FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Australian Open - Women's Singles Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, January 26, 2019. Japan's Naomi Osaka poses with her trophy after winning her match against Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/File Photo
Japan’s Naomi Osaka has surpassed Serena Williams as the world’s highest-paid female athlete, raking in US $37.4 million (NZ $61.4 million) in prize money and endorsements over the last year, according to Forbes.
The 22-year-old twice Grand Slam champion’s total is the most ever earned by a female athlete in a 12-month period.
She earned $1.4 million more than American great Williams, who topped the list for the last four years.
Maria Sharapova had held the record for 12-month earnings for a female athlete, having made US $29.7 million in 2015.
Female tennis players have always occupied top spot on Forbes’ women’s list since 1990, with either Williams or Russian Sharapova leading the way from 2004.
Osaka burst into the limelight by beating Williams in the 2018 US Open final – a highly-controversial match in which Williams was given three code violations by the umpire.
The next year she won the 2019 Australian Open Grand Slam tournament, although her form has dipped since and she has fallen from world number one to 10th on the WTA rankings.
Florida-based Osaka’s mixed heritage – she has a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father – her engaging personality and attacking style of play have combined to make her one of the world’s most marketable athletes.
Part of the stable of management group IMG, Osaka currently has 15 sponsorship deals, including with global brands such as Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex.