Social media allows individual athletes to increase their fanbases more than ever in 2019. As women’s sports continue to skyrocket in popularity, it’s interesting to look at how their pay stacks up. While there are still discrepancies over what women make compared to men, it’s also telling to view the list of highest-paid female athletes. Every single entry on the top 10 list is a tennis player.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 highest-paid female athletes, as reported by Forbes based on 2018 earnings, as well as a possible explanation of why tennis dominates this list.
10. Garbine Muguruza/Venus Williams – $5.9 million
Garbine Muguruza’s prize money this year is $2.4 million, but she’s made over $3.5 million in endorsements from high-profile clients such as Evian, Rolex, Beats, and Adidas.
Venus Williams made under $1 million in prize money but netted most of her income from speaking engagements, endorsements, and a newly-launched YouTube channel focused on lifestyle.
9. Elina Svitolina – $6.1 million
Elina Svitolina had a great year. She won the WTA Finals title to end 2018 and finished with a No. 4 overall ranking. That win alone earned her $2.4 million to go along with her other tour earnings and her lucrative endorsement deals from Wilson and Nike.
8. Karolina Pliskova – $6.3 million
Karolina Pliskova has failed to reach a Grand Slam event final in almost three years. She did earn $4.6 million in prize money. She also has an endorsement deal with FILA.
7. Maria Sharapova – $7 million
While Maria Sharapova has seen better days on the tennis court, she’s still been able to make a decent living off her brand. Sharapova earned $1 million on the court and $6 million off it. She has endorsement deals with Nike, Tag Heuer, and Evian.
6. Caroline Wozniacki – $7.5 million
Caroline Wozniacki is another player who had a great year. She earned $3.5 million on the court and $4 million off it. She won three events and was in the WTA Tour’s top three ranked players all year.
5. Sloane Stephens – $9.6 million
Of Sloane Stephens’ $9.6 million earnings, only $4.1 million came in prize money. $5.5 million of it came from endorsements, proving that Stephens is one of the sport’s most marketable young stars. Her deal with Nike is one of the biggest shoe deals in tennis as well.
4. Simona Halep – $10.2 million
Simona Halep completed her second straight year with a Grand Slam victory. Her on-court excellence has led to $6.2 million with $4 million additional funds coming in via sponsorships. Nike and Mercedes-Benz are two of the companies Halep endorses.
3. Angelique Kerber – $11.8 million
The winner of Wimbledon in 2018, Angelique Kerber made $5.3 million in prize money. She added $6.5 million in endorsements. She has deals with big-name brands such as Adidas, Porsche, and Rolex.
2. Naomi Osaka – $24.3 million
Last year’s U.S. Open win over Serena Williams was huge for Naomi Osaka. It essentially made her a household name. Her shocking upset was part of a banner year where she made north of $24 million.
1. Serena Williams – $29.2 million
No surprise here – Serena Williams is one of the most recognizable, successful athletes on the planet. Her massive success in her sport has brought in numerous lucrative endorsement deals.
Why do tennis players dominate the list of highest-paid female athletes?
Why do tennis players make up the entire list? The bountiful amount of prize money helps. According to Forbes, the total amount of prize money on the WTA Tour will be $179 million in 2019. That trounces any other women’s sport. The popularity of women’s tennis also drives endorsement totals, which are also high.
Going forward, it would be surprising if anyone unseated Osaka and Serena at the top of the list. They are currently the two best women’s players in the world by a rather large margin and will likely retain those top spots in 2020. Serena especially is almost assured to be at the top once again. Even if she were to take time off for personal reasons or due to an injury, she’s built such a strong brand that her bottom line likely wouldn’t suffer in the slightest.