With $37.4 million in 12 months, Naomi Osaka leapfrogs Serena Williams to become world's highest-paid female athlete

Avinash Sharma

Tokyo, May 22: Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has leapfrogged US rival Serena Williams to become the world's highest-paid female athlete by making $37.4 million (34.3 million euros) in the past 12 months for an earnings record, Forbes magazine reported Friday (May 22).

Tennis players have topped the annual list of female top income earners every year since Forbes began tracking women athletes' income figures in 1990.

The 22-year-old tennis sensation, a two-time Grand Slam champion, edged Williams by $1.4 million in prize money and endorsement income over the past year.

Her accumulated earnings are the biggest total over a 12-month period for a female athlete, beating the previous tally of $29.7m Maria Sharapova achieved in 2015. Sharapova retired in February.

Osaka ranks 29th in the overall list, with Williams 33rd marking the first time since 2016 two women have made the 100 highest-paid athletes.

"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."

The complete list, due to be released next week, has not featured two women since 2016, according to the magazine. Williams, 38, had been the world's highest-paid female athlete in each of the past four years. Sharapova ruled for the five years before that. Williams had annual incomes from $18 million to $29 million and has collected nearly $300 million, much of it in endorsement deals.

After making her major breakthrough at Flushing Meadows, Osaka went on to win the next slam at 2019 Australian Open but a dip in form has seen her slip from world number one to 10th in the WTA rankings. Osaka has major sponsorship deals with the likes of Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex.

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.

Nike signed an apparel deal with Osaka last year that paid her $10 million in the past year and runs through 2025. Other endorsement deals include Nissan and Yonex racquets.

(With Agency inputs)

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