The world’s No. 1-ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, and the world’s No.1-ranked women’s golfer, Yani Tseng, are the United States Sports Academy’s 2011 Male and Female Athletes of the Year.
These two top-ranked standouts, who dominated their sports during the past season, were chosen by hundreds of thousands of sports fans worldwide in online balloting. It is the 27th consecutive year that the Academy has conducted the Athlete of the Year award in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
Djokovic completed one of the best seasons in men’s tennis history by winning 10-titles, including three Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. The 24-year-old Serbian also captured a record-breaking five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles, and set a record for the most prize money won in a single season on the ATP World Tour, earning $10.6 million.
During 2011, Djokovic registered a remarkable 64-2 match record. He lost only one full, five-set match to Roger Federer in the French Open semifinals. That loss ended his 41-match winning streak to begin the season, the best start since Ivan Lendl won 29 in a row to start 1986. Djokovic’s first ever Wimbledon title vaulted him to the No. 1 ranking in the world in July. He followed it with his first U.S. Open victory over Spain’s Rafael Nadal. Djokovic became only the sixth player in the open era to win three majors in a calendar year.
Tseng, a Taiwanese golfer, also had a history-making season. She claimed her fifth major championship this year at the age of 22, making her the youngest golfer, male or female, to do so. Tseng made history by winning the Women’s British Open at Carnoustie, Scotland. When Se Ri Pak (LPGA) and Tiger Woods (PGA) won their fourth major titles, they were both 24 years old. Tseng’s victory in the British Open was her second straight and at the time the victory was her fourth out of the last five women’s major tournaments.
This year, Tseng finished No. 1 in scoring average, driving distance, birdies and rounds under par en route to her second consecutive Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Player of the Year award. The world’s No. 1-ranked women’s golfer recorded seven LPGA titles, including two majors, plus won four other international events.
Sports fans from across the world decided who the most outstanding male and female athletes were in 2011 through online voting on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu. The ballot included 12 males and 12 females and voting lasted from Thursday, Dec. 1 to Monday, Dec. 19.
The Athlete of the Year ballot is the culmination of the Academy’s yearlong Athlete of the Month program, which recognizes the accomplishments of men and women in sports around the globe. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month nomination and ballot voting processes done online. The votes, along with the Academy’s selection committee, choose the male and female winners.
In 2010, the Male Athlete of the Year was Spain’s star soccer player David Villa and the Female Athlete of the Year was South Korea’s No. 1 figure skater Yuna Kim. They both dominated the voting, which received more than 12 votes per second from around the world at one point.
The 2011 online ballot included a mixture of athletes from 15 different countries representing a wide variety of popular sports. Their performances stood out and provided some of the best highlights and stories in sports during the past year.
Finishing second in the male Athlete of the Year category was Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander. The American baseball player won both the American League’s Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award in 2011. The overpowering right-hander, who threw his second no-hitter this year, finished the season with the AL’s pitching triple crown by going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA and 250 strikeouts. Verlander, who was the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year, joined the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Don Newcombe as the only player to win all three major awards during their careers.
The runner up to Tseng in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was Japanese figure skater Miki Ando. In an inspiring performance, Ando won the women’s World Figure Skating Championship in Moscow by overcoming 2010 Olympic gold medalist Yuna Kim, plus the earthquake and tsunami devastation back in her homeland of Japan. It was Ando’s second world title.
Third place winners were Philippines boxer Manny Pacquiao and Belgium tennis star Kim Clijsters, who narrowly overcame a handful of other athletes in the worldwide online voting. Pacquiao successfully defended his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title by defeating Sugar Shane Mosley and Juan Manuel Marquez this year. The Filipino has won 15 consecutive fights and hasn’t lost in six years. Meanwhile, Clijsters won her first Australian Open title in January, which was the fourth major of her career and catapulted the 27-year-old to the world’s No. 1-ranking in women’s tennis. In addition, the victory was Clijsters’ third Grand Slam singles title in six tries since returning from a two-year sabbatical.