World No 1 tennis player Novak Djokovic crowned a winning return to the courts after surgery with the Laureus sportsman of the year award on Monday, while American gymnast Simone Biles won the sportswoman of the year prize.
Serbian Djokovic, who 12 months ago had elbow surgery, won Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2018, before lifting this year's Australian Open crown, to add to his tally of Grand Slam singles titles and reclaim top spot in the rankings.
With his record seventh crown at Melbourne Park, Djokovic moved ahead of Pete Sampras into third on the men's all-time list of Grand Slam title winners (15), just two behind Rafa Nadal. Roger Federer is still out in front with 20.
"I did think about leaving tennis," Djokovic said on Monday.
"I did not find myself in a good balance. It took me several months to find that purpose and meaning again. This award reflects and symbolises this journey.
"Reflecting on the journey it seems like a fairytale story."
The 31-year-old fought off competition from American basketball star LeBron James, Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge and French football player Kylian Mbappe to become the Sportsman of the Year.
The Serbian bagged the honour for the fourth time having previously won the award in 2012, 2015 and 2016.
“A Laureus Award is what every athlete wants to win, and this one is a huge honour for me. Being among so many sporting greats here tonight gives this award a special meaning for me,” WTA quoted Djokovic, as saying.
“Last year was an incredible season for me. Returning from injury to win Wimbledon and the US Open is something I’ll remember forever,” he added.
Multiple Olympic champion Biles in November became the all-time leading world gymnastics championship gold medal winner with a record 14 golds.
With 20 overall medals at the worlds, Biles, who has also won four Olympic golds, tied Russia's Svetlana Khorkina for the most by a female gymnast in world championships competition. Her all-around world title was her fourth, also a record.
The comeback of the year award was handed to US golfer Tiger Woods, who silenced even his harshest critics when he earned what some consider to be one of the greatest victories of his career at last year's Tour Championship season finale.
Woods, who collected the last of his 14 majors at the 2008 US Open, has had plenty of health-related setbacks, having to endure several knee and back surgeries, and his career seemed to be nearing its end in 2017.
Japan's world number one women's tennis player Naomi Osaka, who lifted her first Grand Slam title at the US Open last year, and went on to claim the 2019 Australian Open, won the breakthrough of the year award.
Osaka beat Ana Carrasco (motor cycling), Sofia Goggia (skiing), Jakob Ingebrigtsen (athletics), Geraint Thomas (cycling) and Brianna Williams (athletics) to claim the award.
“I want to give a huge thank you to the Laureus Academy for giving me the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year award. I want to thank my coaching staff and my family for being with me for these entire years,” Osaka said.
“I also want to (acknowledge) the other nominees, and thank the Laureus Academy for nominating me for such a prestigious award,” she added.
Seventeen-year-old American snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim, who became the youngest woman to win a Winter Olympics snowboarding gold medal at the Pyeongchang Games, won the 'Action Sportsperson of the Year' Award.
Slovak alpine skier Henrieta Farkasova and her guide Natalia Subrtova won the 'Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability' Award. They have become the most decorated Winter Paralympian pair in Pyeongchang with four gold medals in vision-impaired Downhill, Giant Slalom, Super Combined and Super-G, plus silver in Slalom.
Legendary football manager Arsene Wenger received the Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to football during his 22 years as manager of Arsenal.
Wenger received a guard of honour at the ceremony from legendary Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and football legends Alessandro Del Piero, Luis Figo, Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps, Cafu and Alex Scott.