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.

Drawing: The Barrett Brothers

Autographed drawing of All Blacks the Barrett Brothers

No, not the musical duo from the Kentish coast, sorry to disappoint the disciples, but New Zealand’s Barrett Brothers, Beauden, Scott and Jodie, who made rugby history this week, becoming the first trio of sibblings to play for the reigning World Champion All Blacks at a World Cup when they cruised past Canada, 63-0 in their second Pool match at the Oita Stadium in Japan. To add to the occasion all three scored tries. It’s not uncommon for two brothers to play for the hallowed AB’s. There have been 46 sets of siblings who have worn the famous black jersey and there has been three other trios, but they did not play all at the same time or at a World Cup.

They were the first trio of brothers to be selected for an All Black starting lineup XV when all three were picked to play in the first test against France at Auckland’s Eden Park in 2018, a match won by the AB’s, 52-11.

Twenty-seven year-old two-time World Rugby Player of the Year and the oldest, but shortest at 6’2″, Beauden is the most capped and plays at first five-eighth as we Kiwis call it, but internationally known as fly-half although at this World Cup he’s at full-back. Scott (25), the tallest at 6’6″ is a lock forward and at times a flanker on the side of the scrum. The youngest, Jordie (22) is 6’5″ and plays pretty much in every back position, regarded as one of the world’s most skilful utility players. Sport was always in the Barrett DNA. Their father, Kevin played provincial rugby for Taranaki in 167 games and their mother Robyn was a renowned runner, netballer and basketballer. When Kevin retired from the game, he stated that he was “going to breed a few All Blacks”, and indeed he did. Growing up on a dairy farm on the West Coast of New Zealand’s North Island meant they had plenty of ‘backyard’ to practice in.

I found out where the ABs were staying in London last November as they prepared for the Autumn International against England, so quickly did this sketch of the ‘ABarrett Bros’, as I labelled them, and they signed it for me.

Drawing: Suzann Pettersen

Autographed drawing of golfer Suzann Pettersen

Wildcard entry Suzann Pettersen sank an eight foot putt on the last hole to clinch the Solheim Cup-the women’s equivalent to the Ryder Cup-for Europe at Scotland’s Gleneagles course on Sunday. The 38 year-old Norwegian and double Major-winner then announced her retirement. “This is perfect closure. That’s it I’m done. This is a good end to a great career,” she said after the finest conclusion in the tournament’s 29 year history.

After taking a career break to start a family, Suzann’s ranking had dropped to 635th in the world. She was a controversial wildcard choice by Europe’s Captain Catrina Matthews and was unable to participate in the opening foursomes due to illness on Friday.

Europe were the underdogs, written off before the start of play against a very strong US team and with half an hour to go on Sunday afternoon it looked inevitable they would claim victory and retain the Cup. But Suzann’s pressure putt and last hole heroics against Marina Alex gave the hosts the one point win.

She signed my sketch at the Ladies Scottish Open hosted by the Renaissance Club last month.

Drawing: Henry Blofeld

Autographed drawing of cricket commentator Henry Blofeld

I had the pleasure of catching up with the one and only Henry Blofeld during this years Cricket Word Cup, which was hosted in England and Wales over the past seven weeks. ‘Blowers’ – one of the true legends of cricket commentary – took to the stage in for a Cricket World Cup Special: An evening with Henry Blofeld in conversation at the Emmanuel Centre in London’s Westminister, where he kindly signed and dedicated my sketch with his signature saying, ‘My dear old thing.’

Before Henry entered the commentary realm, he was “an opening batsman of sorts” with sixteen first-class matches for Cambridge University, scoring his only fist-class century against the MCC at Lords in July 1959 in his penultimate game. Realising he had no taste for merchant banking after leaving university, he ‘drifted into sports journalism.’ While covering England’s tour of India in 1963/64 for the Guardian he was close to being picked as an emergency batsman when Micky Stewart fell ill before the second test in Bombay. He also did TV commentary for ITV and later, in the 1990’s for BSkyB.

In 1972 Blowers joined the BBC Radio’s TEST MATCH SPECIAL team. His commentary is characterised by a ‘plummy voice’ and his idiosyncratic mention of superfluous details regarding the scene, including construction cranes, pink shirts in the crowd, pigeons, buses, and other flying objects. He was also a regular member of the commentary team on New Zealand television while England toured there and I recall once sending a cartoon of him as a seagull, captioned ‘Henry Livingston Seagull’, which he displayed during the live broadcast. After 45 years with TMS, Blowers retired at the age of seventy-seven, after commentating the test between England and the West Indies at Lords in September 2017, receiving a standing ovation on a lap of the ground following the match.

He wrote on his website, “Listeners will now be pleased to know that their chances of being told the right name of the fielders at third man and fine leg have greatly increased. I hope some will be sad that they will now hear less about the lifestyles of pigeons, seagulls and helicopters, although I fear the general feeling will be one of huge relief.”

The final of the World Cup was played at Lords last Sunday between the hosts England and my beloved Black Caps from New Zealand. The thriller ended in a tie, as did the subsequent ‘Super Over’. England were crowned World Champions on a count back of boundaries scored – congrats to them. Writing in his column for the Daily Mail, Henry wrote it was the “greatest cricket match of all time. What drama, what tension, what heroics. My dear old things, in all my years of watching cricket I cannot recall any match that kept me on my toes”.

Obviously as a New Zealander I was disappointed with the result, but immensely proud of our team, for the way they not only played and contributed to such a magnificent sporting spectacle, but also for the way they responded to the manner of their defeat. I was very pleased he wrote, “I felt for New Zealand, truly. Their undaunted spirit, their sense of decency even after they lost by that wafer-thin margin was an absolute tonic and very much in the spirit of the game.”

Drawing: Feliciano Lopez

Autographed drawing of tennis player Feliciano Lopez

While his doubles partner Sir Andy Murray was grabbing the headlines for a successful return to competitive tennis after career-saving surgery five months ago, Feliciano Lopez completed a remarkable double winning both titles at the prestigious Queen’s Club in London on Sunday. Initially ranked outside the top 100 in the ATP rankings, the 37 year old Spaniard became the first wild card entry to lift the singles trophy since Pete Sampras in 1999 and the first player to claim the Queen’s ‘double’ since Mark Philippoussis in 1977.

As a consequence he has leapfrogged a massive 60 places to #53 in the world. He would have also become the oldest player ever to win a grass court event in the open era, but a certain Roger Federer, who is one month older secured his tenth Halle title earlier in the day. Given the inclement English weather earlier in the week, the disrupted schedule meant playing catch-up and multiple games in the same day. In Feliciano’s case it was a remarkable act of endurance.

On Saturday he played five-hours of gruelling tennis to reach the two finals. After beating rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime in the singles semi, he took a 12 minute shower and was back on court with Andy to wrap up their suspended quarter finals doubles clash against British pair Dan Evans and Ken Skupski, before taking on the highly-fancied Henri Kontinen and John Peers, which needed a championship tie-break to decide it. The following day, Feliciano beat Gilles Simon in the singles and completed Sir Andy’s fairytale comeback, beating Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram in another tie-breaker to enter the history books.

Feliciano kindly signed this drawing for me when he arrived at the club on Saturday morning. I didn’t need to state the obvious and mention it was going to be a very busy day for him…but I did.