Open. This year he reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and reached No. 5 in the ATP world rankings.

Stefanos signed my sketch after a practice session last Thursday at the O2 Arena.

Drawing: Roger Federer and his 8th Wimbledon title

Autographed drawing of tennis player Roger Federer with his 8th Wimbledon Men's Singes Title

The season-ending ATP Finals are underway at London’s O2 Arena. It’s the 50th edition of the singles tournament with the top 8 ranked men’s players participating. The one and only Roger Federer holds the record for the most appearances. He has made 17 consecutively since 2002, winning a record six.

The thirty-eight year-old, often nicknamed G.O.A.T – Greatest of all-time – holds the third highest number of Guinness world records within one discipline with 30, 18 performance based, including 20 grand Slam titles. Eight of those are Wimbledon Championships, winning his last in 2017 with a victory over Marin Cilic in yet another record-breaking 11th appearance in a men’s singles Final, surpassing the seven won by Pete Sampras and William Renshaw. His sponsors at the time, Nike, designed a commemorative logo incorporating the numeral 8 into his christian name.

Jimmy Conners is quoted, “In an era of specialists, you’re either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist… or you’re Roger Federer.”

Roger signed my sketch last Friday before a photo call and media sessions at the O2 Arena.