Former World Number 1 tennis player Marat Safin returned to the court last year, making his Royal Albert Hall debut at the Champions Tennis, where he was beaten in the final by another former World Number 1, Juan Carlos Ferrero. The Russian, known for his powerful offensive play and strong, accurate serve won two Grand Slam titles in a career that began in 1997 until he retired in November 2009.
He beat defending champ Pete Sampras to win the 2000 US Open and local favourite Lleyton Hewitt on his way to the Australian Open title five years later. He was also a member of the successful Russian Davis Cup teams in 2002 and 2006. Marat achieved the Number 1 ranking in November 2000, for nine weeks. His sister Dinara Safina also achieved the same status, making them the only brother/sister tandem in tennis history to do so. In 2016 he becam the first Russian to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Marat was also known for his emotional outbursts and fiery temper. By his own admission he broke 1055 racquets during his career. I didn’t enquire how many sharpies he had destroyed and thankfully he was completely the opposite when I meet him at Royal Albert Hall and kindly signed my drawing.
In 2011 he became an elected politician and member of the State Duma, representing the United Russian Party, so I’m not sure if that environment would mellow ones temperament, but I guess you do practice more diplomacy.
Nicknamed ‘The Scud’ because his serve was once regarded as one of the fastest in the game, resembling a scud missile, retired Australian tennis ace Mark Philippoussis returned to London’s Royal Albert Hall last week for this years final Champions Tour event.
While he didn’t win a Grand Slam, he did reach the final of the US Open, losing to compatriot Pat Rafter in 1998 and Wimbledon in 2003 where he was beaten by Roger Federer. He won 11 career titles and reached No. 8 in the world rankings in 1999. Mark was also instrumental in Australia winning the Davis Cup in that year and again in 2003, winning both deciding rubbers.
He signed my sketch at the RAH stage door last Thursday evening before his opening match with former No.1 Juan Carlos Ferrero.
Despite having to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Finals in London this week due to a knee injury, Rafael Nadal ended the year as the world’s No.1 men’s tennis player after a stellar 2017, including winning both the US Open and, for a record tenth time the French Open. ‘The King of Clay’ achieved ‘La Decima’ on the ‘dirt’ at Roland Garros, beating Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the final. He also added his 10th title on the clay at Monte Carlo and Barcelona for good measure.
To commemorate this feat (of clay) I did this ‘La Decima’ sketch and luckily got Rafa to sign it for me before he left the London’s O2 last week.
Bulgarian tennis star Grigor Dimitrov won the year-end ATP World Tours Final last night at the O2 arena in London, beating Belgian David Goffin in three sets, completing the tournament unbeaten.
At the beginning of his professional career the former Junior World No. 1 was dubbed ‘Baby Fed’ because of his stylish play and on court talent, similar to the Swiss mystro Roger Federer. Known for his exceptional shot-making and athleticism, he now moves from No. 6 to the world’s No. 3, behind Rafa Nadal and Fed, having started the year at 17th. He collected three other tour titles this year – Brisbane, Sofia and his first Masters 1000 in Cincinnati.
Grigor signed my sketch last Sunday at the O2.
Continuing my week of drawing from the ATP World Tour Finals at London’s O2 Arena is the young Austrian tennis star and world No.4 Dominic Thiem who faces David Goffin today in a sudden death match to decide who goes through to the semi-finals. This is the second consecutive year that Dominic has reached the Tour Finals, having made the semi final at Roland Garros and the fourth round of the three other Grand Slams. Winner of eight ATP singles titles, he is known for his aggressive base line play and great defence and is one of the few younger players to use a single-handed backhand.
He signed my sketch last Sunday at the O2.
The diminutive (by tennis standards) Belgian David Goffin secured the biggest win of his career beating the current world No.1 Rafael Nadal in his opening match at this year’s ATP Tour Finals at London’s O2 on Monday. Rafa was hampered by a reoccurring knee injury which forced him to withdraw from the year-ending tournament after the three-set loss. David, who is currently ranked No. 8 in the world has won four titles and his win over Rafa continues a string of victories over higher-ranked players, including Novak Djokovic and Stan Wawrinka. He signed my sketch at the O2 on Sunday before his practice session.
Former world No.1 tennis player Juan Carlos Ferrero has been coaching Germany’s rising star Alexander Zverev since July this year and both are currently in London for the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 arena. The Spaniard reached the top ranking in September 2003 after winning Roland Garros and runner-up at the US Open. Nicknamed ‘El Masquito’ because of his speed and small build, Juan Carlos was also part of three winning Davis Cup campaigns for Spain. He signed my sketch at the O2 on Saturday.
The top-ranked American men’s tennis player, Jack Sock clinched the final spot in the World Top 8 for the ATP World Tour Finals, which started yesterday at London’s 02 Arena.
The twenty-five year old was ranked 24th in the race to London going into the last tournament of the regular season-the Paris Masters, but won that event. Combined with a number of his rivals falling by the wayside and Nadal’s withdrawal through injury, he booked his ticket to the year-end championship.
Now ranked the Worlds’s Number 9 in the men’s singles the aggressive baseliner with a lethal serve and forehand is considered one of the world’s top players in both singles and doubles, where he also reached the 9th spot in 2015, winning the Wimbledon Doubles title alongside Vasek Pospisil the previous year.
In 2011 he won the Mixed Doubles with Melanie Oudin at the US Open and a Gold medal with Bethany Mattek-Sands and the bronze in the Men’s doubles partnering Steve Johnson at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
I met him after Friday’s practice session at the 02. He joked he couldn’t sign my drawing because he is now in the Nike stable and I had drawn him with his previous sponsor’s Adidas logo, but he did.
2016 was an exceptional year for German tennis star Angelique Kerber. She won two majors, beating world number one Serena Williams in the Australian Open and Karolina Pliskova in the US Open. She also reached the Wimbledon final, with Serena reversing the Australian result.
However she amassed enough ranking points to pass Serena and take over the top spot. At the Summer Olympics Angelique won the singles silver medal. Not surprisingly, she won the WTA Player of the Year and was nominated for the prestigious Laureus Sportswomen of the Year Award. I sent this drawing to Angelique at the Aegon International in Eastbourne earlier this year and was returned this week, from her German base, signed and dedicated.
Former World Tennis Number 1, Martina Hingis won her 23rd Major title on Sunday collecting the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles crown with Jamie Murray. She now has twelve women’s doubles, six mixed doubles titles from all the four Grand Slams and has won the singles on five occasions, only missing out on the French, although she was a finalist twice.
She also has an Olympic silver doubles medal from Rio in 2016. In 2005 Tennis Magazine named her the 8th greatest female tennis player of all time. Although I have collected Martina’s graph on a few occasions I didn’t have a signed sketch. Twice I had attempted but had missed the Swiss Miss. But I was lucky enough to catch her at Gate 13 a few days before this year’s Wimbledon Championships started and while she said she didn’t usually sign sketches, was happy to do so this time.