22-Year-Old Tennis Player Naomi Osaka Is Now The Highest-Paid Female Athlete, Ever

by Kristine Cannon
Naomi Osaka
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The female athlete who previously held the title? Fellow pro tennis player, Maria Sharapova

Sorry, Maria Sharapova. Fellow pro tennis player just edged you out as the highest-paid female athlete in history: 22-year-old Naomi Osaka, who earned $37.4 million over the last year, Forbes reports.

Fellow tennis player and a 23-time grand slam champion Serena Williams held the title of highest-paid female athlete over the past four years, earning between $18 million and $29 million. But it’s Sharapova that set the record in 2015, earning $29.7 million.

Osaka is a beast on the tennis court. Not only has the 22-year-old won two grand slams, so far, at the 2018 U.S. Open and the 2019 Australian Open, but she also famously beat Williams in the U.S. Open in 2018.

“Sometimes she plays matches where she doesn’t say ‘come on’ at all. And that’s a little bit sad, because it’s like, Do you think she’s trying? I just wanted her to say ‘come on’ once because then I knew maybe she would be trying a little bit. So once I heard the first ‘come on,’ I was like, Yeah!” Osaka said of her win against Williams.

Now, Osaka has 15 endorsement partners and a signed apparel deal with Nike. According to CNN, over the last year, she’s made $1.4 million more than Williams. To add, Osaka also ranks higher than Williams on the 100 highest-paid athletes list — at 29 versus Williams’ 33.

“To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” David Carter, a sports business professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business, tells Forbes. “Combine that with being youthful and bicultural, two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences, and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.”

Born in Japan, Osaka moved to the U.S. when she was 3 years old. Just before turning 16, she turned pro; and at 20, she won her her first title. Then, as Forbes continues to report, she became the first Japanese player to win a Slam and the first Asian tennis player to be ranked No. 1 in the world. (Her mother is Japanese, and her father is Haitian-American.)

And to think, at 22, she’s only just begun.

Congrats to Osaka!