Forbes has published its latest Highest-Paid Female Athletes report and tennis stars dominate, with 9 players featuring in a top 10 list, headed by Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams second.
Among all tennis players, only Roger Federer made more than Osaka from endorsements. Forbes spokesman
Forbes’ earnings tally looks at prize money, salaries, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020, a time frame in which coronavirus had only a marginal impact as tennis players missed out on prize money from just two and a half months of missed events.
Earnings, however, will be down significantly in next year’s accounting because, in addition to the cancellation of Wimbledon, the WTA was forced to scrap its seven events in China scheduled for October and November, including the lucrative WTA Finals.
Prize money for the events in China would have totalled roughly $30 million, while almost all players face reductions in their apparel and racket contracts for not meeting minimum play requirements.
Ashleigh Barty’s 2019 season, including winning the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China, in November, gave her a 4th title for the year and paid her $4.4 million, a record for any men’s or women’s tennis event, which pushed her winnings for 2019 to $11.3 million.
The prize money lands the Australian at No 3 on the list, with a total haul of $13.1 million, ranking well below Williams with $36 million, but both are eclipsed by Naomi Osaka, who earned just $37.4 million thanks to her massive sponsor deals.
The only non-tennis player in the top 10 is Alex Morgan, co-captain of the US women’s national soccer team, who came in at No 10 with $4.6 million.
Fifty years after the Original 9 broke ranks with the US Lawn Tennis Association in protest over the difference in prize money for men and women, which was as high as 12-to-1 at events, and formed the Virginia Slims Tour that later morphed into the WTA, the gender gap has narrowed while the women players have accelerated their earnings well beyond that of other sports.
“We knew what we were doing was very important, but in some ways, we didn’t have anything to lose,” said Rosie Casals, one of the Original 9 who will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the tour’s first event next month. “I’m proud to see where women’s tennis is 50 years later and to know that we were instrumental in the success of the game today.”
The US Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money in 1973, but it would be 28 years before another major followed suit and that was the Australian Open in 2001.
The biggest tennis events now pay equal prize money, with Wimbledon the last Grand Slam to offer this in 2007.
It has been a long haul for female tennis players, who faced the same fight for better pay that athletes in soccer, basketball and hockey have tackled in recent years.
Forbes had previously confirmed that two-time Grand Slam winner Osaka beat 23-time major champion Williams to the title of highest-paid female athlete for the past year.
Osaka, who won the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, raked in $37.4 million (about £28m on the current exchange rate) with $34m (£26m) coming from endorsements deals with the likes of Nike, Nissin, Procter & Gamble and All Nippon while $3.4m (£2.6m) came from prize money.
According to Forbes: “Among all tennis players, only Roger Federer made more than Osaka from endorsements.”
The 22-year-old edged American Williams who earned $36m with $32m coming from endorsements alone, with French Open champion and current World No 1 Barty a new entrant in third place having earned $13.1m last year.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep ($10.9m) and US Open winner Bianca Andreescu ($8.9m) complete the top five and are followed by two-time Grand Slam winner Garbiñe Muguruza, World No 5 Elina Svitolina, Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin and three-time major champion Angelique Kerber.
Outside of prize money, Osaka set a record for female athletes this year, beating the earnings record set by Maria Sharapova in 2015 when she earned $29.7 million and unseating Williams, who has held the No 1 position for the past four years.
Osaka scored a slew of new endorsement deals following her back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the 2018 US Open and the 2019 Australian Open, including Nike, which committed roughly $10 million annually to win her away from Adidas.
The Japanese now has 15 endorsement partners, including global brands like Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex.
Interestingly, the list of highest-paid female athletes has been topped by a tennis player every year since Forbes started tracking the data in 1990.
Others who have headed the list in the past include Steffi Graf, Martina Hingis, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova.
Roger Federer topped the overall list for men and women combined with an estimated $106.3 million in total earnings over the last year..
Morgan is the lone non-tennis player to crack the top ten, thanks to a massive endorsement portfolio worth ten times as much as her roughly $400,000 on-field salary and bonus last year.
She has more than a dozen current sponsors, including Nike, Coca-ColaKO, Volkswagen and AT&T. Her latest is an Alex Morgan Barbie Doll, as part of the brand’s Role Model Series.
