Naomi Osaka becomes highest-paid sportswoman in history… despite being ranked 10th in the world

Naomi Osaka - PAUL GROVER
Naomi Osaka – PAUL GROVER

Naomi Osaka has become the world’s highest-paid sportswoman, with her $37.4 million (£30.7m) earnings the largest ever total for a female athlete over 12 months.

The Japanese two-time major champion beat Maria Sharapova’s previous record of $29.7m (£24.4m) over a year-long period in 2015 to top Forbes’ annual list for the first time, just edging out Serena Williams by $1.4m (£1.2m).

Either Sharapova or Williams have topped the female rankings every year since 2003, but 22-year-old Osaka ended their streak on Friday, thanks in part to a $10m (£8.2m) paycheque from kit sponsor Nike this year.

Osaka ranked second to Williams in the 2019 list, when she became only the fourth female athlete to earn more than $20m (£16.4m) in 12 months. She had never made the list of top 100 highest-paid athletes – both male and female – previously but her takings since June 2019 now place her 29th overall, with Williams the only other woman to feature in 33rd.

Full results of the other 98 male athletes’ earnings are scheduled to be released next week, but this marks the first time since 2016 that two sportswomen have made the top 100.

Since Forbes began tracking the data in 1990, only tennis players have topped the female list, with lucrative endorsement deals in the sport a major part of that.

Despite only currently ranking as the 10th best female tennis player in the world, Osaka’s US Open and Australian Open wins in 2018 and 2019 catapulted her to stardom. The result has been major endorsement deals secured this past year, and she now has 15 partners, including global brands like Nike, Nissan Motor, Shiseido and Yonex.