With the 2013 U.S. Open underway in New York, now is the perfect time to do a countdown of the highest-paid female athletes in the world. Why is that, you ask? Because of the 10 top earners in women’s sports, seven are tennis players.
It’s hard for me to put my finger on why, exactly, women’s tennis is such a dominant economic force. Sure, the women are often attractive, a fact which lends itself to good TV ratings and good sponsor appeal. But the women who play beach volleyball also have a lot of sex appeal. Yet it takes the best beach volleyball players an entire career to earn just half of what the no. 10 woman on this list made in 2013. So obviously it’s not just sex appeal, but an athletic appeal as well.
In any case, whatever the reason, tennis is the dominant woman’s sport in the world these days, followed (apparently) by golf and figure skating. Oh, and NASCAR, which isn’t strictly a women’s sport, but obviously you-know-who is on the list yet again.
If you’re ready to see the complete list, just start clicking on those arrows…
Prize Money: $1,000,000
Total Earnings: $5,500,000
Paula Creamer, a.k.a. "The Pink Panther," has nine LPGA Tour wins on her resume, including the U.S. Open in 2010, so she's definitely a skilled golfer. However, it's not just her golf game that's made her the most popular player on the Tour. That has just as much (or, if you want to be really cynical, more) to do with the fact that she is attractive and has a vibrant personality. And, in turn, this has led to some pretty lucrative endorsement deals with Taylor Made and Citizen, just to name a few.
10. Paula Creamer
Prize Money: $1,000,000
Total Earnings: $7,000,000
In many ways, Ana Ivanovic is the Paula Creamer of tennis. Like Creamer, Ivanovic is definitely a very good tennis player. She's got one major championship on her resume (the 2008 French Open) and is currently ranked no. 14 in the world. However, also like Creamer, Ivanovic also has not won a major championship in a while and is, obviously, extremely attractive.
Perhaps it's no coincidence that these two women are tied with the least amount of money earned from actually playing their sport in the last year, barely cracking a million.
9. Ana Ivanovic
Prize Money: $4,900,000
Total Earnings: $7,400,000
From the two female athletes with the least amount of earnings from actually playing their sport we move to the female athlete with the least amount of earnings from endorsements. Agnieszka Radwanska has yet to win a Grand Slam, but she's got a number of quarterfinal and final finishes on her resume and she's been one of the strongest players on tour over the last several years. When she made the finals of Wimbledon in 2012 it was a huge deal in Poland because she was the first Polish player in the open era to reach the finals of a Grand Slam event.
Unfortunately, Radwanska simply hasn't been able to capitalize on her fame in her home country the way others have because Poland is not exactly an economic powerhouse in Europe these days.
That being said, her $2.5 million is exactly $2.5 million more than I made in endorsements last year.
8. Agnieszka Radwanska
Prize Money: $2,600,000
Total Earnings: $13,600,000
Three years ago, in 2010, this Danish-born daughter of Polish immigrants looked like she would be the next big thing in women's tennis, as she rose all the way to the no. 1 ranking in the world. However, she didn't fare very well in the Grand Slams, and since then she hasn't done any better.
These days you can find her at no. 8 spot on the women's rankings, which is still very good. Nevertheless, there's no doubt that her endorsement earnings are not commensurate with her success on the court. While she "only" earned $2.6 million on the court last year, she pulled in a whopping $11 million from her sponsors, which puts her fourth among the women on this list in that department.
7. Caroline Wozniacki
Prize Money: unknown
Total Earnings: $14,000,000
Apparently no one knows where Kim's sponsor earning end and her figure skating earnings begin. However, we do know that she's the headliner of the All That Skate figure skating show, and that she has endorsement deals with the likes of Samsung, Korean Air, and KB Financial—all three of which are based in Kim's native South Korea.
Apparently becoming the first woman to win gold at the Olympics in 2010 made her pretty popular over there.
6. Kim Yuna
Total Earnings: $15,000,000
Somewhat surprisingly, Danica Patrick is only fourth among the women on this list when it comes to money earned from endorsements. Of course, the former IndyCar and current NASCAR driver still made $9,000,000 for being a decent driver who also happens to be pretty, which isn't bad.
5. Danica Patrick
Prize Money: $6,700,000
Total Earnings: $15,700,000
Just when it looked like Caroline Wozniacki was going to take over women's tennis, along came Belarussian Victoria Azarenka to surpass her in just about every way. In just the last three seasons, Azarenka has made it to the semifinals of the French and Wimbledon, the finals of the U.S. Open, and has won the Aussie Open twice. That's why she currently holds the no. 2 ranking in the world and has earned a solid $6.7 million in prize money and an even more solid $9 million in endorsements.
If her country had more than a billion people in it and were a burgeoning economic powerhouse like that of our next female athlete on the list, she's probably have earned even more money in endorsements...
4. Victoria Azarenka
Prize Money: $3,200,000
Total Earnings: $18,200,000
Li Na is a fantastic tennis player who has achieved remarkable success relatively late in her career. After some quarterfinal appearances at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open between 2006 and 2010, Na earned her first Grand Slam finals appearance at the Aussie in 2011 and then followed that up by winning the French Open title...at the ripe old age of 29.
These days Na still finds herself among the top 10 women's players in the world (no. 6 to be precise), so it's not like she's dropped off significantly. However, her whopping $15 million in endorsements has a lot more to do with her hero status in her native China than her current form. After all, she wasn't just the first Chinese woman to win a Grand Slam. She was the first Asian player, male or female, to even appear in a Grand Slam final. And that's kind of a big deal.
3. Li Na
Prize Money: $8,500,000
Total Earnings: $20,500,000
No surprise here. Serena mounted a huge comeback from injury in 2012, winning her fifth Wimbledon title and her fourth U.S. Open title. Then she followed that off by dominating the woman's game in 2013, winning her second French Open title. Now she's back at the very top of the world rankings and looking to win the U.S. Open for the fifth time.
Serena's endorsement deals, though third overall, still pale in comparison to the number one athlete on this list. However, in pure winnings/prize money/salaray, she is second to none.
2. Serena Williams
Prize Money: $6,000,000
Total Earnings: $29,000,000
Maria Sharapova has never dominated the women's game like Serena has. However, she has been probably the second-best player over the last decade or so, having won all four of the Grand Slams one time, and currently finding herself at no. 3 in the rankings. Add this success to the fact that Sharapova is ridiculously beautiful and what you get is the Platonic ideal of a spokesperson—a gorgeous winner. That's why Maria Sharapova has earned $8 million more in endorsements than any other athlete on this list.