Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic in major announcement after Aus Open

Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic have been nominated for prestigious Laureus awards. Image: Getty

Ash Barty and Novak Djokovic have been nominated for the prestigious Laureus sportswoman and man of the year awards after their stellar performances in 2021.

Barty is being recognised for her incredible 2021 campaign in which she retained her place as World No.1 while also taking the Wimbledon crown among five titles she won around the world.

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Joining Barty on the shortlist for sportswoman of the year is Aussie swimmer Emma McKeon, the record-breaking Olympic champion.

McKeon won four gold and three bronze medals at the Tokyo Olympics, tying gymnast Maria Gorokhovskaya for most medals ever won by a woman in a single Games.

Barty and McKeon could become the first Australian athlete since Cathy Freeman to win the award following Wednesday's unveiling of the shortlists.

Freeman took the honour in 2001 following her heroics at the previous year's Sydney Olympics where she won the 400 metres at her home Games. In Freeman's award-winning year, golfer Karrie Webb was also shortlisted for the gong.

The Australian pair are facing tough competition from Jamaican triple sprint champion Elaine Thompson-Herah, American track legend Allyson Felix, US swimming superstar Katie Ledecky and Spain's Ballon d'Or-winning footballer Alexia Putellas.

And to emphasise what a breakthrough year it was for Australian sportswomen, fellow Olympic swimming champion Ariarne Titmus has been shortlisted for the 'breakthrough of the year' award.

Titmus made a remarkable impact in 2021, beating the great Ledecky twice at both 200 and 400 metres in Tokyo, while also earning a silver in the 800m final behind the American.

She'll face competition for the 'breakthrough' award from tennis stars Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu, both surprise champions at the US Open, India's Olympic javelin champ Neeraj Chopra, Spanish footballer Pedri and world record-breaking triple jumper Yulimar Rojas.

Emma McKeon and Ariarne Titmus, pictured here at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Emma McKeon and Ariarne Titmus have also been nominated for major awards. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) (Abbie Parr via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic nominated for men's award

On the men's side, the newly-retired Tom Brady is sure to be a sentimental favourite after he was named on the shortlist 24 hours after announcing his retirement from the NFL.

The seven-time Super Bowl winner is nominated along with Djokovic, who won three grand slams last year, Formula One champ Max Verstappen, Kenyan marathon king Eliud Kipchoge, US quintuple Tokyo gold medalist swimmer Caeleb Dressel and Ballon d'Or-winning striker Robert Lewandowski.

The team of the year award will be contested by three football teams - the Argentina and Italy men's national sides and Barcelona Women - as well as NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks.

Retiring Aussie wheelchair tennis legend Dylan Alcott was surprisingly not listed for the award for sportsperson of the year with a disability, even though his female Dutch counterpart Diede de Groot, who achieved the same 'golden slam' of all four grand slams and Paralympic gold, did get nominated.

The nominees were selected by a panel of 1300 sports journalists globally, with the winners to be announced in April following a vote by the 71 Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy.

Tennis fans had a mixed reaction to the news, with some divided over whether Djokovic deserves the top honour due to his vaccination stance.

with AAP

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