If F1’s popularity is enjoying a fresh surge behind Verstappen and Hamilton’s showdowns, tennis has enjoyed a generation of unmatched excellence served up by the Big Three: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and our second Nominee, Novak Djokovic. The four-time winner of this award closed out the year level with his two great rivals on 20 Grand Slam titles after wins at the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon. In Paris, he defeated Nadal – the King of Clay – in an epic semi-final before coming back from two sets down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final and become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the four Grand Slam events at least twice. Only defeat by Daniil Medvedev – a Nominee for the Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award – in New York denied Djokovic a calendar Grand Slam.
At this stage in the career of Robert Lewandowski, his opponents are not only the defenders usually left scratching their heads as he celebrates another goal, but the two men who have long stood in his way for football’s individual honours: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. As yet more records fell to Bayern Munich and Poland’s striker, he made a case that he may be the greatest pure goalscorer the game has seen. In the final minute of the final game of the Bundesliga season, he scored his 41st goal in that competition, beating a record that had stood since 1972. That belonged to Gerd Muller, the Bayern forward whose records he has spent a career chasing down and who died in 2021, three months after seeing Lewandowski lead his former club to a ninth successive Bundesliga crown and win the European Golden Shoe as the continent’s top goalscorer – the first time he had claimed that title.