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Nadal, Osaka Win Laureus Awards

Rafael Nadal won the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award. Photo credit: Laureus World Sports Awards

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka are Laureus champions again.

Twenty-time Grand Slam champion Nadal won his fourth Laureus Award and reigning US Open and Australian Open champion Osaka won her second Laureus Award.

The Laureus Awards event was staged in a new digital format rather than as its usual Awards Ceremony because of continuing uncertainty over travel and social contact.

In line with the focus of Laureus on Sport for Good, the 2021 Awards told the inspirational stories of people who worked tirelessly to combat the pandemic, and highlighted the advocacy of sportsmen and sportswomen who have used their positions of influence to make a powerful impact on issues and conflicts which go beyond sport.

Tennis scooped the top two individual prizes with Nadal winning the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award after his 13th French Open title which brought him level on 20 career Grand Slams with Roger Federer.

Nadal, who won the 2006 Breakthrough Award, the 2011 Sportsman Award and the 2014 Comeback Award, said: “I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to the Laureus Academy. I have had some amazing competitors: the rest of the sportsmen probably deserve the trophy the same as me, but this was the year for me and I can’t be happier.

“Winning the French Open and equaling the 20th Grand Slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment. It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It’s something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court.

“The pandemic that we are facing is something unprecedented and I want to send a message of support to all the families that have suffered or lost somebody.”
Naomi Osaka won Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.
Naomi Osaka, who won the US Open for the second time, taking the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Osaka made a powerful statement at Flushing Meadows in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign by wearing different face masks in her matches, featuring the names of African Americans who died in recent years.

Osaka, winner of the Laureus Breakthrough Award in 2019, said: “I’ve watched so many of my role models win this [Sportswoman] Award, so it definitely means a lot now to be holding it. I am so happy to receive it; it really means a lot to me.

“Regarding my activism on the court, I think it is important to use my voice, because for me I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it. Looking ahead my main hopes for the future would be just to have helped or impacted as many people as I could and, hopefully be a better person.”

It was a massive celebration for tennis as legendary Billie Jean King, looking sharp in red jacket and matching red glasses in honor of red-clay season, received the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Hall of Famer , who won 39 Grand Slam titles and has been a lifelong advocate for gender equality and a pioneer for equality and social justice, was also the founder of the Women’s Tennis Association and Women’s Sports Foundation.