Taiwanese golf sensation Yani Tseng received any early Christmas present this year — she has been crowned the Female Athlete of the Year by the US Sports Academy, in conjunction with USA Today and NBC Sports.
No. 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic is her male counterpart in the annual awards, chosen by hundreds of thousands of sports fans worldwide in online balloting. The ballot included 12 men and 12 women from 15 countries and lasted from Dec. 1 to Monday.
It was the 27th consecutive year the academy in Daphne, Alabama, has handed out the awards.
Tseng, from Taoyuan County’s Gueishan Township, had been named the academy’s Female Athlete of the Month twice this year, following stellar performances in July and September.
She had a historic season, claiming her fifth major championship this year at the age of 22, which made her the youngest golfer, male or female, to do so. When Pak Se-ri and Tiger Woods won their fourth major titles, they were both 24 years old. Tseng’s victory in the British Open was her second straight and had at the time been her fourth victory out of the past five women’s major tournaments.
Tseng finished the year at 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. She collected seven LPGA titles, including two majors, as well as four other international events, and has now spent 45 straight weeks at the top of the Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Djokovic completed one of the best seasons in men’s tennis history by winning 10 titles, including three Grand Slam titles — the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US 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: US$10.6 million.
He registered a 64-2 match record this year, losing only one full, five-set match to Roger Federer in the French Open semi-finals. The loss ended his 41-match winning streak from the beginning of 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.
The runner-up to Tseng in the Female Athlete of the Year voting was Japanese figure skater Miki Ando, who had won the women’s World Figure Skating Championship in Moscow by overcoming last year’s Olympic gold medalist Kim Yu-na. It was Ando’s second world title.
Finishing second in the men’s category was Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, who won both the American League’s Most Valuable Player and the Cy Young Award this year.
In third place were Philippine boxer Manny Pacquiao, who hasn’t lost a fight in six years, and Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters, who won the Australian Open in January, which was the fourth major of her career and catapulted the 27-year-old to the world No. 1 ranking in women’s tennis. The victory was Clijsters’ third Grand Slam singles title in six tries since returning from a two-year sabbatical.