Spain’s Rafa Nadal was named the 2021 Laureus Sportsman of the year on Thursday, while fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka won the top women’s honour.
Japan’s Osaka won her second U.S. Open title last year, while Nadal equalled Roger Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles by claiming his 13th French Open crown.
Nadal picked up his fourth Laureus honour, having previously scooped the Breakthrough, Comeback and men’s individual awards.
“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,” the 34-year-old Nadal said.
“Winning the French Open and equalling 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.”
Naomi Osaka speaks after winning the Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Award during the Laureus World Sports Awards 2021 Virtual Award Ceremony. (Handout Screengrab) – GETTY IMAGES
Laureus hailed Osaka’s “powerful statement” at the U.S. Open to support the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign as she highlighted racial injustice by wearing different face masks at her matches bearing the names of African Americans who died in recent years.
“I think it is important to use my voice,” said 23-year-old Osaka. “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.”
Tennis dominated the digital awards ceremony in Seville as American great Billie Jean King received the Lifetime Achievement award.
German soccer champions Bayern Munich, who won last season’s Champions League, was named the Team of the Year.
Britain’s Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton claimed the inaugural Athlete Advocate of the Year Award for his involvement in the fight against racism.
Quaterback Patrick Mahomes won the Breakthrough of the Year Award after helping Kansas City Chiefs in 2020 to its first Super Bowl appearance and win in 50 years, at the age of 24.
List of winners
Sportsman of the Year Award: Rafael Nadal
Sportswoman of the Year Award: Naomi Osaka
Team of the Year Award: Bayern Munich
Breakthrough of the Year Award: Patrick Mahomes
Comeback of the Year Award: Max Parrot
Sport for Good Award: KICKFORMORE by KICKFAIR
Lifetime Achievement Award: Billie Jean King
Athlete Advocate of the Year Award: Lewis Hamilton
Sporting Inspiration Award: Mohamed Salah
Sporting Moment of the Year Award: Chris Nikic