“We can’t be complacent,” Casals says about the ongoing pay disparity between men and women. “We must continue to improve the exposure and profile of the women’s game so the value continues to rise.
“We were fortunate, but we need more women in places of power in business.”
The Top 10
1. Naomi Osaka
- Total Earnings: $37.4 million
- Prize Money: $3.4 million
- Endorsements: $34 million
Osaka held dual citizenship growing up but made the wise choice to represent Japan ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, now scheduled for 2021 The decision made her an even hotter commodity for Olympic sponsors, like Procter & Gamble PG +0.7%, All Nippon Airways and Nissin, which signed endorsement deals with Osaka to use her around marketing for the Games.
2. Serena Williams
- Total Earnings: $36 million
- Prize Money: $4 million
- Endorsements: $32 million 3.
Endorsement partners like Nike, Gatorade, Procter & Gamble and Beats get a boost from Serena’s massive social media following of nearly 40 million fans across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, are part of an investment group that was awarded the newest National Women’s Soccer League expansion team in Los Angeles this summer. Their daughter, Olympia, is also part of the group and at 2 years old became the youngest known professional sports team owner.
3. Ashleigh Barty
- Total Earnings: $13.1 million
- Prize Money: $10.1 million
- Endorsements: $3 million
Barty won her first career Slam at the 2019 French Open, triggering lucrative bonuses from sponsors Fila and Head. She also endorses Rado, Jaguar, Vegemite, Banana Boat and Esmi. In June 2019, she became the first Australian women ranked No 1 since 1976.
4. Simona Halep
- Total Earnings: $10.9 million
- Prize Money: $6.9 million
- Endorsements: $4 million
Halep added her second career Slam title at Wimbledon last year, and her $36.5 million in career prize money ranks fourth all-time [Williams is first at $93 million]. Halep’s sponsors include global brands Nike, Wilson, Hublot and Avon, as well as several more in her native Romania.
5. Bianca Andreescu
- Total Earnings: $8.9 million
- Prize Money: $4.9 million
- Endorsements: $4 million
Andreescu made history as the first Canadian, male or female, to win a Grand Slam event when she captured the 2019 US Open. The title and her No 5 year-end world ranking triggered lucrative bonuses from sponsor Nike, which renegotiated her contract earlier in the year. Since the Open title, she has added deals with Rolex, Gatorade, Canadian paper company Royale and Sleep Country mattresses.
6. Garbiñe Muguruza
- Total Earnings: $6.6 million
- Prize Money: $2.1 million
- Endorsements: $4.5 million
The Spanish-Venezuelan’s runner-up finish at this year’s Australian Open was only her second time advancing past the fourth round of a Grand Slam since her 2017 Wimbledon title, but she maintains a strong endorsement portfolio with Adidas, Beats, Rolex, Cesar insurance, Babolat and Maui Jim sunglasses. Her Adidas deal is one of the bigger apparel deals in the sport.
7. Elina Svitolina
- Total Earnings: $6.4 million
- Prize Money: $5.4 million
- Endorsements: $1 million
The Ukrainian reached the semi-finals of both Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019, and she matched her career-high No 3 world ranking. Svitolina counts Nike, Wilson, Hublot, Damilano Barolo wines and EAFit nutrition products as sponsors.
8. Sofia Kenin
- Total Earnings: $5.8 million
- Prize Money: $4.8 million
- Endorsements: $1 million
Kenin won the Australian Open in January, building on her WTA Most Improved Player Award in 2019. At 21, she was the youngest American to win a Slam since Serena Williams in 2002. Her main sponsors are Fila and Babolat.
9. Angelique Kerber
- Total Earnings: $5.3 million
- Prize Money: $1.3 million
- Endorsements: $4 million
Kerber’s three Grand Slam wins since the start of 2016 prompted her most lucrative sponsorship deal with Adidas, which has partnered with the German tennis star since 2013. Other endorsements include Yonex, Generali, Porsche and Lavazza.
10. Alex Morgan
- Total Earnings: $4.6 million
- Salary/bonus: $400,000
- Endorsements: $4.2 million
Morgan extended her deal with Nike after the 2019 World Cup with a clause that guaranteed pay for 18 months even if she was not playing after Nike had previously been criticised for a lack of maternity protection in its contracts with female athletes. Morgan gave birth to her first child in May and is launching her own media company.