Tennis is one of those rare sports known just as well for its female stars as it is for its male stars. While that doesn’t exactly mean you’d be able to see Serena Williams or Maria Sharapova duke it out competitively against Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal, the current crop of WTA stars are showing that women’s tennis can pack just as much punch as the men's side.
Like the male tennis heavyweights of today, the cream of the crop in women’s tennis make millions of dollars in prize money a year. Furthermore, those women also have lucrative endorsement deals either with companies that manufacture their rackets or on-court apparel, or with numerous major corporations from across the globe. Several of the women on this list with those kinds of endorsements also act as spokespeople for the brand either globally or in their own homeland. Regardless, their performances on the court show that their ability to earn a lot of money through sponsorships as well as on-court victories is by no means a fluke.
Some of these 10 women have been in the game for years and still conquer their opponents on the court and win grand slams, while some others are still relative newcomers whose days of tennis glory aren’t all that far off. These women, who as of December 2013 make up the Top 10 ranked singles players in women’s tennis, are superstars in the game today, and their salaries, prize money and endorsements most certainly reflect that.
But most importantly, it shows that although these women are worth millions of dollars in prize money and net worth, such high paychecks are justified by their reputation both on and off the court. Here are the Top 10 ranked female tennis players in the world today, and each player’s respective prize money totals for their careers thus far.
10 Angelique Kerber - Career Winnings: $5.4 million
This German-born, Poland-based tennis star is currently ranked ninth in the world, and the 25-year-old’s track record already speaks for itself. Since Angelique Kerber turned professional 10 years ago, she has won three singles titles on the WTA tour, as well as reaching the semifinals of the 2011 US Open and the 2012 Wimbledon Championships. On top of that, she’s made the ITF finals 11 times. Peaking at fifth in the world last year, there is still plenty more to come from Kerber, and her endorsement deals have come through Adidas for her outfits, and Yonex for her rackets.
9 Sara Errani - Career Winnings: $7.8 million
While she’s perhaps better known for her abilities as a doubles player, Sara Errani can also hold her own easily in a one-on-one situation. The Italian is currently ranked seventh in the world in singles and number one in doubles, and boasts endorsements from Babolat and Nike Women Tennis Italia. Her accomplishments on the court are further proof of her $6.8 million earnings: she and partner Roberta Vinci won the doubles title at the 2012 US Open, and reached the finals in both the singles and doubles tournaments at that year’s French Open.
8 Petra Kvitova - Career Winnings: $11.1 million
At just 23 years of age, Czech tennis star Petra Kvitova has already seen immense success since turning pro in 2006. She triumphed at Wimbledon in 2011 – the same year she peaked at number two on the WTA rankings – and also made the semifinals last year in both the Australian and French open, but crashed out both times at the hands of Maria Sharapova. On top of that, Kvitova also went to the semifinals of the WTA Tour Championships. Currently ranked sixth in the world, she has a lucrative sponsorship deal with BMW, as well with Wilson for her racquets and Nike for her clothing.
7 Li Na - Career Winnings: $13.3 million
This hard-hitting Chinese tennis vet just hit number three in the WTA rankings – a personal best. What’s more impressive is that she’s done it after hitting her early 30s. But that’s also a testament to how Li Na is one of the strongest female tennis players today, culminating with an appearance on the cover of TIME magazine as one of their 100 most influential people in the world. The 2011 French Open champion’s paycheck is most certainly another reflection of that, with sponsorships in her home country from Nike, Rolex, Samsung, Mercedes-Benz, and even Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
6 Agnieszka Radwanska - Career Winnings: $13.5 million
Polish-born Agnieszka Radwanska continues to shoot towards the top of the tennis world at the still relatively young age of 24. She’s also posed naked for ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue, and has an apparel deal with Lotto Sport Italia for her matches. Currently fifth in the world after having peaked at second place in July 2012, Radwanska is the first player from her home country to make it to the final of a Grand Slam since the start of the “Open Era” of tennis, and has been voted the most popular player in the WTA for three straight years.
5 Jelena Jankovic - Career Winnings: $15 million
The Serbian former world-number-one has slipped to eighth in the women’s rankings, but her performances have been solid throughout the past year. Jelena Jankovic has made a comeback to the top 10 after being out of it for quite a while in 2012, with appearances in the 2013 Sony Open semifinals, as well as in the round of 16 at the US Open – her best performance there since winning it all in 2008. Jankovic is sponsored by Fila for her on-court apparel, as well as by Prince Sports for her rackets. She is also a UNICEF national ambassador for Serbia alongside fellow tennis star and compatriot Ana Ivanovic.
4 Caroline Wozniacki - Career Winnings: $15.6 million
Although she has slipped to number 10 in the women’s rankings, which is disappointing given how she was once the top-ranked female tennis player in the world in 2010, Caroline Wozniacki’s overall success with her defense-first style of play still gives credence to why she is one of the game’s most well-known personalities today. The Danish tennis star has had a series of lackluster performances over the past year – notably at the 2013 French Open and Rogers Cup, where she bowed out early in both tournaments. Wozniacki, also known as Rory McIlroy’s better half, currently has deals with Adidas, Rolex, Sony Ericsson, and Turkish Airlines.
3 Victoria Azarenka - Career Winnings: $23.3 million
Belarus might not be the most well-known of former Soviet states, but it has produced arguably one of the most top-notch female tennis players currently in the game. Victoria Azarenka’s track record is nothing short of stellar: a 2012 Olympic bronze medal, two Australian Open titles, and a reputation as a former world number one. While some may also know her for being romantically involved with Redfoo of LMFAO – he himself has tried entering the tennis world, with unsurprisingly bad results – the second-ranked Azarenka is also a huge presence for global brands, with sponsorships from Nike, American Express, and Citizen Watch.
2 Maria Sharapova - Career Winnings: $29 million
Her earnings as of 2013 stack up to about $29 million, and her numerous endorsement deals make that no surprise: Nike, Porsche, Samsung, Evian and TAGHeuer are among the companies she’s sponsored by. But Maria Sharapova’s on-court exploits are still easily her most defining quality: she’s won 29 WTA singles titles (four of them being Grand Slams), an Olympic silver medal, and last held the world number one ranking for four consecutive weeks in June and July 2012. Although she’s been injured since this past August, the Russian tennis superstar – currently ranked fourth in the world – is gearing up for a comeback at the 2014 Brisbane International.
1 Serena Williams - Career Winnings: $54.2 million
What is there to say about Serena Williams’ career that hasn’t already been said? She’s the first and only female tennis player to have won $50 million in prize money, she’s won 32 Grand Slam titles (17 in singles, 13 in doubles with sister Venus, and two in mixed doubles), four Olympic gold medals, and a reputation as one of the greatest tennis players to have ever held a racket. At 32 years of age, Serena is showing no signs of slowing down, as she remains the world’s number one by a landslide. Among other off-court endeavours, she also boasts endorsements with Nike, Gatorade, and Wilson Sporting Goods.