The 2019 season-capping victory for tennis star Ashleigh Barty was one she will not likely soon forget. Her triumph at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen, China, in November gave her a fourth 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 ace at No. 3 on this year’s ranking of the highest-paid female athletes, with a total haul of $13.1 million. She ranks well below global icon Serena Williams, who landed at No. 2 with $36 million, $32 million of which was paid out from endorsement deals. Both were eclipsed by Naomi Osaka, who earned just $3.4 million in prize money but landed at No. 1 with $37.4 million thanks to her own massive sponsor roster.
For female athletes out to get rich from their dominance, tennis is the go-to sport. Nine of the world’s ten highest-paid female athletes make their living with a racket, with the only exception this year being Alex Morgan, co-captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, who lands at No. 10 with $4.6 million. The aces can thank Rosie Casals.
Casals, whose 112 doubles tournament titles are the second-highest total ever, was one of nine female tennis players, dubbed the Original 9, who broke ranks with the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association a half-century ago to protest the dollar difference between male and female prize money, which reached as high as 12-to-1 at events. The fight—which led to players including Casals and her longtime doubles partner Billie Jean King being banned from events sanctioned by the USLTA—gave birth to the Virginia Slims Tour, which later morphed into the WTA.
“We knew what we were doing was very important, but in some ways, we didn’t have anything to lose,” says Casals, who will celebrate 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 U.S. Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer gender pay equality, in 1973, but it would be 28 years before another Slam followed suit: the Australian Open in 2001. The biggest tennis events now pay equal prize money to men and women; Wimbledon in 2007 was the last Grand Slam to update its payouts. But it was a long road for women’s tennis players, who faced the same fight for better pay that athletes in soccer, basketball and hockey have tackled in recent years.
Outside of prize money, Osaka and Williams remain tennis’ only female superstars, with Osaka setting 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 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 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open, including Nike NKE +1.2%, which committed roughly $10 million annually to win her away from Adidas. Osaka now has 15 endorsement partners, including global brands like Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex.
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-Cola KO +0.4%, Volkswagen and AT&T. Her latest is an Alex Morgan Barbie Doll, as part of the brand’s Role Model Series.
Morgan’s fellow U.S. women’s national soccer team co-captain Megan Rapinoe just missed the top ten with an estimated $4.2 million. Her profile and earnings soared after she led the U.S. to the 2019 World Cup championship as the tournament’s Golden Boot winner and became a cultural icon following attacks by President Donald Trump. In addition to a lucrative book deal, she cashed in with a flurry of speaker engagements, with fees approaching six figures. Rapinoe also endorses Nike, Budweiser, BodyArmor, Visa and at least a half-dozen more brands.
“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.”
Our earnings tally looks at prize money, salaries, bonuses, endorsements and appearance fees between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020. The time frame means the coronavirus had only a marginal impact as tennis players missed out on prize money from just two and a half months of missed events. But earnings will be down significantly in next year’s accounting. In addition to the cancellation of Wimbledon, the WTA canceled its seven events in China scheduled for October and November, including the lucrative WTA Finals. Prize money for the events in China would have totaled roughly $30 million. Almost all players will also have reductions in their apparel and racket contracts for not meeting minimum play requirements.
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. Among all tennis players, only Roger Federer made more than Osaka from endorsements.
2. Serena Williams
Total Earnings: $36 million
Prize Money: $4 million
Endorsements: $32 million
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 woman 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 U.S. 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’s 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 tennis star’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 semifinals of both Wimbledon and the U.S. 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 are the most in women’s tennis. Her most lucrative sponsorship deal is 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
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. Nike had previously been criticized for a lack of maternity protection in its contracts with female athletes. Morgan gave birth to her first child in May. She is launching her own media company, with more details expected by the end of the year.
-Kurt Badenhausen,Forbes Staff
Download issues of Forbes Africa
- Single Digital Issue: James Mwangi Cover - Forbes Africa Aug/Sep2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa June/July 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa April 2020 - 30 Under 30 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa March 2020 R50.00
- Single Digital Issue: Forbes Africa February 2020 R50.00