Naomi Osaka has surpassed Serena Williams by setting a new record for most money earned by a female athlete over a 12-month period, according to forbes.com on Friday, who stated the Japanese made $37.4 million in earnings and endorsements, $1.4 million more than the previous record.
To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story. Combine that with being youthful and bicultural — two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences — and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon. David Carter, Sports Business Professor, University of Southern California
Williams has held the title of highest-paid female athlete for the past four years, with the previous high-water mark being $29.7 million earned in a single year achieved by Maria Sharapova in 2015.
Osaka, 22, a two-time Grand Slam champion and a former World No 1 in the WTA rankings, is a huge star in Japan, and is listed at No 29 overall, with Williams at No 33, on the Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-earning athletes.
Since Forbes began tracking female athletes’ income figures in 1990, tennis players have been the highest-earning female athletes every year.
The complete list, due to be released next week, however, has not featured two women since 2016, according to the magazine.
While Williams has led the way among women in each of the past four years, Sharapova ruled for the five years before that.
“To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told Forbes.
“Combine that with being youthful and bicultural — two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences — and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.”
According to the WTA, Osaka has won about $14.5 million in career prize money, a little less than half of which was earned in 2019.
She became World No 1 in January last year after winning the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, but has since dropped to No 10.
Nevertheless, she is still commanding a staggering level of income through sponsorship deals with the likes of Mastercard and Nissan.
A key factor in Osaka’s appeal is her nationality, having lived in the United States since she was three years old and now representing the nation of her birth, Japan, and becoming the poster child of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
She is a popular endorsement figure in Japan ahead of the now-postponed Games and figures to remain a sponsorship dream through next year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020.
She signed an apparel deal with Nike in 2019 that paid her $10 million over the past year and runs through 2025, and also has endorsement contracts with Nissan and racket-maker Yonex, among others.
Osaka replaced Manchester United footballer Paul Pogba as the world’s most marketable athlete last year, according to sports business media company SportsPro.