Drawing: Novak Djokovic

Autographed drawing of tennis player Novak Djokovic

Despite losing the ATP World Tour Finals – a title he has won on five previous occasions – in London on Sunday, Novak Djokovic ended the year as the world’s number one men’s tennis player for the fifth time. It was a remarkable return to form for the Serbian after elbow surgery threatened to curtail his career.

He dropped to number 22 in June. After reuniting with long time coach Marian Vajda, Novak gradually returned to form, reaching the Queens Tournament final, narrowly loosing to Marin Cilic. He headed to Wimbledon as the 12th seed, beating Kevin Anderson in the final after an epic five set semifinal victory over Rafael Nadal and followed that with his 14th major title, beating Juan Martin del Porto in the US Open final. When Rafa withdrew from the Paris Masters, Novak returned to the top ranking.

I caught up with him at the North Greenwich pier during the ATP Finals at London’s O2 as he was leaving via clipper. He was happy to sign my sketch and even took a quick video and commentary on his phone of the both of us with the drawing.

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Drawing: Ivan Lendl

Autographed drawing of tennis player Ivan Lendl
Ivan Lendl joined Sascha Zverev’s team in August this year with immediate results. The young German stunned World #1 Novak Djokovic to win the biggest title of his career, the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London on Sunday.
The 58 year old Czech-American, who retired from playing in 1994 after winning eight major and seven year-ending championships was World #1 for 270 weeks during the 1980s, finishing with 94 singles titles. During his time coaching Britain’s Andy Murray, the Scot won three majors, two Olympic gold medals, an ATP Tour Finals title, (also defeating Novak) and reached World #1 in November 2016.
Ivan signed this drawing for me when he arrived at the O2 on Saturday before Sascha beat Roger Federer in the semifinal.

Drawing: Alexander ‘Sascha’ Zverev

Autographed drawing of tennis player Alexander 'Sascha' Zverev

The youngest tennis player in the Top 10, Alexander Zverev, ranked #4, caused a major upset on Sunday, beating World #1, Novak Djokovic in straight sets to claim the biggest title of his career, the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2.

Known as ‘Sascha’ (a common Russian nickname for Alexander) the twenty-one year old German of Russian descent, also beat Roger Federer in Saturday’s semis. Novak comfortably won their group stage match, but wins over John Isner and Marin Cilic secured Sascha’s advancement to the last four. He previously beat Novak in the 2017 Italian Open to claim his first Masters 1000 title and enter the top 10 for the first time. Coached by his father, Alexander Snr since the age of five, the team was joined in August this year by Ivan Lendl, who was influential in Sunday’s victory.

Sascha did sign a sketch for me this year at the O2, but this one was graphed and dedicated at last year’s year-ending tournament.

Drawing: Justin Rose

Autographed drawing of golfer Justin Rose

English golfer Justin Rose returned to the World #1 ranking, defending his Turkish Airlines Open title after winning a playoff over Li Haotong on Sunday. Justin had briefly held the top spot in September this year as well as claiming the season-long FedEx Cup Playoffs and the $US10million prize. He was also runner-up at the Open Championship at Scotland’s Carnoustie Golf Links and was part of Europe’s Ryder Cup winning team in Paris a week later to round off a very successful month.

Justin won his maiden major – the US Open – at the Merioneth’s Golf Club in Pennsylvania in 2013 and has finished second twice at the Masters in 2015 and 2017 and was T3 at the 2012 PGA Championship. At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiroo he won the gold medal.

I sent this drawing to Justin while he was competing in the Scottish Open at the Gullane Golf Club in July this year, where he kindly signed and dedicated it for me.

Drawing: Moeen Ali

Autographed drawing of cricketer Moeen Ali

One of cricket’s most popular players is the England all-rounder Moeen Ali. Known fondly as ‘The Beard that’s Feared’, Moeen is a Muslim of Pakistani descent born in Birmingham. He signed for Warwickshire County team in 2004 at the age of 15, making his first class debut the following year.

Moeen bats left-handed and bowls right-arm off-breaks. While he built a reputation as an elegant batsman, it was his off-spin bowling that earned him the call-up to the England side in 2014 after the surprise retirement of Graeme Swan. He made his test debut against Sri Lanka at Lords and scored his maiden test ton in the second test at Headingly, unbeaten on 108 when England went within two balls of saving the series with Jimmy Anderson bowled off the penultimate ball.

Moeen plays in all formats for the National side. Earlier in 2014 he was selected for the ODI series in the West Indies and the World T20 in Bangladesh a few weeks later. He has 5 Test and 3 ODI centuries with a highest score of 155 and 128 respectively and 72 in T20. His best test figures are 6/53 against South Africa at Lords in 2017. Moeen’s charity work includes being an Ambassador for ‘StreetChance’, which holds free weekly cricket coaching clinics for deprived children across the UK.

Moeen signed my sketch after England’s victory over India in the 5th and final test of the series at the Kia Oval in September.

