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Novak Djokovic credits hike with turnaround

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Novak Djokovic put his career back on track this year, and he credits a mind-cleansing hiking trip with his wife after the French Open with the extraordinary turnaround.

The Serbian tennis great went from winning all four Grand Slam tournaments in a row in 2015-16 to a two-year drought of major titles while bothered by an elbow injury. That all changed at Wimbledon in July, when the 31-year-old Djokovic won his fourth title at the All England Club. He followed that with a third U.S. Open championship, bringing his total to 14 majors.

“After the trip in nature, everything came together,” Djokovic said Monday after a training session in Belgrade. “The finals in Queens, the titles at Wimbledon, Cincinnati and the U.S. Open. … In May, who would have thought I would be in this position.”

Following those big wins, Djokovic has taken some time to rest. He even pulled out of this week’s tournament in Beijing to recuperate further.

“The U.S. Open was physically and mentally one of the most demanding Grand Slams for me,” Djokovic said. “When you win a Slam, it’s like climbing Mount Everest. You need a pause to recharge your batteries.”

However, Djokovic said he was planning to play in Shanghai next week, with the goal of possibly overtaking Rafael Nadal at the top-ranked player by the end of the year. To do that, he may end up playing in Basel, Switzerland, and Vienna, Austria, before the Paris Masters.

“I have to see whether I’ll get a wild card from the organizers,” Djokovic said. “But first, I want to play my best in Shanghai, and then we’ll see.”

Djokovic wins World Sportsman of the Year at Laureus World Sports Awards

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MONACO  — Novak Djokovic, Tiger Woods, Lindsey Vonn and the France national soccer team were among the winners at the Laureus World Sports Awards, with Woods claiming the Comeback Award 19 years after he was first recognized.

Djokovic matched Usain Bolt’s record by being named World Sportsman of the Year for the fourth time after winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He also earned the honor in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

Woods, who won the inaugural World Sportsman of the Year award in 2000, won the Tour Championship in September for his 80th PGA Tour title and his first since August 2013.

Vonn, who retired during the recent Alpine skiing world championships , took home the Spirit of Sport Award, which is given to an athlete for relentless dedication to his or her career, and France was honored for winning the World Cup in July.

Simone Biles was named World Sportswoman of the Year for winning four gold, one silver and one bronze medal at the gymnastics world championships. Naomi Osaka won the Breakthrough Award for winning the U.S. Open and Chloe Kim was named the World Action Sportsperson of the Year.

The awards were given in recognition of outstanding sports performance in 2018.

Wawrinka loses to Monfils in first final since knee surgeries

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Three-time major champion Stan Wawrinka’s rebuilt knee couldn’t quite carry him to the title in Rotterdam on Sunday.

Wawrinka lost his first final since his comeback a year ago from left knee surgeries, succumbing 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 to Gael Monfils of France at the ABN AMRO World Tournament.

It was the Frenchman’s eighth career title.

“I tried a couple of times here. I lost the final in 2016,” Monfils told Dutch national broadcaster NOS courtside. He said it was special to win a tournament that his idol, Arthur Ashe, also won. Ashe won back-to-back titles in Rotterdam in 1975 and ’76.

Unseeded Wawrinka reached the final by beating top-seeded Kei Nishikori in three sets on Saturday.

But the Swiss finally ran out of steam in the final set as Monfils stepped up his game.

“In the third set I was a little bit more aggressive and I go a bit more for my shots, I served bigger and that helped me a lot,” Monfils said.

Wawrinka was going for his 17th career title and second in Rotterdam, after winning in 2015.

It was his first final since the 2017 French Open, where he previously met Monfils in the fourth round.

Monfils also needed three sets to overcome fifth-seeded Daniil Medvedev in the semifinals, but outlasted Wawrinka in a match that took 1 hour, 44 minutes.

After they shared the first two sets, Monfils was more consistent than Wawrinka in the decisive third.

Already trailing 4-2, Wawrinka hit three unforced errors to lose the seventh game and allow Monfils to serve out the match.