Gabriela Sabatini has been presented with the International Tennis Federation's highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award ©ITF/Paul Zimmer

Gabriela Sabatini has been presented with the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) highest accolade, the Philippe Chatrier Award, for her outstanding contribution to tennis both on and off the court.

The Argentine, who won the women's singles title at the US Open in 1990, was honoured at the ITF World Champions Dinner held on the sidelines of this year's French Open at Pavillon Gabriel in Paris. 

She enjoyed a hugely successful career that also included winning the women's doubles title at Wimbledon in 1988, playing alongside 22-times Grand Slam singles champion Steffi Graf of Germany. 

That was the same year in which Sabatini claimed the women's singles silver medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul after losing to Graf in the final. 

She retired in October 1996 having won 27 singles titles and 14 doubles titles, and reached her highest ranking of world number three in 1989.

Sabatini, who was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2006, has since worked with organisations to help children and the poor, including the United Nations Children's Fund.

"Thank you very much to the ITF for the 2019 Philippe Chatrier Award," Sabatini said.

"I feel very honoured to receive it. 

"Being here at Roland Garros is very special to me. 

"It was here where I made my first big achievement; winning aged 14 years old the junior tournament. 

"This title was important both in my tennis career and in my life. 

"At that moment I was too little to realise what was happening. 

"I was just happy knowing that I was going to play tennis and I ended up at this junior tournament, winning Roland Garros and becoming the number one in the world in juniors. 

"I remember immediately after that I went back to my home country Argentina with my father and when we arrived at the airport I saw a lot of people waiting outside. 

"I asked my father 'why are there so many people?', and it turned out that those people were waiting for me. 

"That day I felt that what I wanted to do was to play tennis."

Novak Djokovic was crowned the ITF world champion in men's singles ©Getty Images
Novak Djokovic was crowned the ITF world champion in men's singles ©Getty Images

"During my career I went through difficult moments: travelling by myself around the world, coping with different pressures and missing my country and friends. 

"I was living a different life than any other girl would have at that age. 

"But in the end, all that effort was worth it. 

"Tennis gave me wings; it has strengthened me physically and mentally. 

"I learned to work hard – very hard for what I wanted – with passion, love and discipline. 

"I had the opportunity to travel around the world to see new cultures, new people and make friends from all over. 

"It gave me the temperament to confront tough moments. 

"I learned from winning, but more from losing. 

"I will always be grateful to tennis. 

"More than 20 years have gone by since my retirement and the mark that tennis has left on me will be forever. 

"Tennis and sport in general teaches values; it brings us together through sharing the same passion and gives us the opportunity to grow, to challenge ourselves and become better, not only as an athlete, but more importantly as a person."

The 2018 roll of honour also includes men’s singles world champion Novak Djokovic and women’s singles world champion Simona Halep, both of whom were named winners in December.

Serbia's Djokovic scooped the men's prize for the sixth time, while Romanian Halep was a maiden winner of the women's accolade.

The ITF does not hold a World Championships but selects champions after considering results from the calendar year.

Added weight is given to the four Grand Slam tournaments – the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open – as well as the international team competitions – the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup.

Djokovic enjoyed a remarkable year which saw him recover from elbow surgery to win four titles, including Wimbledon and the US Open.

Romania's Simona Halep was named the ITF world champion in women's singles ©ITF/Paul Zimmer
Romania's Simona Halep was named the ITF world champion in women's singles ©ITF/Paul Zimmer

He climbed from 22nd in the world to top the rankings at the close of the year and has joined American great Pete Sampras as the only player to have won the prize six times.

"I would like to thank the ITF for this wonderful award – the ITF World Champion for 2018," said Djokovic, who plays Germany's Alexander Zverev in the French Open quarter-finals today as he continues his bid to successfully follow up his triumph at the 2019 Australian Open.

"It has been an amazing comeback season for me.

"It started with elbow surgery and it took several months for me to recover, get back on the right track and find the game that would allow me – later on in the year – to have arguably the best six months that I’ve had in my career, crowning it with three Grand Slam titles. 

"Hopefully, I can keep that streak going here in Paris."

Halep won her maiden Grand Slam title at the 2018 French Open and also reached the final in Australia.

She spent 40 weeks of the year as world number one.

"I am so grateful for this trophy," Halep said.

"It is very important for me and it will be with my top trophies; Grand Slam, number one and this one."

The ITF also crowned American pair Mike Bryan and Jack Sock as men's doubles world champions after they won Wimbledon, the US Open and the season-ending Association of Tennis Professionals Finals.

Bryan has now won the prize 12 times with Sock recognised for the first time.

French Open and Wimbledon winners Barbora Krejčíková and Kateřina Siniaková were the women's doubles world champions after also helping Czech Republic lift the Fed Cup.

The other world champions were Chinese Taipei’s Tseng Chun-hsin in junior boys, France’s Clara Burel in junior girls, Japan’s Shingo Kunieda in men’s wheelchair, the Netherlands’ Diede de Groot in women’s wheelchair and Australia’s Dylan Alcott in quad wheelchair.

ITF President David Haggerty presented the trophies to the winners in recognition of their outstanding performances in 2018.

The ITF World Champions Dinner was compered by former British number one Annabel Croft.