Spanish veteran Feliciano Lopez makes ATP World Tour Finals debut this week at London’s O2. At 35 – which he says is 200 in tennis years – the current world No. 28 in singles teams up with fellow Spaniard and Lopez, Marc, to compete in the doubles.
They entered the Finals ranked the No.4 team, with Feliciano as the 9th best men’s doubles player on the planet. His highest ranking in the singles was No.12 last year.
Together with Marc they won this year’s French Open beating the Bryan brothers in the final. They also reached the US Open semi finals. The left-handler signed my sketch this week at the O2.
Another rising star on the men’s tennis circuit is the charming David Goffin, who is the alternate at this year’s ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2. ‘La Goff” as he is known did play a pool match, replacing an injured Gael Monfills against Novak Djokovic yesterday.
The 25 year-old right-handler has won two ATP titles. His breakthrough year was 2012, when he missed qualification for the French Open, but gained entry as the ‘lucky loser’, ironically replacing Gael again. He reached the final 16 before being beaten by a certain Roger Federer. This year he reached the quarter finals, attaining a career high No.11, which is his current ranking.
As a diligent alternate, David has been arriving first thing each day to practice with all the players. David is proof that you don’t have be a ‘physical monster’, as the TV commentary team described him, to be a top player. There’s hope for me yet. The charming 5′ 11” Belgian signed my sketch on his arrival earlier this week.
After a stellar year, young tennis player Dominic Thiem made his debut at the year-ending ATP World Tour Finals which started this week at London’s 02 arena. In spite of struggling during the latter part of the season, his four titles earlier in 2016 and a career high ranking of 7 enabled the 23 year-old to become the youngest player in the elite eight man field. Known for his aggressive baseline play, heavy ground strokes and a rare and impressive single-handed backhand. After losing, but taking a set off former No.1 Novak Djokovic in his opening match, Dominic showed his much heralded potential with a win over the stylish Frenchman Gael Monfils in his second pool match to keep his hopes alive of making the semis later in the week. I caught up with ‘The Dominator,’ as he’s nicknamed when he arrived from the clipper at the Greenwich Peninsula pier on Monday. The likeable and humble Austrian liked the drawing and was happy to sign and dedicate it for me.
It’s the ATP World Tour Finals time again and my chance to gather another harvest of signed tennis drawings. My first post is the older half of ‘the first family of British Tennis’, Jamie Murray, who along with younger brother, singles numerous uno Andy could both claim the year-end No 1 doubles and singles spots by end of this week.
Along with his Brazilian partner Bruno Soares, the thirty-year old Scottish left-handler has had an exceptional year, winning both the Australian and US Open titles. His other previous Grand Slam win was the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles with Jelena Jankovic in 2007. In spite of their 2016 success, Jamie and Bruno came into this Tour Finals seeded number 2, but after remaining unbeaten after two rounds have put themselves in the driving seat to take the title and end the year at the top men’s doubles rankings. Earlier in the year Jamie reached the doubles No 1 individual spot in the doubles but is currently No 4. He arrived at London’s 02 early yesterday for his match with the legendary Bryan brothers and said “Nice one” as he signed this sketch it for me.
“The method was identical,the timing was superb and the spectators at long-on are now an endangered species,” said Channel 9 commentator Frank Tyson, describing New Zealand’s crowd-pleasing Lance Cairns batting heroics against the old foe Australia at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground on a hot February afternoon in 1983. It was the final of the World Series Cup, Lance carried more of a wooden club than a bat, with cutaway shoulders and a massive blade, which became known as ‘Excalibur’ The veteran all-rounder hit six 6’s in ten balls, including a one-handed hit to the longest boundary in one of the world’s biggest sporting stadiums of the legendary Aussie quick Dennis Lillie. NZ may have lost the match and the series but few overseas players ever receive such sustained acclaim for a performance against the home side as Sir Lancelot did that day.
He probably didn’t hear much of it since he has been profoundly deaf since the age of 17, but I’m sure he was aware of the adulation that is still spoken about today. The following month back in NZ he hit the English spinners to all parts of the ground, including a gigantic six at the Basin Reserve in Wellington that cleared the inner-city ground and sailed down the street never to be seen again.
His bowling style was unique-an awkward wrong footed right arm ‘Harvey the helicopter’ delivery action that he thought was orthodox, but it produced big lethal medium quick in-swingers that harvested a lot of wickets. I have captured the just before release in this sketch which was part of a series of the best 11 NZ cricketers I did in 1991 and all signed through the mail for me. I have described the energetic biro technique before as the ‘epileptic expressionism’… more scribble than careful draftsmanship, but as Jackson Pollock said “technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.”
Back in the early 1990’s I did a series of NZ cricketers, essentially the best kiwi 11 that had played the game to that point. I adopted what could be best described as an ‘epileptic biro’ rendering technique, which only lasted momentarily. One of the first picked was Bert Sutcliffe, the legendary left-handed batsman who was named one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year for his outstanding achievements during their tour of England in 1949. He was later to be named as NZ Champion Sportsperson of the 1940’s Decade in 2000. However it was one particular innings that has engraved Bert into kiwi folklore.
