Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Li Na, Serena Williams on Forbes 100 list

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Roger Federer

Roger Federer is playing Halle in advance of defending his Wimbledon title. (Martin Meissner/AP)

No surprise here: Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova are the highest-paid tennis players in the world.

Forbes released its annual list of the 100 highest-paid athletes (based on prize money, endorsements and appearance fees earned between June 1, 2012, through June 1, 2013). Federer was No. 2 on the list (behind Tiger Woods), earning a whopping $71.5 million in the last year. Joining Federer on the list were Novak Djokovic, who came in at No. 28 ($26.9 million) and Rafael Nadal, who missed seven months of play but still ranked No. 30 ($26.4 million).

Meanwhile, only three women made the Forbes 100. They’re all tennis players. Sharapova leads them at No. 22 ($29 million), followed by Serena Williams at No. 68 ($20.5 million) and Li Na at No. 85 ($18.2 million).

Federer, who makes about $45 million annually from his endorsements, earned more than $17 million more last year than the previous year thanks in large part to his three-city exhibition tour of South America in December, for which he got $14 million. He also signed a five-year deal with Moet & Chandon at the end of 2012 that is reportedly worth $6 million annually.

Sharapova made nearly $2 million more in the last 12 months compared to the year before, thanks to bonuses from Nike and Head for completing the career Grand Slam at the French Open, earnings from her new Sugarpova business and a slight increase in prize money and appearance fees.

As for the remaining four tennis players on the list, their places are driven by on-court success or endorsements. For example, Li pulls in $15 million of her $18.2 million on endorsements. That’s more endorsement power than Djokovic ($14 million) and Williams ($12 million). So powerful is her brand that her agent, Max Eisenbud (who also represents Sharapova), was able to negotiate a deal with Nike to allow her to wear additional sponsor patches on her match kits, something the company rarely allows.

Similarly, Nadal, No. 16 in Forbes‘ 2012 list, missed three of the highest-paying tournaments in the last 12 months — the U.S. Open, Australian Open and ATP World Tour Finals — and earned just $5.4 million in prize money in the last year. But his endorsement portfolio is the third largest in tennis, behind that of Federer and Sharapova, earning $21 million annually.

Williams, who didn’t make the list last year, moved ahead of Li in total earnings behind $8.5 million in prize money and appearance fees. In the last 12 months, Williams has won three of four majors and 11 titles in all, compiling a 74-3 record. Her status as the No. 2 woman on the list is full credit to her ability to win and less a statement on her endorsement portfolio, which earns her $12 million annually, almost half of Sharapova’s $23 million.

From a tennis perspective, the most glaring absence from the list is Great Britain’s Andy Murray. Hailing from a country that seems to be able to print money when it comes to tennis, Murray had a career year, won Olympic gold in London and finally won his first Slam, at the U.S. Open. But there hasn’t been much of a blip in terms of significant new endorsements for Murray, who still has a long way to go in on-court accomplishments of those who made the list.

Daily Bagel: Tennis Channel CEO’s email with insensitive language

  • Published On Jun 13, 2013

    It's a travesty that Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray are not making even more prize and endorsement money, given the amount made by Li Na (who has won only one major title and whose highest career year-end ranking was only No. 5 in 2011). 

    Last year seven of the top ten highest-paid female athletes in the world were WTA tennis players: Sharapova (1), Li Na (2), Serena (3), Wozniacki (4), Azarenka (6), Ivanovic (8), Radwanska (9) according to Forbes.

    Several female tennis players are making much more money than other far more deserving female athletes. That's because the female tnnis players all benefit from their WTA tour piggy-backing off the ATP men's tennis tour on majors and Masters events. This gives them access to mandated equal prize money as the men get (despite attracting less demand for tickets and other revenue) as well as an access to larger sponsor endorsements (due to world-wide exposure mostly generated by the golden era of men's tennis). This 'melding' of men's and women's tours obscures the fact that the WTA tour is an inferior tour compared to the ATP tour. As several top men's players and coaches have said, the top women's player Serena lacks the ability to beat a top 300 male player. The top 30 women's players would probably be ranked between No. 500 to No. 1,000 on the ATP tour -- yet they unnaturally benefit from the higher prize making ability of the top male players. On the other hand, because the WTA tour has diluted the image of the ATP tour, the top mens players like Djokovic are making less prize and endorsement money than they should be making had the ATP tour been detached from the WTA tour in the majors and Masters events.

    Take Li Na. Really, what has she done to deserve so much money? In gold, Asian golfers like Taiwan's Yani Tseng, Korea's Inbee Park, Korea's Se Ri Pak, and China's Shanshan Feng have all done more in their sport than Li Na -- yet are unable to earn anything close to what Li Na does. Why? Because the women's LPGA tour is on its own, unable to piggback on the mean's PGA tour. An LPGA tour on its own lacks the market pull to reap the big bucks for its stars.

    Danica Patrick profits from racing with men -- but this is completely appropriate as she competes with men on the same track. She deserves what she makes. Female tennis players would deserve the high amounts they make -- if they competed in the same draws against the male players, just like Danica does.

    brodney199 3 Like

    I support Roger and Serena both are reknowned for their humanitarian work across the globe, Roger in Europe and Africa, Serena in Africa, Asia, and American inner cities ...both are UN ambassadors