DAPHNE, Ala. – The world’s most celebrated tennis players dominated this year’s United States Sports Academy Athletes of the Year Award. The Academy is proud to announce Novak Djokovic, professional tennis player from Serbia as the Male Athlete of the Year and Maria Sharapova, professional tennis player from Russia as the Female Athlete of the Year.

Male Athlete of the Year, Djokovic won his fourth Sony Open Title by defeating the number-one player, Rafael Nadal, with a 6-3, 6-3 win. In addition, Djokovic defeated Roger Federer 6-7 (7), 6-4, 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4 to win the 2014 Wimbledon singles title. The win was his second Wimbledon title and seventh grand slam title. Ranked No. 1 in the world, Novak Djokovic was recently named 2014 ITF Men’s World Champion. The Serbian star is one of only four men to be named World Champion four or more times, alongside Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras and Roger Federer.

Female Athlete of the Year, Sharapova, captured the Madrid Open Championship title defeating Simona Halep 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. She also won the 2014 French Open Championship with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-4 victory also over Halep. It was her 2nd French Open title and 5th Grand Slam win. She is currently ranked second in the world to Serena Williams of the United States.

Djokovic and Sharapova dominated the voting in the 30th year of the Academy’s Awards of Sport program. Online voting took place on the Academy’s website at www.ussa.edu. from Dec. 1-24. The announcement on Christmas Eve is an early holiday present to the winners.

Finishing second in the Male Athlete of the Year category was Kenyan marathon runner, Dennis Kimetto. This year Kimetto shattered the marathon world record by 26 seconds with the winning time of 2:02:57 seconds at the 41st BMW Berlin Marathon. He was the first man in the world to break 2:03 for that distance.

The runner up to Sharapova was Genzebe Dibaba, an Ethiopian middle and long-distance runner. Dibaba incredibly set three separate world records within 15 days. The first record, which Dibaba beat by three seconds, is the 1500 meter world record with a time of 3:55:17. The second record was broken in the women’s indoor 3000 meters by nearly seven seconds with a time of 8:55:04 and the third broken was the two-mile record with a time of 9:00:48, which is nearly six seconds faster than the previous record holder. Genzebe Dibaba is the sister of Olympic Champion Tirunesh, and Olympian Ejegayehu.

The third place winner on the men’s ballot was Argentinian Lionel Messi who was the second place finisher on last year’s ballot. Messi, professional football player, broke the career-scoring record in La Liga, widely regarded as one of the best football leagues in the world. Messi broke the record with his 27th hat trick, three goals in one game, in La Liga play, giving him a total of 253 La Liga goals. Messi’s hat trick led Barcelona to a victory over their rivals, Real Madrid.

Finishing third on the women’s side is United States swimmer Katie Ledecky taking rival Missy Franklin’s place who was third in last year’s ballot. Ledecky broke the world record in the 1500 meter freestyle by 6 seconds at the Pan Pacific Championships this year in the world-record time of 15 minutes and 28.36 seconds. She also broke her own world record for the 400-meter freestyle with the time of 3 minutes, 58.37 seconds. A high school senior who has committed to swim at Stanford University next year, was also honored as USA Swimming’s 2014 Female Athlete of the Year at the Golden Goggle Awards.

The United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Male and Female Athletes of the Year were Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who won the French and U.S. Opens, and South Korea’s Yuna Kim, who also won the award four years ago for winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics

This year’s ballot included 12 men and 12 women hailing from 12 different countries, including two athletes each from Ethiopia and Russia. The nominees represented strong competition from athletes from around the world in a wide variety of popular winter and summer sports. Their performances stood out and provided some of the best highlights and stories in sports in 2014.

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 from around the globe. Each month, the public is invited to participate in the worldwide Athlete of the Month program by nominating and voting for athletes online every month. The male and female monthly winners become eligible for the prestigious Athlete of the Year honor. The monthly winners are announced on the Academy’s website and in the online edition of The Sport Update.

The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission sports university created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy, call 251-626-3303 or visit www.ussa.edu.