Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams and Li Na were recently unveiled by Forbes magazine on its Top 100 World's Highest Paid Athletes list for 2013, the only women on the list. Sharapova, number 22 on the list, remained the top-earning female athlete for the ninth straight year with $29 million, followed by Serena at 68 with $20.5 million and Li Na at 85 with $18.2 million.
"We are fortunate to have such globally popular stars like Maria, Serena and Li Na that brands around the world want to invest in and be associated with," said Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the WTA. "As the WTA celebrates our 40th anniversary, the incredible off-court success of our athletes is another indication of how far the sport has come."
Sharapova's earnings came in part due to lucrative global endorsements with Nike, Head and Porsche, as well as the launch of her premium candy line 'Sugarpova' in August 2012. On court, Sharapova completed her career Grand Slam by winning the 2012 Roland Garros title and returned to number one as well.
Serena has endorsement deals with Nike, Gatorade, Wilson and OPI, as well as promoting her own clothing and accessories line on the Home Shopping Network. In the last 12 months Serena has won 11 WTA titles, including three Grand Slams (Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and French Open) and earlier this year returned to number one in the world, the oldest player ever to do so—she is also 31-0 since then.
Li was the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam title at 2011 Roland Garros and is featured in the Top 100 for the second straight year based on lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike, Babolat, Samsung, Mercedes and Rolex. Li was also recently named as one of Time Magazine's Most Influential People.
The appearance of three of the sport's leading female stars on the Forbes list mirrors the WTA's continued business success off court with over $200 million in revenue generated for the organization since 2011. The WTA's sponsorship portfolio continues to grow with six new sponsors in the past three years, including the signing of Xerox as a global partner in February of this year. Also, Singapore was recently awarded the WTA Championships for 2014 to 2018 in a record-setting partnership.
"I look forward to the day when more than three women are on the list of 100, but I'm proud of the fact that all the women listed are WTA players," said Stacey Allaster.
In compiling the list, Forbes took into account prize money, endorsements, exhibitions and appearance fees paid out between June 1, 2012 and June 1, 2013.