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Naomi Osaka named 'breakthrough athlete' at World Sport Awards

Kyodo, AP

Naomi Osaka was named the recipient of the Breakthrough of the Year Award at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monte Carlo, Monaco, on Monday for her momentous 2018 season in which she won her first tour and Grand Slam singles titles.

“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.”

The 21-year-old is the first Japanese athlete to receive a Laureus award. The annual ceremony honors individuals and teams for sporting achievements from the previous calendar year.

Osaka won her first WTA singles title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last March and defeated childhood idol and 23-time major champion Serena Williams at the U.S. Open in September to claim her maiden Grand Slam victory.

She followed those successes with a win against Czech Petra Kvitova in January’s Australian Open final and became the first Asian tennis player to reach No. 1 in the world rankings soon after.

Among other awards, reigning men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia was named Sportsman of the Year for winning his fourth Wimbledon and third U.S. Open titles in 2018.

American gymnast Simone Biles won Sportswoman of the Year for the second time for racking up four gold medals, a silver and a bronze at the 2018 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.

Yuzuru Hanyu was nominated for the Comeback of the Year award for winning a second consecutive Olympic gold upon his return from an ankle injury, but was beaten out by Tiger Woods, who earned his first win on the PGA Tour in five seasons following a series of back surgeries and scandals in his personal life.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Skier Lindsey Vonn, who retired during the recent world championships, took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career.