Sports

Naomi Osaka Is Now The Highest-Paid Female Athlete Ever, Beating Out Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka burst into the global spotlight in 2018, when the Japanese tennis player defeated the legendary Serena Williams in the U.S. Open Final to win her first Grand Slam at age 20. Now, just two years later, the 22-year-old has broken the all-time earnings record for a female athlete in a single year after making $37.4 million dollars in the last twelve months from prize money and endorsements, according to Forbes.

The highest-earning female athletes since 1990, when Forbes began tracking the data, have all been tennis players. Maria Sharapova, who retired from tennis earlier this year, previously held the all-time single year earnings record after garnering $29.7 million in 2015. Before Osaka arrived onto the elite tennis scene, Sharapova and Williams were the top-earning female athletes of the decade. This year, Osaka beat out 38-year-old Williams — who has been the highest-paid female athlete for the past four years — by $1.4 million. Forbes is set to release the complete list of the 100 highest-paid athletes next week, but reported that Osaka ranks No. 29 while 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams is No. 33, the first time in history that two women have made it onto the list.

Osaka’s young career is full of historic firsts. The 22-year-old, who was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, moved to the U.S. when she was three years old and entered the professional tennis circuit in 2014. Two years later, she cracked the WTA top 50 and earned the Newcomer of the Year award. In 2018, she won her first title at Indian Wells, becoming the youngest player to win in a decade. That summer she won her first Grand Slam — becoming the first Japanese player to do so — in an emotional U.S. Open final that left both her and Williams in tears. That same year, she became the first Asian player to be ranked No. 1 in the world.

Osaka was set to represent Japan at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which have since been postponed to next summer due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, and signed endorsement deals with several Olympic sponsors ahead of the Games. Represented by IMG, Osaka currently has 15 sponsorship deals with global brands like Nike, Nissan Motors and Japanese skincare company, Shiseido. Her current Nike deal, which paid her more than $10 million last year according to Forbes, runs through 2025.

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