From Joplin’s Images in Tile came three larger-than-life murals of John McEnroe, Maria Sharipova and Rafael Nadal.

Paul Whitehill, founder of the local tile production and design company, teamed up with nationally acclaimed sports artist Mike Sullivan of Newport Beach, Calif., to create the first three of many future champions murals honoring greats like McEnroe and the 2013 BNP Paribas Open defending champions, Sharipova and Nadal.

“I’ve enjoyed working with Mike the past eight years,” Whitehill said. “Our first project was the Pat Tillman Tribute Mural installed at Sun Devil’s Stadium at Arizona State University.”

 Sullivan, whose art has been created for the Super Bowl and the World Series, said it was an honor to be asked to do this major tennis project.

Upon the unveiling on March 1, John McEnroe said: “Thank God it was a picture of me when I was young.” Nadal was so impressed that he ordered a second mural for his International Tennis Centre in Majorca, Spain.

Larry Ellison, chief executive officer and founder of Oracle and owner of the BNP Paribas Open, along with Raymond Moore, chief executive officer of the tournament, struck a deal with Sullivan and Whitehill to create the 9-foot-by-9-foot murals that were unveiled by the players during the opening week of the tournament.

 The 40-year-old tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., draws over 300 of the top players to battle it out for more than $10 million in prize money.

At the March 16 finals, Flavia Pennetta upset Agnieszka Radwanska and Roger Federer fell to Novak Djokovic.

While the 2013 murals will be permanently displayed in the stadiums, the new 2014 winners’ original canvas portraits will arrive in Joplin where, under Whitehill’s direction, they will be digitally imaged on tile and then shipped to BNP Paribas for the installation and unveiling during the March 2015 tournament.

Source: The Joplin Globe | Margie Moss | March 22, 2014