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Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka & Dominic Thiem nominated for Laureus awards, Novak Djokovic surprisingly snubbed

Dominic Thiem (L) and Rafael Nadal
Dominic Thiem (L) and Rafael Nadal
Namit Kumar
ANALYST
Modified 24 Feb 2021
News

Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem and Iga Swiatek have all been nominated for the 2020 Laureus World Sports awards, in different categories. However, the ATP and WTA players of the year- Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin - have both been snubbed.

Rafael Nadal has been nominated in the 'Sportsman of the Year' category for his remarkable achievement at Roland Garos, where he equalled Roger Federer's record for most Grand Slams (20) by winning a record-extending 13th French Open title. Nadal also became the first player in history to win four separate Majors without dropping a single set.

Naomi Osaka has picked up a nomination in the 'Sportswoman of the Year' category following her US Open triumph. Dominic Thiem, meanwhile, has been nominated in the 'Breakthrough of the Year' category for finally winning a Slam final on his fourth try.

The Austrian engineered a remarkable turnaround in the final at New York, defeating Alexander Zverev after being two sets and a break down. He also reached the finals of the Australian Open and the ATP Finals, losing both in tight deciding sets against Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev respectively.

Joining Dominic Thiem in the 'Breakthrough' category is Iga Swiatek, the winner of the 2020 French Open. The 19-year-old Pole became the lowest-ranked (54th) Roland Garros champion ever with her dream run in Paris.

What could be behind Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin's omissions from the Laureus nominations?

Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open
Novak Djokovic at the 2020 Australian Open

Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin were the undisputed players of the year on the men's and women's tours respectively in 2020.

Novak Djokovic won two Masters 1000 titles - Rome and Cincinnati - after picking up the Australian Open trophy for a record-extending eighth time. He also reached the French Open final in September, before ending the year ranked World No. 1 for a record-equaling sixth time.

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Fellow Australian Open champion and Roland Garros finalist Sofia Kenin had a remarkable year too. Kenin finished the season as World No. 4 and picked up another title in Lyon.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka

However, it seems that on-field performances were not the only basis for the Laureus Sports Awards nominations this year. The tennis season was largely derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and as such the off-court activities of the players came to the fore like never before.

Naomi Osaka's work in promoting social justice and fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement made her one of the most influential athletes in the entire world. Osaka's decision to forfeit a match at the Cincinnati event as a mark of protest, and later to don masks at the US Open bearing the names of victims of police brutality, made her a household name.

On the men's side, Rafael Nadal's seminal achievement at Roland Garros - in conditions that were entirely unsuitable to him - seems to have taken precedence over Novak Djokovic's trophy-laden year.

Besides, Djokovic was also involved in a lot of off-court controversies in 2020. The most prominent of those - the Adria Tour disaster, where several players tested positive for COVID-19 - might have swayed the jury against his inclusion.

Published 24 Feb 2021, 22:51 IST
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