Tennis

Naomi Osaka passes Serena Williams as highest-earning female athlete

AP, AFP-JIJI

Naomi Osaka has been a Grand Slam champion and No. 1 in the WTA rankings. Now she’s No. 1 on another list: top-earning female athlete.

According to a story posted on Forbes.com on Friday, the 22-year-old tennis star earned $37.4 million over the past 12 months from endorsements and prize money, eclipsing Serena Williams in that span.

Forbes said Osaka’s total is a one-year record for a female athlete, topping the previous mark of $29.7 million set by Maria Sharapova in 2015.

Osaka is No. 29 overall, with Williams at No. 33, on Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-earning athletes. The complete list, due to be released next week, has not featured two women since 2016, according to the magazine.

Williams had led the way among women 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.”

Osaka was a popular endorsement figure in Japan ahead of the now-postponed Tokyo Olympics and figures to remain a sponsorship dream through next year’s rescheduled games.

She signed an apparel deal with Nike in 2019 that paid her $10 million over the past year and runs through 2025. She also has endorsement deals with Nissan and racquet-maker Yonex, among others.

Since Forbes began tracking female athletes’ income figures in 1990, tennis players have been the highest-earning female athletes each year.

Osaka beat Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open final and then added the 2019 Australian Open title, allowing her to become the first player from Asia to be No. 1 in the women’s or men’s tennis rankings.

Osaka has won about $14.5 million in career prize money, according to the WTA, a little less than half of which was earned in 2019.

Coronavirus banner