Yahoo Philippines recognizes the athletes and sports personalities who kept Filipinos engrossed in 2019.
Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao achieved a personal milestone when he recently graduated with a degree in political science and government administration from the University of Makati in the Philippines. Among his numerous achievements, he said getting a diploma is one of the most memorable experiences in his life. The native of General Santos is also active in acting. Pacquiao will play General Miguel Malvar in the movie “Malvar,” one of the prominent Filipino generals in the Philippine American War. Pacquiao continues to defy father time in the boxing ring, fighting twice in 2019. He defeated Adrien Broner in January and Keith Thurman in July. Pacquiao turned 41 recently but he is looking for opponents in his next title bout in 2020.
The son of parents with Filipino roots, Frenchman Alphonse Francis Areola stock in soccer continues to rise. On loan from Paris Saint-German (PSG), he is currently the first choice goalkeeper for Real Madrid in La Liga, Spain’s top flight football competition. A product of the elite French football academy of PSG, Areola has represented the French national team at every youth level. He is a member of the French squad that lifted the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and the 2018 FIFA World Cup trophies, playing alongside marquee football stars such as Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, and Kylian Mbappé. Areola was invited to don the Philippine Azkals jersey in 2011 by team manager Dan Palami.
Born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, Naomi Osaka is the reigning women's singles champion at the Australian Open. She defeated Petra Kvitová of the Czech Republic in three sets of a thrilling final. Osaka has been ranked number one by the Women's Tennis Association, and is the first Asian player to hold the top ranking in singles.
Prior to the Australian Open, Osaka’s rise to prominence in women’s tennis saw her lift the US Open trophy in 2018 after defeating powerhouse Serena Williams.
In March 2018, Osaka made history when she became the first Japanese to win the Indian Wells Masters in California.
2019 is an historic year for basketball superstar Kawhi Leornard. He led the Toronto Raptors to its first ever National Basketball Association (NBA) championship in June by dispatching the Golden State Warriors with a 4–2 series victory. Leonard was named NBA Finals MVP for the second time in his career, and joins a select group of players to win the award with two different teams. Leonard is now chasing history with the Los Angeles Clippers, after joining Paul George during free agency. He is aiming to win his third NBA championship with his third franchise – a feat that has not been accomplished by any star player.
Rafael Nadal had another stellar year in tennis. Nadal won the French Open and the US Open in 2019, bringing his tally to 19 Grand Slam titles, the second-most for male tennis players.
The Mallorca native led Spain to win 2019 Davis Cup Finals – the sixth title for Spain. He delivered a stellar performance by winning all eight of his matches in singles and doubles, extending his winning streak in Davis Cup singles matches to 29, and winning the tournament’s most valuable player award.
Nadal secured the year-end no.1 ranking for the fourth time in his career, joining an elite list of players with the distinction.
There was much speculation about Kevin Durant’s looming free agency status in 2019.
With that back drop, Durant helped power the Golden State Warriors to the playoffs. He recorded playoff career-high points twice against the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the Western Conference.
Durant injured his right calf during Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Houston Rockets. He missed nine games, including the entire Western Conference Finals sweep against the Portland Trailblazers. Despite Durant’s injury, the Warriors marched on to its fifth consecutive NBA finals, meeting the Eastern Conference champions Toronto Raptors.
In the Warriors’ quest for a three-peat, Durant returned from injury in Game 5 of the Finals. His season was abruptly ended after injuring his Achilles tendon. The Kawhi Leonard-led Raptors closed out the series in Game 6, putting the breaks on the Warriors’ grand slam bid.
Durant, a free agent, would then depart for the Brooklyn Nets in July joining Kyrie Irving.
LeBron James’ first season with the Los Angeles Lakers can be described as dismal. The team did not make it to the playoffs after James missed 17 straight games due to injury – a career-high for him. The Lakers failed to make it to the postseason, marking the first time LeBron missed the playoffs since 2005. James would also fail to make it to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.
James help recruited marquee player Anthony Davis to join the Purple and Gold team. The signing appears to be inspired as James and Davis is powering the Lakers to the top of the standings in the NBA Western Conference.
Tiger Woods ruled 2019. He started the year a winner and ended it the same way he started it.
Woods’ memorable year is marked by his winning the 2019 Masters Tournament – his first major championship in 11 years and first green jacket in 14 years.
Woods’ etched his name at the top of PGA Tour’s all-time win list with 82 career victories after winning the ZOZO Championship, tying Sam Snead.
Woods captained the United States to victory over a strong International Team in the Presidents Cup for his 27th career win in the competition, surpassing Phil Mickelson’s record in the biennial event.
Though Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer didn’t win any of the four Grand Slam titles, he marked 2019 with some personal achievements.
Federer became the second man in the Open Era after Jimmy Connors to capture 100 singles title by winning the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final in March.
Federer posted his 1,200th career win in the Miami Open also in March, closing the gap on Connors’ 1,274 record in the Open Era.
Federer reached his record 12th Wimbledon final by eliminating long-time rival Rafael Nadal in the semifinals.
Perhaps 2019 is a forgettable year for Golden State Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry. Although he set several personal records, Curry and an injury-ravaged Warriors faltered in the NBA Finals against Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors.
Curry would lose an All-Star teammate in Kevin Durant who decided to sign for the Brooklyn Nets during free agency. It could have been worse had another All-Star free agent Klay Thompson, who tore his ACL in Game of the NBA Finals, not agreed to stay with the Warriors with a supermax contract.
With Durant gone and Thompson not expected to play till 2020, Curry was expected to carry the scoring for the Warriors. Curry would succumb to injury himself after breaking his hand in a game against the Phoenix Suns. The injury decommissioned Curry for at least three months.
With Curry and Thompson out, the Warriors are struggling in the current season.
Note: This list was compiled and reviewed prior to the 30th Southeast Asian Games.