It was Christmas Eve,1953 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg. NZ was being routed by the South African fast bowler Neil Adcock on a very green wicket. Bert suffered a near fatal blow to the head and was taken to hospital. But he returned swathed in a large head bandage to continue his innings.It was an injury that would affect him for the rest of his life. He later said, “I must confess I was fortified to some extent by a generous helping of Scotland’s chief product… and I don’t mean porridge.”
Another sombre event affected the team that day. Back in NZ, 151 people lost their lives on the Overnight Express passenger train which was derailed when the Whangaehu river bridge collapsed at Tangiwai. NZ bowler Bob Blair’s fiance, Nerissa Love was one of them. He was too distraught to play, so stayed back at the hotel. When the ninth wicket fell, Bert was unbeaten and started to leave the field. Then Bob appeared, walking to the middle. 23,000 spectators fell silent, not a dry eye on or off the field.
It was one of the most poignant days in the history of sport and Bert’s words to the grieving youngster have been immortalized in what has been regarded as one of the defining chapters in NZ sport, “C’mon son this is no place for you. Let’s swing the bat at the ball and get out of here.” And that they did, putting on 33 in ten minutes before Bob was dismissed, leaving Bert on 80 not out. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 77.
This David Gower caricature was the final cross-hatching experimentation in my series of English cricketers who toured New Zealand in the summer of 1991/92. Considered as one of the most stylish and prolific batsman that has ever played the game, ‘Lord Gower’ recorded an impressive First Class record, accumulating over 26,000 runs at an average of 40.08, including 53 centuries, 18 of which were scored in Test matches, including his top total of 215 against Australia at Edgbaston during the 1985 Ashes series.
The former England captain was described by Wisden as “fluffy haired, ethereal looking, who payed beautifully until the moment he made a mistake, but somehow the mistake was put off long enough for him to play an innings of unforgettable brilliance.” He was often criticised by the media for being too laid back and nonchalant Peter Roebuck to remark “Gower ne’er moves, he drifts,” and France Edmonds in the Daily Express wrote,” it’s difficult to be more laid back without being actually comatose.”
These days he leads the Sky Sports commentary team in his usual stylish and relaxed manner.
Yesterday I posted a caricature of English cricketer and prolific batsman Allan Lamb which he signed for me at the Basin Reserve in Wellington during the third test against New Zealand in February 1992. The captain of the England team on that very successful tour was the enigmatic Graham Gooch, the most prolific top-class run scorer of all time with 67,059 of them in a career that started as a 19 year-old in 1973 for county side Essex until he retired in 1997.
Journalist Matthew Engel described him as the most “uninhibited belter of the cricket ball” in his ESPN Cricinfo bio. He book-ended his test-playing career with matches against the old Ashes foe, Australia-the first in Birmingham in the summer of 1975, the last in Perth twenty years later. In that time he played 118 tests, scoring 8,900 runs notching up twenty centuries with a top score of 333 against India at Lords in 1990.
For good measure he belted a second innings 123 for a total of 456 in the match. In 125 ODI’s he scored 4,290 runs including eight 100’s. For three years in the 1980’s he was banned from playing for England for leading the first rebel tour to South Africa, so imagine what his international run tally could have been.
I drew this caricature of ‘Goochie’ in my signature 80’s cross-hatching style and he obliged with his signature in between ball-belting at the Basin.
One of the most dominant batsman during the 1980’s was England cricketer Allan Lamb. He was also one of my favourite players. Born in South Africa to British parents, Allan joined the county side Northamptonshire in order to play test cricket for England because his native country was banned from playing International cricket due to the apartheid regime.
He made his debut against India in 1982 becoming cap number 492 and ended his 79 test-playing career against Pakistan exactly 10 years later, almost to the day. In that decade he scored 14 centuries and 18 half-centuries, amassing 4,656 runs at an average of 36.09. He also played 122 ODI’s scoring over 4000 runs with four centuries and 26 half-centuries. His last test ton was his highest, scoring 142 against New Zealand at the Basin Reserve in Wellington in February 1992, where he signed this caricature for me. During that time I used to draw caricatures with a black fine line pen and a technique that I have loosely labelled my ’80’s cross-hatch period’, combining minimal horizontal and vertical lines to define the white highlights and for the hair I rendered a much tighter, ‘frenzied’ hatch for textual contrast.
Unlike Allan, I had mixed results with the hatching, but this is an example one that I was not unhappy with.
After a stellar junior career, 19 year-old German tennis prodigy Alexander Zverev’s rise up the senior rankings is attracting attention. While growing up he was a huge Roger Federer fan and many are predicting he will emulate his idol. Rafael Nadal said, “He is a clear possible future No.1. He has all the shots.” Tennis is in his blood. His father Alexander Snr was a professional player, representing Russia in the Davis Cup before emigrating to Hamburg, where Alex Jnr, known on the tour as ‘Sascha’ was born. Both his father and mother are now tennis coaches and his brother Mischa is also a professional player.
Alexander won the ATP Star of Tomorrow Award and is the youngest player inside the top 50 with a current ranking of 28. On the ATP website his bio describes his playing style as “punchy ground strokes, a booming serve and sauntering athleticism” The 6′ 6″ Sascha can follow up a 130 mph first serve with a 120mph second. At the pre-Wimbledon Boodles Tennis event in June this year he beat world No.1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets and signed my sketch.