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Osaka, Billie Jean King get Laureus World Sports Awards

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Monaco, May 8 (IANS) World No. 2 tennis player Naomi Osaka has been named ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ at the Laureus World Sports Awards for her achievements on and off the court, while tennis legend Billie Jean King was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by the Laureus Academy.

This is Osaka’s second recognition at the Laureus Sports Awards. She won the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ award in 2019 after a season that saw her win her first WTA title at the BNP Paribas Open and begin her ascent to the top of the game with her first US Open title that fall.

Osaka was also nominated for ‘Sportswoman of the Year’ in 2020 after a season in which she captured her first Australian Open title and become the first Japanese player to ascend to World No.1.

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“I’ve watched so many of my role models win this (Sportswoman) award, so it definitely means a lot now to be holding it,” Osaka said on Friday. “I am so happy to receive it. It really means a lot to me.”

Coming out of a season interrupted by the sport’s shutdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Osaka emerged as the dominant force on hard courts. The 24-year-old marched through the US summer season, making the Western & Southern Open final before capturing the US Open, her third major title.

She continued her form in 2021, winning back-to-back Slams for the second time in her career after capturing her fourth major, at the Australian Open in February.

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Osaka’s impact was not limited between the tramlines. During the Western & Southern Open, the Japanese joined in the athlete-led protests regarding racial injustice in America, a decision that led to a one-day stoppage in play. At the US Open, in an effort to raise awareness about racial injustice, Osaka wore seven masks with seven names of black victims of racial violence.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova presented Billie Jean King with her ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’, in recognition of her excellence on the tennis court as well as her life’s work in pursuit of gender and racial equality.

–IANS

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akm/kh

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