Considered one of the greatest, certainly the most breathtaking final at the famous Crucible theatre in Sheffield, this years ultimate match of the World Snooker Championship saw the twenty-nine year old Judd Trump finally win his maiden title with an emphatic 18-9 victory over four-time champion John Higgins last night. Having been touted as a potential champion for many years the Englishman finally fulfilled his potential.
“The standard was astonishing,” said six-time winner and BBC commentator Steve Davis. “It may have been the greatest final we have ever seen and Judd Trump was at the heart of it. He dismantled one of the greatest players to have ever held a cue.”
With a record 11 century breaks – seven to Judd – and frame-winning breaks of 50 in 23 of the 27 played, it was a remarkable example of potting from both players, taking the standard of snooker to another level. For the forty-three year old Scot, it was his third defeat in a row, having reached the final in the last three years, and his fourth in eight appearances, but all agree, he played his part in this classic contest. “I was lucky to get nine frames,” John modestly said after the encounter.
Judd now joins John and nine other players in achieving the career ‘Triple Crown’, winners of the sport’s three most prestigious tournaments-the World Championship. The UK Championship and the Masters.
Both Judd and John signed sketches for me at the Crucible in 2015, which I’ve previously posted, but to pay tribute to such a classic sporting moment, here they are again.
Described by the Guinness Book of World Records as ‘the world’s greatest living explorer’, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes 3rd Baronet, more commonly known as Ranulph ‘Ran’ Fiennes celebrated his 75th birthday at the beginning of this month, being interviewed by fellow adventurer and Chief Scout Bear Grylls at London’s Royal Festival Hall, discussing the new edition of his best-selling autobiography
‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’.
It featuring unparalleled stories that mark an unmatched career, including becoming the first person to visit both South and North Poles by surface means, circumnavigating the world on its polar axis using surface transport only and the first person to completely cross Antartica on foot.
In 2003, four months after a heart attack and a double by pass operation, Sir Ranulph completed seven marathons in seven days on seven continents as part of the Land Rover Challenge for the British Heart Foundation. Six years later, at the age of sixty-five he became first person to reach the summit of Mt Everest and cross both polar ice-caps. In 1993 he was recognised by the Queen with the Officer of the Order of the British Empire decoration for “human endeavour and for charitable services.” His exhibitions have raised £14 million for good causes, including the Marie Curie Cancer Care Delivering Choice Programme.
I had hoped to meet Sir Ranulph at the Royal Festival Hall event, but was unable to make it, so sent him this sketch through the mail, which he kindly signed and returned.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.