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Djokovic, Osaka honoured at prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards

Leye Aduloju in News 19 Feb 2019
  • The world's top-ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka were both honoured at the prestigious Laureus awards on Monday night
  • Djokovic received the Sportsman of the Year award for the fourth time, while Osaka was named Breakthrough of the Year
Djokovic won the Laureus World Sportsman of The Year award for the fourth time. (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The world's top-ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka were both honoured at the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards on Monday night, with Djokovic receiving the Sportsman of the Year award, and Osaka named Breakthrough of the Year after their respective stellar seasons.

Djokovic was voted Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time, having previously bagged the accolade in 2012, 2015 and 2016. The other nominees for the 2019 prize were France's World Cup-winning footballer, Kylian Mbappe, Croatian footballer, Luka Modric, American basketball superstar, LeBron James, Formula One star, Lewis Hamilton, and Kenyan long-distance runner, Eliud Kipchoge.

"A Laureus Award is what every athlete wants to win, and this one is a huge honour for me. Being among so many sporting greats here tonight… gives this award a special meaning for me,” said Djokovic at the award ceremony in Monte Carlo. “Last year was an incredible season for me. Returning from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open is something I’ll remember forever.”

Djokovic’s four awards put him level with Athletics great, Usain Bolt, and just one behind five-time winner, Roger Federer, who has won the award more than anyone else, while Rafael Nadal has bagged the honours just once, back in 2011.

Djokovic was recognized for his stunning second half of 2018, when he recovered from elbow surgery to surge from outside the top-20 and claim the year-end No. 1 ranking. No other player in the history of the rankings had finished the season at No. 1 after being ranked outside the top-20 during the same year.

Following on from the elbow injury that made him miss the last six months of the 2017 season, Djokovic struggled badly in the first half of 2018, limping to a 6-6 record by mid-May having undergone surgery after the Australian Open, but he launched a stunning resurgence in the latter half of the season, winning Grand Slam titles at Wimbledon and the US Open, and Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He also made finals at the Paris Masters and the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals. Overall, he was 35-3 from the start of Wimbledon.

He has started the new year on an ominous note, claiming his 15th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open after a remarkably dominant victory over Rafael Nadal in the final. The world No. 1 is expected to return to action at Indian Wells.

Japanese sensation, Naomi Osaka was honoured for her breakthrough 2018, when she made the transition from being a potential star to become one of the best players in the world. 

Osaka held off the challenge of Ana Carrasco (motor cycling), Sofia Goggia (skiing), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (athletics), Geraint Thomas (cycling) and Brianna Williams (athletics) to bag the prestigeous award.

"I want to give a huge thank you to the Laureus Academy for giving me the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year award,” Osaka said in a video message. “I want to thank my coaching staff and my family for being with me for these entire years”. 
“I also want to [acknowledge] the other nominees, and thank the Laureus Academy for nominating me for such a prestigious award.”

Osaka is the fifth tennis player to win the Breakthrough of the Year award, after Marat Safin (2011), Rafael Nadal (2006), Amelie Mauresmo (2007), and Andy Murray (2013). 

The 21-year-old began last season without a tour-level title, and was ranked 72nd in mid-January, but she went on to claim her maiden title at Indian Wells before securing a stunning victory at the US Open, beating the great Serena Williams in the final to win her first Grand Slam title. The Japanese rose as high as No. 4 in the world last season, and ended the year one spot lower at 5.

She has continued that sharp upward trajectory in 2019, reaching No. 1 in the world after winning the Australian Open.

The 21-year-old is currently competing at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. 

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Djokovic, Osaka honoured at prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards

The world's top-ranked players, Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka were both honoured at the prestigious Laureus awards on Monday night.

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