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Forbes' list of highest-paid female athletes in 2023

Published at :January 3, 2024 at 4:48 PM
Modified at :January 13, 2024 at 11:25 AM
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(Courtesy : CNN/Twitter)

Ajay Gandhar

Iga Swiatek sits on the top with 23.9 million dollars.

In the world of sports, 2023 marked a significant shift in the landscape for female athletes. With the retirement of Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka’s hiatus due to injuries and childbirth, a new champion emerged on the financial front. The crown was claimed by the 22-year-old Polish tennis sensation, Iga Świątek, who raked in an estimated $23.9 million in 2023.

It is worth noting that tennis continues to be a lucrative sport for female athletes, with 12 of the world’s 20 highest-paid female athletes, including nine of the top 10, hailing from this sport. This is largely due to the substantial prize money and abundant marketing opportunities it offers.

Here is the list of the highest-paid female athletes in 2023:

Markéta Vondroušová ($5.2 million)

At the time, Vondroušová, who was ranked 42nd, made history by becoming the first unseeded woman to clinch the Wimbledon singles title in July. It was an unexpected victory for her, as evidenced by her last-minute arrangement for a cat sitter. Following her triumphant performance at the tournament, the 24-year-old tennis star from the Czech Republic secured a new clothing sponsorship deal with J.Lindeberg. She ended the year on a high note, ranking seventh in the women’s singles rankings.

Brooke Henderson ($5.4 million)

Henderson, a winner of two major golf championships, is arguably the most prominent female athlete in Canada. In January, she followed in the footsteps of Nelly Korda and transitioned to using TaylorMade equipment.

Ons Jabeur ($5.7 million)

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur experienced further disappointment at Wimbledon in July, facing her third major final loss in two years. However, she has been triumphant off the court, representing tennis in North Africa and the Middle East. In August, she became part of the ownership team of the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage.

PV Sindhu ($7.1 million)

Despite her relative obscurity in the US, PV Sindhu, a double Olympic medalist, and the 2019 world champion, has a strong presence in the women’s earnings rankings due to her marketing acumen in her home country, India. This year, she expanded her portfolio by partnering with Century Mattress and American Pistachio Growers.

Simone Biles ($7.1 million)

Simona Biles marked a remarkable comeback to top-tier competition this year, becoming the inaugural woman to execute a vault now termed the Biles II and establishing a world championships record with her sixth all-around gold. Her series for Snapchat, ‘Daring Simone Biles’, was recognized with an NAACP Image Award in February.

Qinwen Zheng ($7.2 million)

Last year, Qinwen Zheng clinched WTA’s Most Improved Player Award, a commendable achievement following her 2022 Newcomer of the Year Award. There’s speculation within the sport about whether she could emulate the marketing success of her compatriot Li Na, who consistently ranked in the top three in earnings from 2012 to 2014.

Alex Morgan ($ 7.8 million)

Following Megan Rapinoe’s retirement from football, Morgan is set to become the undisputed leading star of the US women’s national team, collaborating with brands such as Nike, Hublot, and Michelob Ultra. In September, she ventured into business ownership with a stake in Volley Tequila Seltzer.

Candace Parker ($8.1 million)

In January, Parker accepted a reduced salary to join the Las Vegas Aces. Despite her absence for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury in July, the formidable team she was instrumental in forming clinched its consecutive WNBA championship in October. Additionally, Parker has been increasingly involved in investment activities in recent years, acquiring a share in League One Volleyball in September.

Megan Rapinoe ($8.2 million)

Rapinoe’s illustrious football journey didn’t conclude as she might have envisioned, with the US team exiting the women’s World Cup in the Round of 16 in August and her suffering an Achilles’ tendon injury in her last game, the NWSL championship in November. Despite this, her off-field achievements this year have been unparalleled.

Nelly Korda ($ 8.2 million)

Nelly Korda, already a leading endorser in golf, elevated her off-course profile in 2023 by enhancing her sponsorship portfolio with agreements from Delta Air Lines, Goldman Sachs, Nike, TaylorMade Golf, and T-Mobile. On the greens, she ranks 30th on the LPGA Tour’s all-time money list with earnings of $8.9 million, an impressive feat considering she’s only 25 and has participated in just 127 tournaments.

Leylah Fernandez ($8.8 million)

Leylah Fernandez continues to reap benefits from her journey to the 2021 US Open final, collaborating with brands such as Lululemon, Morgan Stanley, and Google Pixel phone. Similar to Raducanu, Fernandez has found it challenging to meet the high expectations set by her performance.

