Serena Williams may have lost the French Open final on Saturday — missing a chance to tie Steffi Graf’s Open-era record of 22 Grand Slam titles — but she can take consolation from the fact that she has surpassed Maria Sharapova as the world’s highest-paid female athlete. Williams, 34, has earned $28.9 million over the past 12 months. Her career prize earnings of $77.6 million is more than twice as much as what any other female athlete has earned.
Of athletes in the U.S., Serena ranks only behind Lebron James in marketability, according to Repucom’s CelebrityDBI. She’s also a pioneer in social marketing, having generated more than $10 million in media value through posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter over the past year — more than almost any other athlete on the planet, according to Hookit. “Serena’s excellence on court, her work in the community and her following in pop culture are a few things that set her apart,” explained Frank Nakano, head of Sports and Entertainment for JPMorgan Chase, one of Williams’ many sponsors.
Sharapova, who had been the world’s highest-earning female athlete for 11 years before Serena, failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January for meldonium — a drug that was banned by the WTA Tour earlier that month for its performance enhancing properties. Sharapova has said she took the drug for a decade for her health, and that she was unaware of the change in regulations. On Wednesday, Sharapova learned that her suspension from tennis would last for two years. Sponsors such as Tag Heuer and American Express opted of renewing deals with her, and Nike and Porsche have suspended their promotional plans with the athlete. Her $21.9 million in total earnings over the last year remained second overall among female athletes.
Read the full story at Forbes.