Osaka becomes world's highest-earning female athlete

Tanya Simon
May 22, 2020

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has become the world's highest-paid female athlete, displacing USA rival Serena Williams at the top of the list.

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.

Sports business professor David Carter said that Osaka's "great back story" - her family moved from Japan to NY when she was three, where her father tried to emulate Williams' father, Richard, by teaching her tennis from a young age - was an integral part of her allure for advertisers.

Osaka, 22, earned $37.4 million in prize money and endorsements over the last 12 months, supplanting Williams as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, according to Forbes.

The complete list, due to be released next week, has not featured two women since 2016, according to the magazine.

Osaka burst on the scene in 2018 when she beat Williams at the U.S. Open for her first major title at 20 years old.

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Roger Federer was the highest earner in the sport past year, collecting an astonishing $93.4 million that included enormous backing from the likes of clothing line Uniqlo, with whom he has a $300 million long-term deal. The 38-year-old, 23-time Grand Slam victor did just fine, earning $36 million for the second-biggest payday ever for a female athlete.

Williams, 38, had been the world's highest-paid female athlete in each of the past four years.

Part of the stable of management group IMG, Osaka now has 15 sponsorship deals, including with global brands such as Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex.

Nike signed an apparel deal with Osaka last year that paid her $10 million in the past year and runs through 2025.

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

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