Thursday July 12th, 2012

Fan favorite Maria Sharapova won the ESPY award for Best Female Tennis Player. (PHIL MCCARTEN/UPI/Landov)

Let's get this much out of the way: what exactly is the purpose of an awards show for sports? If I want to know who the "best" tennis player is, I'm pretty sure there are some easily accessible player rankings I can click on. Also, you know, scoreboard.

But I digress.

Maria Sharapova and Novak Djokovic won the ESPYs for Best Female Tennis Player and Best Male Tennis Player at the awards show on July 11. If you're anything like me you were left wondering how exactly these awards are determined. Sharapova wasn't close to being the best player in 2011 and there's a good argument to be made that she's not the best player in 2012.

A little poke around Wikipedia reveals the following:

- The awards are based on the calendar year preceding a given annual ceremony (i.e., 2011)

- The players are nominated by sportswriters, broadcasters, sports executives, and sportspersons, collectively experts; or ESPN personalities also vote

- The final voting for the awards is left entirely to fans

So there you go. There's no doubt that Djokovic deserves the award for best tennis player in 2011 -- in fact, there's a strong argument to be made that he should have won Best Male Athlete as well, given The Streak, winning three of four Slams, and beating either Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, two all-time greats, in order to win them (other nominees were LeBron James, Justin Verlander, and Aaron Rodgers). That's a level of domination throughout a season no one can even come close to. And he lost to LeBron James, who led the Miami Heat to the NBA title just a month ago. So now I'm all confused. Is the award for the "calendar year" (where LeBron won nothing) or "the season" preceding the award ceremony? Then again, maybe tennis fans should be happy that tennis even got a mention alongside the NBA, MLB, and NFL. That's not nothing. But can anyone argue with a straight face that Sharapova was the best female tennis player in the world in 2011 (other nominees were Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, and Samantha Stosur)? Two of the other nominees actually won Slams (including Kvitova who kinda beat Sharapova at Wimbedon). But hey, the award got Sharapova to show up in L.A. to pick up her trophy in a stunning blue J. Mendell gown to boot. So mission accomplished, ESPN!

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