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.
Wimbledon continues-Day 2. Seven-time singles Champion Serena Williams returned yesterday to SW19 after missing last year, waiting the arrival of her daughter Alexis Olympia in September, although she did win the Australian Open while two months pregnant. Fun fact: hence her daughter’s initials AO. It was a successful first day back in ‘the office’, beating Holland’s Arantxa Rus in straight sets. Serena’s first Grand Slam back after her hiatus was the French Open last month, where she had to retire before her fourth round match with Maria Sharapova due to an injury sustained while playing doubles with sister Venus.
Many consider her to be the best player in the history of the sport, but agree it is difficult to compare from different eras. Four names are constantly in the mix for the women’s debate – Margaret Court, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena. Her record speaks for itself. The WTA have ranked her Number 1 on eight occasions between 2002-2017. Serena’s 23 singles Grand Slam titles is the most by a player in the Open Era, second behind Margaret Court (24). She is the most recent player to have twice held all four Grand Slam titles simultaneously in 2002-3 and 2014-15, the third person to do this after Rod Laver and Steffi Graf. In addition, she has won 14 Grand Slam doubles titles with sister Venus and two mixed doubles, along with four Olympic gold medals and winning the Laureus Sportswomen of the Year Award four times.
Serena walked the purple carpet at the WTA TENNIS ON THE THAMES pre-Wimbledon event, honouring women who have shaped the world with their achievements both on and off the court at London’s iconic OXO tower last Thursday where she signed my sketch.
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.
At Wimbledon in 2014 I watched 25th seed Alizé Cornet come from a set down to beat five-time Champion and World No 1 Serena Williams, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a dramatic, rain-interrupted, third round encounter on Court One that had everything, including thunder and lightening. It was her best result at SW19 and no fluke. In fact that year the twenty-six year old Frenchwoman managed three victories over the 21 time Grand Slam winner. She was beaten in the next match by Eugenie Bouchard, but got her revenge over the Canadian earlier this year to win the Hobart International, her fifth WTA title. In 2009 she was ranked as high as No 11, but is currently at 61.
I did this sketch of Alizé or ‘Allleeezzzzzee!’ as her supporting French fans call out, after her wonderful Wimbledon win and managed to catch up with her at The Championships on Thursday after she and her doubles partner Xena Knoll won their opening match. Earlier that day she had defeated Sarah Errani to advance to the third round, so it would be fair to say she was in a buoyant mood and happily signed the drawing.
Twenty three year old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov was another young tennis star to shine at this year’s Wimbledon.
Prior to his professional career he was the World Junior No. 1, winning the 2008 Wimbledon and US Open titles. He reached the semi final at the Championships this year, beating reigning champion Andy Murray in straight sets.
In the semi he battled back and had three consecutive set points in a fourth set tie break, but lost to the eventual tournament winner Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 7-6. However, it was enough for Grigor to move into the World top ten with the No 9 spot in the ATP rankings, one ahead of Andy.
The overnight sensation of this year’s Wimbledon has been 19 year old Nick Kyrgios, the 1.93m Australian teenager with a Greek father and a Malaysian mother. Making his debut at SW19, he was playing courtesy of a wild card entry and ranked 144 in the world. Very few thought he had any chance of beating world number 1, Rafa Nadal on centre court in the fourth round. Four sets later he produced the shock of the tournament, blitzing the two time champion 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
He put his motivation down to his mother’s prediction that he would lose. “My mum said Rafa was too good for me and it made me a bit angry.”
In the second round he saved nine match points to beat 13th seed Richard Gasquet, but fell to Canadian eighth seed Milos Raonic in the quarters. However, from a ranking of 838 last season, he is guaranteed to read the mid 60s. Going into the quarter finals, Nick was leading the ace standing with 113. A staggering 37 of those were bashed past Nadal. He is donating £5 for every ace served at Wimbledon to the Rally for Bally fund – set up in memory of former British No 1 Elena Baltacha.
His cheeky ‘tweener’ – a beteen the legs stoke that sent the ball out of Nadal’s reach, went viral on YouTube, amassing more than 500,000 views. I was actually at The Championsoips on ‘the’ day and watched events unfold from ‘the hill’, amongst a very vocal group of Aussie supporters and manged to get this sketch to him the next day, which he signed and returned along with a clipping from The Times reporting his sensational victory.
The former World no. 4, Pat Cash won the Wimbledon Men’s Singles final in 1987 beating Ivan Lendl in straight sets. In fact he only lost one set in the entire tournament that year. To date he is the only player to win junior, tour and legends Wimbledon titles. Oh, yes and he plays guitar in his own band.
This is a very quick portrait sketch of Pat wearing his trade mark chequered bandana. I met Pat at the World Tennis Day at London’s Earls Court where he repeated his Wimbledon triumph over Ivan 8-6.
Pat Rafter and Goran Ivanisevic contested the 2001 Wimbledon Men’s single’s final. The former was one of the top seeds, the latter was ranked 125, although he had been runner-up in three previous occasions, in 2001 he went one better.
I accidentally placed a $5 bet on the Ivanisevic to win and considered it money not well spent, given the huge odds. Actually I meant to back 4th seed Marat Safin, but not being an experienced gambler I selected the wrong number when filling in the betting slip. Ironically Goran beat Marat in the Quarterfinals and went on to turn my fiver into a wad of cash.
With back to back US Open titles in 1997-98 briefing holding the World Number One ranking, Pat was favoured. Goran became the champion, winning 9-7 in the fifth set, and becoming the only person to win with a wild card and the lowest ranked player to win in history.
He did have a career high Number Two ranking in 1994 behind Pete Sampras and won bronze medals in both singles and doubles at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
Both players were part of the ATP Champions Tour Masters’ Tournament at the Royal Albert Hall this week and they signed their respective sketches for me. For the record, Pat won this time.
Stefan Edberg (or Iceberg as he was called in jest) along with Boris Becker, dominated Wimbledon in the latter part of the 1980s. The diffident Swede’s style was made for the lawns of the All England Club, his deportment complementing the ambience of the sport’s traditional theatre, as impressively as his strokes.
The 6’2″ right hander was one of the major proponents of the serve-and-volley, arguable the greatest of all time. He reached 11 Grand Slam singles finals, winning six, twice claiming victory at Wimbledon, The Australian and US Opens. In his ATP World Tour profile, Bud Collins describes him as a stylistic misfit among the Swedish legion that rose in Björn Borg’s sneaker steps and image, Stefan Edberg was an extraordinarily graceful attacker.”
Along with John McEnroe, they are the only players to reach World No. One in both singles and doubles. Stefan also won all four Junior Grand Slam titles in 1983 – the only person to do so.
The French Open evaded him, but only just! He reached the final in 1989, losing in a close five setter to Michael Chang. He also won three Grand Slam men’s doubles titles.
Unfortunately, knee surgery sidelined him at this years Statoil Master’s Tennis Tournament on the ATP Champions Tour. But, luckily for me, he did turn up yesterday to watch and even more luckily, I had my sketch of him with me and he was happy to sign.