Drawing: Andy Murray

Andy Murray

Here’s a doozy of a dilemma for you. When the world’s top 8 men’s tennis players are walking towards you on a chilly London night on the Greenwich peninsula, dressed to the nines, heading to the O2 pier and a ferry to take them to the opening gala for the year ending ATP World Tour Finals, who do you get? Signature wise, I mean.

I had sketched them all and some of their high profile coaches – Boris Becker, Michael Chang, Amelie Mauresmo

Security warned the small group of us waiting that they were late and in a hurry. Nothing new there. I calculated that I only had a few minutes. There was one other ‘grapher in the group, the rest were after selfies – that could slow them down a fraction…

Because Andy Murray wasn’t at last year’s event, he was my top priority. In fact, I actually had two sketches of him, but he has a quick siggy and is always obliging. Mission accomplished and both signed – one even dedicated. This is the other one.

For the record, on that cold November evening I managed to get Roger Federer, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Boris Becker and Andy of course. Not a bad harvest in two minutes!

Drawing: Stan the man (Stanislas Wawrinka)

Stanislas WawrinkaWorld number 4 Stan Wawrinka narrowly lost a tense semi final against compatriot Roger Federer at the ATP World Tour Finals in London on Saturday evening.

Given the latter’s withdrawal from the final, due to a back injury sustained in the long match, many Swiss supporters may have wish a different result in hindsight.

Stan made his first Grand Slam breakthrough in January this year, beating Rafael Nadal in the final of the Australian Open. He also won a gold medal with Roger at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Both men now head to Lille to contest the Davis Cup Final against France this weekend.

 

Drawing: Kei Nishikori

kei nishikori

In a breakout season, Japan’s Kei Nishikori became the first Asian-born man to reach a Grand Slam final, losing to Marin Cilic of Croatia in the US Open this year.

He has won a career high four titles and 54 matches (54-12) and will end the season no lower than number 5. Described as an “offensive baseline player” Kei is known for his speed and footwork and has developed a style of taking the ball early and gaining control of the point immediately on both serve and return.

Yesterday he advanced to the knockout semi final phase of the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London in his debut year. He takes on Novak Djokovic today for a place in the final, and will be happy to repeat his US Open semi final win over the world number one.

Kei signed my sketch at the O2 pier as the players left for the ATP World Tour Finals Launch gala last Friday evening.

Drawing: The Bryan Brothers

Bryan Brothers

There is little to prove for Mike and Bob Bryan. The 36 year old identical twins from California are the most dominant ‘doubles act’ in the history of tennis, winning every significant doubles record. They showed up at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London this week with the number one ranking already in the bag. In 13 visits to the elite year end event they have won three titles. They won their 100th career title at this year’s US Open, which extended their record haul of majors to 16 and enabled them to achieve the top ranking for a record 10th year. The Bryans have also won numerous Olympic medals, including the gold at the 2012 London Games.

The two are equally known for their post victory flying chest bump – a tradition they started back in their college days at Stanford in 1996. I drew this quick pencil sketch of the famous act.

The trick was working out who was who, because for the past few days they have not arrived at or left the O2 together. “Bob?…… Or is it Mike?”

I got Bob (the younger by two minutes) first. The next day a friend said, “there’s a Bryan,” …. but which one?

“Mike?” I said in hope. He looked at me and said nothing.

“Bob?”

“No, I’m Mike.” Oh, a twin tease. He happily signed.

Drawing: Roger Federer

roger federer

Regarded by most as ‘the greatest tennis player of all time’, Swiss maestro Roger Federer entered the ATP World Tour Finals this week ranked 2nd, chasing Novak Djokovic for the year the year end top position.

After his first round win against Canadian giant Milos Raonic he was presented with the ATP World Tour Fans’ Favourite Award, which he’s won for a record 12 times straight since 2003 and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award (voted by the players) for a record tenth time.

His achievements are to numerous to mention here, but he will get to add a missing one when he represents Switzerland against France in the Davis Cup Final after WTF extravaganza.

Roger was leaving the O2 on Friday evening with the other seven men making up the field. Security did warn us they were in a hurry to board the Thames Clipper boat to go to the WTF launch gala, but when I asked Roger, he said, “walk with me,” and kindly signed and dedicated my sketch.

Drawing: Novak Djokovic

novak djokovic

Current world number one Novak Djokovic is planning to hold on to that title at the ATP World Tour Tennis Finals at London’s O2 this week. He needs to win all his round robin matches to head off Roger Federer, who has won more tour matches than any other player this year, be it not a Grand Slam title.

Novak has won seven slams, including this year’s Wimbledon and he’s held the No 1 spot in the ATP ranks for a total of 119 weeks. His current doubles ranking is 554 – obviously not a priority for him!

He does however have an Olympic medal, winning bronze for Serbia in the singles at Beijing.

Novak is excellent with his supporters and always takes time to stop, sign, smile for snaps. He has always been very complimentary about my sketches and really liked this one, showing it to his support staff before signing it on the opening Sunday at the O2. “You have a rare talent, Sir,” he said.

Sketch: Roger Federer

Federer

Roger Federer is considered by most to be the greatest tennis player of all time. Winner of 17 Grand Slams and a record 302 weeks as Number 1 in the world cements his status.

Currently ranked at Number 7, The Fed Express reached the semi finals of the ATP World Tennis Finals in London this week with a stunning comeback against Del Potro, but lost to Rafa.

He proved a bit more elusive at this year’s event than previously, travelling by car and not boat, so opportunities to get his sig were limited. Prior to his semi, he did a 30 minute warm up and signed for a large throng, using the same Sharpie throughout! So the distinctive ‘graph is on the light side, but a graph nevertheless.

Sketches: Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic is currently No 2 in the tennis world, but he’s definitely tops when it comes to accommodating his fans and signing autographs.

This week I’ve been at the ATP World Tour Finals in London’s O2 arena, battling weather and malfunctioning pens. Most of the players use the Thames Clipper boat to travel to the venue, so we collect signatures at the O2 Wharf area.

To give you some idea of what a racket this ‘graph collecting can be, here’s a sequence of sketches and their respective signing success over 3 consecutive days.

Djo002

The Sharpie Bullet Point
To save time, it’s easier to use on pen, usually the pen belonging to the first autograph collector waiting, and do all the signing with that. The pen Djokovic grabbed was a normal, fine point black sharpie, but the owner had left the cap off in preparation for its use and in the moist, windy air it was not flowing too well… aaargh

Djo003

The Sharpie W10 Chisel Head
My fault this time. I have zillions of pens, so why did I give him a dried up Sharpie W10 chisel point marker? In mitigation it was raining we were partially protected under a walkway, but the rain was sweeping in and water and ink are not a good doubles combination. He was great – kept going over it and used the point with the remaining ink to write ‘to Mark’.

Djo001

The Pentel N860 Permanent Marker
Perfecto sig – with a Pental N860 marker. Raining again, and he was running late, but happily stopped to sign and dedicate. He told me, “This is excellent”.

Game, set and match