Djokovic, Germany’s World Cup team win Laureus awards
SHANGHAI (AP) Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic won the sportsman of the year prize at the Laureus Sports Awards on Wednesday, while Germany’s World Cup-winning squad received the best team award.
Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final to win his seventh Grand Slam title and supplant Rafael Nadal as No. 1 in the world.
”In general, it probably has been my best year so far in my life,” Djokovic, who also won in 2012, said in a video message.
The Serbian star also reached the French Open final, losing to Nadal, and won seven titles en route to posting a 61-8 match record for the year. He has spent 142 weeks as the top-ranked men’s player, passing Nadal this week to move into sixth place on the all-time list.
He was picked for the Laureus Award over Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, golfer Rory McIlroy, soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo, motorcyclist Marc Marquez and pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie.
Germany routed host Brazil 7-1 in the semifinals of the World Cup before Mario Goetze scored the game-winning goal in extra time to beat Argentina 1-0 for the team’s fourth title and first in 24 years.
”It’s incredible how this fourth star was such a symbol for our fans in Germany. Everyone was dreaming about this fourth star,” said Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff, who accepted the award.
The other nominees for the team award were Mercedes’ Formula One team, the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, the Davis Cup-winning Switzerland team, the European Ryder Cup team, and Champions League winner Real Madrid.
Runner Genzebe Dibaba won sportswoman of the year for breaking three world records in different events in a span of two weeks.
The 24-year-old Ethiopian set indoor records in the 1,500-meter, 3,000-meter and two-mile events in Europe last February. She joined Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt as the only athletes to break three world marks in three events in two weeks.
Her sister, three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba, was nominated for the Laureus Award before, but didn’t win.
”Two family members being nominees for this big award,” she said, ”our family is very lucky.”
Dibaba won the award over tennis stars Li Na and Serena Williams, shot putter Valerie Adams, cross-country skier Marit Bjorgen and skier Tina Maze.
The Laureus Awards were held for the first time in China and brought out many of the country’s top sports stars, including a heavily pregnant Li, basketball player Yao Ming and Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang.
Li, who captured her second Grand Slam title at the 2014 Australian Open and rose to No. 2 in the world, won the Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award. She talked about how difficult it was to retire from the sport eight months after her triumph in Melbourne because of recurring knee injuries.
”I never believed I would retire last year. I had a very good beginning of the year, big chance to catch No. 1 in the world, but my body cannot handle it anymore,” she said. ”It was a very tough decision for me.”
South African rugby player Schalk Burger was awarded the comeback of the year prize after fighting off bacterial meningitis to return to the Springboks squad. Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo was named breakthrough athlete of the year for capturing three Grand Prix races in his first year driving for Red Bull.
Wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, who captured the Boston, Chicago, London and New York marathons last year, won the disability award.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a huge celebrity in China because of the popularity of his television series ”Sherlock,” provided a few moments of levity as host of the awards, at one point playing table tennis against Deng Yaping, China’s most decorated player, who was armed with a wooden spoon.
The winners were chosen by the 50 sports stars in the Laureus sports academy, whose members include tennis players Boris Becker and Martina Navratilova, gymnast Nadia Comaneci, golfer Jack Nicklaus, soccer player Bobby Charlton and runner Sebastian Coe.