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Nadal, Osaka, King Honored as Laureus Award Champions

Tennis was the biggest winner at the 2021 Laureus World Sports Awards.

A trio of game-changing Grand Slam champions—Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Billie Jean King—were each honored with prestigious awards. Tennis captured the top two awards with Nadal honored as Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award and Osaka earning Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year honors.

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.


A post shared by Laureus (@laureussport)

In 2020, Nadal swept rival Novak Djokovic to for his 13th French Open championship which brought him level on 20 career Grand Slams with Roger Federer.

The 34-year-old Nadal, who won the 2006 Breakthrough Award, the 2011 Sportsman Award and the 2014 Comeback Award, said this one is extra special.

“I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart to the Laureus Academy," Nadal said. "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 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.

“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

World No. 2 Osaka 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 in 2020 she learned to use her voice to support social justice.

“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," Osaka said. “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.”


Hall of Famer Billie Jean King, who won 39 Grand Slam titles and has been a lifelong advocate for gender equality and a pioneer for equality and social justice, was honored with the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award. 


A post shared by Laureus (@laureussport)

Dressed in a red jacket and matching red glasses to honor red clay season, King, a founder of the Women’s Tennis Association, World TeamTennis and the Women’s Sports Foundation, has spent decades as a social justice and civil rights warrior.

Photo credits: Laureus World Sports Awards