Elena Rybakina ($9.5 million)

Rybakina, originally from Russia but has been playing for Kazakhstan on the international stage since 2018, clinched the Wimbledon title in 2022. She had an even more impressive run in 2023, securing victories in two WTA 1000 tournaments and ending the year ranked no. 4 in singles. The 24-year-old forged alliances with Red Bull and Yonex during her journey last season.

Venus Williams ($ 12.2 million)

Venus Williams doesn’t participate in competitions as frequently as before. She took part in seven tournaments and played 10 matches but the seven-time Grand Slam singles winner continues to be a powerful presence in marketing. She recently formed alliances with Dove and Nestlé’s Purina PetCare, launched a jewelry collection in partnership with Reinstein Ross, and made an investment in Los Angeles Golf Club, a team in the upcoming TGL league created by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy’s TMRW Sports.

Jessica Pegula ($ 12.5 million)

Jessica Pegula, who was recognized in the 2024 Forbes 30 U-30 list, achieved the most significant singles victory of her career this year in Montreal and made it to the final round of the WTA Finals in November. She, along with her partner Coco Gauff, momentarily secured the no. 1 spot in doubles. Away from the game, she recently added Dyson headphones, De Bethune watches, and Gorjana jewelry to her list of sponsors. In recognition of her efforts to advance women’s tennis, she was bestowed with the WTA’s Jerry Diamond ACES Award.

Aryna Sabalenka ($14.7 million)

Aryna Sabalenka experienced a remarkable year in her career, clinching the Australian Open title, holding the No. 1 spot in women’s singles for two months, and earning the International Tennis Federation’s World Champion Award. Despite the challenges faced by players from Russia and Belarus in securing sponsorships due to the Ukraine conflict, Sabalenka managed to form recent partnerships with Maestro Dobel Tequila and Leaf Trading Cards. She has also invested in the wellness brand Beekeeper’s Naturals and Olipop soda and made an appearance in Netflix’s tennis documentary series, Break Point.

Naomi Osaka ($15 million)

Naomi Osaka who became a mother to a baby girl in July, has been absent from the competitive tennis scene since September 2022. However, she is currently playing in Brisbane International as a warm-up for the Australian Open scheduled later this month month. Concurrently, she has ventured into fresh marketing domains by securing sponsorship agreements with Bobbie Baby Formula and Crate & Kids.

Emma Raducanu ($15.2 Million)

After her victory in the 2021 U.S. Open at the age of 18, Raducanu established one of the most lucrative sponsorship portfolios in the tennis world, attracting numerous brands who believed she would be a long-term star. However, her journey has been marked by a string of health issues and injuries since then, causing her global ranking to plummet to No. 299 from a peak of No. 10 in 2022.

Coco Gauff ($21.7 million)

Coco Gauff has had an exceptional tennis season, becoming the youngest player to clinch the US Open title since Serena Williams at just 19 years old. This year, she has signed endorsement deals with Baker Tilly, Bose, and UPS. A known Marvel superhero enthusiast, Gauff was featured in a promotional campaign for the 2023 film, The Marvels, and also appeared on a limited-edition cover of the Invincible Iron Man comic book. 

Eileen Gu ($22.1 million)

Born in San Francisco but competing for China, Gu is an exceptional Olympic athlete who maintains a steady business profile even between the Games. As a freestyle skier and model, she has secured enduring sponsorships worldwide, partnering with brands like Mengniu Dairy and Anta sportswear in China, and Louis Vuitton and Victoria’s Secret in the West.

Despite recovering from a knee injury, Gu made a triumphant return to skiing this December, clinching victories in halfpipe events in China and Colorado, marking her first World Cup participation in 11 months.

Iga Swiatek ($23.9 million)

In 2023, Świątek achieved remarkable success by securing the WTA Finals title and finishing the year as the no. 1 singles player. This accomplishment led to her winning the WTA Player of the Year Award for the second consecutive time. At the young age of 22, she has already held the no. 1 spot for 82 weeks, making her the 10th longest reigning no. 1 in WTA history.

She also ranks 14th in the tour’s all-time prize money list, having earned close to $25 million. Away from the tennis court, Świątek expanded her range of endorsements this year, adding Visa, On shoes and apparel, Oshee sports drinks, and IT firm Infosys to her existing four partnerships.

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