KEY POINTS

  • Naomi Osaka is top female athlete earner in 2020
  • Williams was the highest female athlete earner for four years
  • Osaka has sponsorship deals with Nike, MasterCard and Nissan

Naomi Osaka has finally ended Serena Williams’ reign on top of the money game this year, after the latter’s domination in the past four years. 

Osaka has earned around $37.4 million in 2020 while Williams pocketed $36 million. This makes the two sit on the number one and number two spot, respectively, on Forbes’ highest paid female athletes 2020 list. It is quite interesting to note that nine of the top ten are all female tennis players, with football player Alex Morgan occupying the 10th spot with $4.6 million earnings this year. 

With the lockdown forcing tennis tournaments and events to be canceled, the earnings of the athletes are expectedly reduced, but that is not the case with Osaka and Williams. They both still managed to earn several millions from lucrative endorsements.

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka Serena Williams lost her opening round match at the Miami Open to Naomi Osaka. Pictured: Serena Williams meets Naomi Osaka of Japan after losing to her in straight sets during Day 3 of the Miami Open in Key Biscayne, Florida, March 21, 2018. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

The Chuo-ku, Osaka, Japan native earned $34 million off sponsorship deals from brands such as Nike, MasterCard, Shiseido, Yonex and Nissan. She also has a massive following in Japan where she is an in-demand endorser. On the other hand, Williams received a total of $32 million from her deals with Nike, Gatorade, Procter & Gamble and Beats. The tennis legend has a massive online following, about 40 million combined followers across her social media platforms. She is also a minority owner of the Miami Dolphins and UFC.

Meanwhile, Osaka’s future gets even more interesting. After winning the 2018 U.S. Open and 2019 Australian Open, she has become the next face of the Japanese athletes and players who are hoping to make it big someday. Had the Olympics not been suspended, the 22-year-old was expected to represent the host country in women’s tennis. 

The rising star took home $2.9 million for winning the Australian Open last year and received a $3.8 million paycheck for her U.S. Open success. According to CNBC, the 2-time Grand Slam winner is not a spend-first type of player, like Williams, she does not see the need to splurge her hard-earned paychecks. When she was still starting, Williams also did not like spending money listlessly. If Osaka goes on to become a great player someday, it could be because she has a strong fundamental and attitude on and off the court, just like her idol, the winningest female tennis player of all time, Williams.  

Although Osaka and Williams have made it to Forbes’ highest paid athletes 2020 list, the gap between the earnings of men and female athletes remains wide. Osaka occupied the 29th spot while Williams ranked number 33. When compared to the top-earning athlete, who is coincidentally men’s tennis player superstar Roger Federer with $103 million earnings in 2020, the earnings of women athletes evidently need to get better.