Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka was named the Female Athlete of the Year by The Associated Press on Sunday.
The 23-year-old Naomi Osaka grabbed the headlines in 2020 for her achievements both on and off the court. She won her second US Open title in New York, and also became one of the leading voices among athletes - especially from the tennis world - to take a stand against racial injustice and police brutality.
Osaka collected 18 of 35 first-place votes and a total of 71 points to win the award. WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart came in second place with 60 points while Sarah Fuller, an American college soccer goalkeeper and a college football placekicker for the Vanderbilt Commodores, came in third with 24.
The award winners are selected by a poll conducted among a panel of Associated Press sports editors and beat writers. NBA superstar LeBron James was voted Male Athlete of the Year.
Naomi Osaka played only four events in 2020, but made a big impact in almost all of them. She reached the semifinals in Brisbane and the third round of the Australian Open prior to the tennis shutdown in March. In August, she reached the final of the Western & Southern Open, before withdrawing from the final against Victoria Azarenka due to an injury.
Osaka then defeated Azarenka in a high-quality final to win the US Open for the second time in three years.
The Japanese star had taken to the streets during the Black Lives Matter protests during the tennis shutdown. But it was during the Western & Southern Open tournament - usually held in Cincinnati but moved to New York this year - that her actions caught the attention of the entire world.
Osaka announced she wouldn't play her semifinal at the tournament, in the wake of another allegedly unjustified police shooting around that time. Following her decision, the event halted play for one day in a strong display of solidarity.
During her US Open run, every time Naomi Osaka took to the court she wore a mask bearing the name of a different victim. Her goal was to raise awareness about those affected by racial injustice and police brutality.
Billie Jean King congratulates Naomi Osaka for being selected AP Female Athlete of the Year
Billie Jean King, a global icon who has championed the cause of equality across all fields for decades, congratulated Naomi Osaka for the latest honour. King called Osaka and LeBron James "champions on their respective courts, who both use their platforms to advocate for social justice."
Naomi Osaka is ranked No. 3 in the world currently, and was also named the highest earning female athlete in 2020 by Forbes. She has earned a total $37.4 million combined from prize money and endorsements over the past year, beating the previous record tally of $29.7 million collected by former World No. 1 Maria Sharapova in 2015.Published 28 Dec 2020, 13:46 IST