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19 Feb 2008 09:59
Top-ranked tennis stars Roger Federer and Justine Henin received the Laureus Awards on Monday as the world’s top sportsman and woman for 2007.
Federer won an unprecedented fourth Laureus, all in succession, while Henin was voted top for the first time.
“I am thankful the jury didn’t think three was enough,” Federer said.
Last season, Federer won three of the four Grand Slams, including his fifth straight Wimbledon to equal Bjorn Borg’s Open era record, and the Swiss became the first man in 90 years to win America’s Grand Slam for four successive years.
Henin, meanwhile, became the first tennis player to win 10 titles in a season since Martina Hingis 10 years ago despite skipping the 2007 Australian Open after splitting with her husband.
“It was tough year personally,” Henin said. “Big issues, but I kept fighting and it has been the best season of my career so far.
“I enjoy my game so much, I remain healthy, away from injuries and every time I was on the court I enjoyed it so much and a year that I will never forget for sure.”
The winners were selected by members of the Laureus Sports Academy.
South Africa won the world team of the year award after going unbeaten to win the Rugby World Cup.
“This award goes to all the players who can’t be here tonight,” South Africa fullback Percy Montgomery said.
Other winners included Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton for the world breakthrough of the year award and British marathon runner Paula Radcliffe for the world comeback of the year award.
Hamilton finished second in the F1 drivers’ standings in his rookie season.
“I don’t think I deserved it as much as some of the other nominees and I hope I can keep my country proud and do well in the future,” the 22-year-old Hamilton said. “I’m approaching the season with the same determination and I want to push harder.”
Radcliffe won the New York Marathon after two years away from competition following childbirth.
“Paula is renowned as a great fighter,” Laureus World Sports Academy chairperson Edwin Moses said. “When someone is out of running for two years when they are in their 30s you do wonder if they are going to be able to come back as fit and as strong, but Paula certainly showed she was when she won in New York.
“I wish her all the best for the Beijing Olympics.” - Sapa-AP
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