Graham O'Dwyer

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.

Vonn and boyfriend Subban go together like snow and ice

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ARE, Sweden (AP) — Of all the people flying in to attend Lindsey Vonn’s final race — her dad and two siblings, U.S. Ski Team top brass and even Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark — one very significant other will be missing.

P.K. Subban, Vonn’s boyfriend and a defenseman for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, has a game to play in Tennessee on Sunday hours after Vonn bids skiing goodbye in the downhill at the world championships in Sweden.

“I would’ve liked to be there for that and celebrate with her,” Subban told The Associated Press. “I’ve got to do the best I can to support her from afar.”

Earlier this season, when Vonn was out recovering from another in a long line of knee injuries, Subban kept Vonn’s spirits up when she couldn’t even bear to watch a ski race.

“It’s a great thing that I have such an upbeat boyfriend,” Vonn said. “He runs around in a pajama suit making me laugh and that takes my mind off of things. He’s just always positive and happy and maybe a little too energetic at times. But it definitely helped me mentally to be in Nashville and be around him and not focus so much on skiing but just getting healthy and working as hard as I can.”

After divorcing from retired skier Thomas Vonn, Vonn dated Tiger Woods and then NFL coach Kenan Smith .

She and Subban went public with their relationship in June when they walked the red carpet together at the CMT Music Awards in Nashville. Then on July 4th, Subban tweeted a photo of him and Vonnwearing the same U.S.-flag themed women’s bathing suit, asking “who wore it better?”

One of the biggest personalities in hockey, Subban — or “the Subbanator” as he is nicknamed — hosted a TV special after the NHL’s All-Star Skills competition last month, featuring him telling jokes in an opening monologue, talking with some guests and some taped segments.

He also started a digital series called “The P.K. Project” to give viewers a look at his personal life. On the first episode, he had Vonn on a video call while visiting his family — revealing that he’s not the only one in the relationship who goes by initials, with his mom referring to “that lovely L.V.”

Subban “has no idea about ski racing,” said Vonn, the women’s record holder with 82 World Cup wins, trailing only the overall record of 86 held by Stenmark.

“I’ve kind of tried to watch some video with him and he has absolutely no clue. He’s like, ‘I’ll be honest, I don’t care about skiing, I just care about you.’ And that’s kind of cute but it’s kind of annoying at the same time. But I don’t know much about hockey. All I know is forecheck. I don’t even know what that means, really.”

While it may seem strange that Vonn, who grew up in the hockey hotbed of Minnesota, knows so little about her boyfriend’s sport, she says it’s a result of the Minnesota North Stars’ move to Dallas in 1993.

“I grew up pretty much my whole childhood not having a hockey team,” Vonn said. “So just because I’m from Minnesota doesn’t mean I should know hockey.”

So which team does Vonn, who was living in Colorado when she started dating Subban, support? The Colorado Avalanche or Subban’s Predators?

“It’s Colorado. Well, I mean that’s the hard part,” she said. “When I moved to Colorado I watched the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup and I’ve been to a lot of Avalanche games but I can’t really say anything other than Nashville.”

Can Subban ski? “I think he can snowboard but that’s it,” Vonn said, adding that she has no plans to take him out on the slopes and endanger his career. “Oh no. He’s got a job to do. I’m not taking any risks on that one.”

Does Vonn skate? “Oh yeah. I’m from Minnesota.”

One other thing that Vonn and Subban have in common is Olympic gold medals.

Vonn talks to Subban on a video call during a news conference.

Vonn won the downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Subban, who is from Toronto, was on Canada’s team that won the hockey tournament at the 2014 Sochi Games.

And they both compete in the cold.

“I wear my jacket in the stadium,” Vonn said. “He could have played tennis, or an indoor sport that was actually warm, that would have been helpful.”

The day after Vonn retires, she will fly to Nashville to see Subban — and begin her new life as a professional hockey fan.

“I’ll be there like every time now. It will be fun,” she said. “They got two new players the other day, everything looks great for them: Try to get the division title and go for the Stanley Cup. So I’ll be there cheering them on.”

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Walker reported from Nashville, Tenn.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Sloane Stephens wins battle of ‘Frenemies’ at Australian Open

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Sloane Stephens advanced at the Australian Open at the expense of her former doubles partner Timea Babos in a second-round match the women’s tour billed as a battle of the so-called “frenemies.”

Fifth-seeded Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion, dominated the Rod Laver Arena opener 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday but Babos kept her working by saving 18 of the 23 break points she faced.

This is the first time since 2014 that Stephens has put back-to-back wins together at Melbourne Park. She reached the fourth round in 2014, a year after making a run to the semifinals.

She puts the improvement down to feeling more relaxed.

“Yeah, considering I haven’t won a match here in I don’t know how long,” she said. “I’m kind of conquering all the places where I’ve been terrible. So Asia, I’ve won a few matches there, and here.

“I know haven’t done well here the last few years …. (so) putting the emphasis on trying to start the year on a good foot.”

Stephens and Babos combined to win three junior Grand Slam doubles titles – the French, Wimbledon and U.S. Open – in 2010.

Stephens couldn’t remember exactly how the combination was formed in the juniors, but said she knew what to expect from Babos.

“She obviously is an incredible doubles player, last year No. 1 in the world,” she said. “I see her every week. We’re good.”

Stephens will next play No. 31-seeded Petra Martic, who beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-4, 7-5.

In other early women’s matches Wednesday, Ash Barty had seven aces and dropped serve only once in a 6-2, 6-3 win over Wang Yafan to continue her bid to end a title drought for Australian women at the championship that dates to 1978.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova eliminated ninth-seeded Kiki Bertens 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 to reach the third round of a major for the first time since her quarterfinal run here in 2017, and Aliaksandra Sasnovich beat 20th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3.

No. 19-seeded Caroline Garcia advanced 6-3, 6-3 over Zoe Hives.

Advancing on the men’s side were 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych, No. 14-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 19 Nikoloz Basilashvili.

Defending champions Roger Federer and Caroline Wozniacki were in action later Wednesday, as well the No. 2-ranked players Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber.