The dominant forces in tennis and soccer were honored on Monday, with Novak Djokovic winning the top individual prize and Barcelona capturing the team trophy at this year’s Laureus World Sports Awards.
The top-ranked Djokovic won sportsman of the year at the ceremony in London, one week after the Serbian triumphed at the Australian Open to become the fifth man in the Open Era to win three Grand Slam titles in a row.
He is already targeting a fourth at the French Open in Paris in June.
“I have to stay optimistic, believe in what I can do, believe in my abilities and believe that I can win on all surfaces,” Djokovic said. “I have proven on numerous occasions that I can really be one of the candidates to win every Grand Slam on every surface. I need to keep that up. Roland Garros is the one to win this year.”
Barcelona were recognized as the best team after a stellar campaign last year in which Pep Guardiola’s players won the Spanish league and the Champions League.
Kenyan distance runner Vivian Cheruiyot, who won the 5,000m and 10,000m titles at the world championships last year, took the sportswoman’s award.
Darren Clarke was honored with the comeback of the year award. The 43-year-old Northern Irishman won his first golf major by capturing The Open at Royal St George’s last year.
Compatriot Rory McIlroy won the breakthrough of the year award for the 22-year-old’s eight-shot win at the US Open at Congressional, becoming the second-youngest player to win a major since 1934.
“It was a great year to win my first major and to get into the top three in the world rankings,” McIlroy said. “I think 2012 is going to be a really exciting year. I’d love to back up my US Open win with another major this year and hopefully try and get to No. 1.”
Bobby Charlton was supposed to attend to receive the lifetime achievement award 54 years to the day after surviving the Munich air disaster that killed eight members of his Manchester United team.
However, the 74-year-old Charlton, who won the 1966 World Cup with England and the European Cup two years later with United, fell ill on Sunday and returned to Manchester on Monday for unspecified minor surgery, Laureus said.
Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson accepted the award on Charlton’s behalf.
“Sir Bobby is fine, but it was felt he should go back to Manchester — he is very annoyed not to be here to receive this award,” Ferguson said.
Double amputee Oscar Pistorius won the disability award. The South African 400m specialist won a silver medal in the relay at the able-bodied world championships last year in Daegu, South Korea.
The winners were chosen by 47 sports stars who make up the Laureus World Sports Academy.