Naomi Osaka had the biggest win of her career when she beat Serena Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open. At 22, she now has topped her legendary rival in earnings. From prize money and endorsements, Osaka earned $1.4 million more than Williams — making her the highest-paid female athlete in history.
Osaka earned $37.4 million between June 2019 and May 2020. She reportedly has 15 different endorsement deals, including with Nissan Motor Co., Shiseido and Yonex. Almost all of the endorsements make her a seven-figure amount each year, and she also received over $10 million for her contract with Nike.
Forbes reports that Williams, making between $18 to 29 million annually, was the top earner among professional female athletes for the past four years before being knocked off by Osaka. Williams comes in at number 33 on the list of 100 highest-paid athletes while Osaka is at 29.
Osaka was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father. Her family moved to the United States when she was three, first heading to Long Island, New York, before relocating to Florida.
She held a dual citizenship in the U.S. and Japan while growing up, but decided to represent Japan in the next Olympics, which has been rescheduled for 2021 because of COVID-19. It’s been said that Osaka’s overall story and racial background has allowed her to appeal to a wide range of consumers and be an ideal spokesperson.
“To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story,” said David Carter, sports business professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Carter spoke to Forbes, adding “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.”
Osaka is the 10th ranked tennis player in the world.