Drawing: Virat Kohli

Autographed drawing of cricketer Virat Kohli

Arguably the world’s best batsman and the current number one in both test and ODI formats, the Indian skipper Virat Kohli etched himself further into cricketing immortality yesterday when he became the fastest player to reach 10,000 ODI runs, surpassing fellow Indian great Sachin Tendulkar. The milestone came in a remarkable match against the West Indies at Visakhapatnam, which ended in a thrilling tie. Virat finished unbeaten on 157, his 37th ODI century in 205 innings. He is the 13th person to pass 10,000 runs and the fifth Indian to join the elite list.

During the late summers tour of England he became the highest run-scorer in all formats of the game for 2018. His astounding stats also include 24 Test centuries with a top score of 243. ESPN has ranked him as one of the planets most famous athletes and this year TIME included him on its 100 most influential people in the world list.

Virat signed my drawing at the teams hotel in London last month, during the fifth and final Test against England at the Kia Oval, a series in which he scored the most runs by some distance.

Drawing: Naomi Osaka

Autographed drawing of tennis player Naomi Osaka

This week 20 year-old Naomi Osaka beat her idol Serena Williams in straight sets to win the US open final and become the first person from Japan to win a Grand Slam singles title. Born, ironically in Osaka to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, the family moved to the United States, when Naomi was three, where she now lives with dual citizenship. Her father registered her with the Japanese Tennis Association when she started her tennis career, turning pro in 2013.

This year has proved to be a watershed year for the strong-serving, aggressive base-liner, winning her first Grand Slam as well as the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and seeing her ranking rise to Number 7 in the world. Naomi was only a year old when Serena won her first Grand Slam in 1999. She wrote a project about her at school, and always wanted to be like her. “Serena is the main reason why I started playing tennis,” she said.

Often, when she’s in a difficult spot during a match, Naomi will think, “What would Serena do?” Naomi says it’s a dream to play her, which she has done twice this year, winning both encounters – the second at the Miami Open in March, when Serena was returning to the circuit after the birth of her first daughter.

Naomi signed my sketch at a WTA pre-Wimbledon event on London’s Southbank a few months ago.

Drawing: Li Na

Autographed drawing of tennis player Li Na

China’s Li Na is Asia’s most successful tennis player, regarded as the trailblazing pioneer for the sport in the region and responsible for an ‘explosion’ of players, calculated at 15 million.

An estimated 116 million watched her beat Italy’s Francesca Schiavone to win the French Open in 2011. It was the first of her two Grand Slam singles titles, adding the Australian Open in 2014. She was also runner-up in both those tournaments, a semi-finalist at the US Open and a three-time quarter-finalist at Wimbledon, rising to the world’s Number 2 ranking in February 2014. She was also a singles semi-finalist at her home Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

Li appeared on the cover of TIME in 2013, named in its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. She retired in September the following year. She signed my drawing at this year’s Wimbledon Championships where she was competing in the Invitational Doubles.

Drawing: Conchita Martinez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Conchita Martinez

Conchita Martinez became the first Spanish player to win the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title, beating Martina Navratilova in the 1994 final. She was also runner-up in the 1998 French and the 2000 Australian Opens.

In an 18 year career, Conchita won 33 singles and 13 doubles titles and was also a member of the successful Spanish team that dominated the Fed Cup during the 1990’s, winning the premier team competition five times. At the Olympics, Conchita won two silver medals and a bronze in doubles, at Barcelona, Athens and Atlanta respectively. She was the part-time coach of fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, guiding her to the Wimbledon Singles title last year.

Conchita signed my sketch of her lifting the silver Venus Rosewater salver after her Wimbledon win at this year’s Championships, where she was a media commentator and a participant in the Ladies Invitational Doubles.

Drawing: Monica Seles

Autographed drawing of tennis player Monica Seles

While Monica Seles is regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time, many believe she had the potential to be the most accomplished in the sport, if it wasn’t for the stabbing that took place at the height of her career that kept her out of the tour for two years.

Born and raised in Yugoslavia from Hungarian descent, Monica started playing tennis at the age of five, coached by her father, a professional cartoonist, who used to drew her pictures to make the lessons fun. She turned professional in May 1989 at the age of 15 and won her first Grand Slam, the French Open, the following year, the youngest ever to win at Roland Garros. It was a tournament she would win for three consecutive years, adding three Australian and two US titles to collect 8 Grand Slams before the age of twenty, becoming the year end Number 1 in 1991 and 1992.

On April 1993, while playing in Hamburg, a deranged fan of Stefi Graf (her main rival at the time) rushed onto the court and stabbed her in the back with a 9 inch knife. While the wound healed relatively quickly, it would be two years before she returned playing tennis again and was unable to consistently find her best form.

Monica did however win her fourth Australian Open in 1996 and a Bronze medal in the singles at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. She played her last professional match at the 2003 French Open, but officially retired in 2008.

Monica was a special guest at the WTA pre-Wimbledon ‘Tennis On The Thames’ event on London’s Southbank a few weeks ago, where she signed my drawing.