Naomi Osaka became a global star when she beat Serena Williams to win the US Open in 2018. And now she has gone past her rival once more, overtaking Serena to become the highest paid female sports star in the world.
In the past 12 months, the Japanese youngster has already amassed more than US$37 million from a combination of prize money and sponsorship money, US $1.4 million than Serena. Both women surpassed the previous high water mark for earnings by a female athlete in a single year, which was set by Maria Sharapova in 2015.
Sharapova had topped the annual earning charts with US $29.7 million a few years ago.
The Forbes’ annual list will be released next week and it will have Osaka at the 29th place among the highest-paid sportspeople, with Williams four places below her. It is the first time since 2016 that two women have appeared in the rankings.
Williams had been the highest paid female athlete for the past four years, but now, as on the court, her reign at the top appears to be over.
Although Osaka’s new found status is in part due to her success on the court she won the Australian Open in 2019, and has a number of other prestigious titles to her name she owes a lot to her Japanese heritage as well.
She was born in Japan, and, although she and her family moved to the USA when she was just three years old, she retains dual citizenship, and has chosen to play for Japan internationally.
That has proved to be a wise choice commercially, especially when there is a Japanese Olympics on the horizon - although the Games have subsequently been rescheduled until 2021.
Olympic sponsors like Nissin, All Nippon Airways and Proctor & Gamble, have been lining-up to endorse her, and when the Olympics do finally get underway, she will be used to market them as one of the faces of the Games.
In addition, her apparel deal with the brand Swoosh, which runs until 2025, is worth US $10 million a year to her alone. And, so powerful was her bargaining position with them that Osakas representatives were able to negotiate the right for her to wear other labels on their clothing separate patch deals with MasterCard, All Nippon Airways, and Nissin Foods, a Ramen noodle manufacturer.
And her earnings are set to get a further boost later this year. Nike will be launching an Osaka streetwear line in Japan, which will not even feature any tennis clothing. Instead the apparel on sale will feature shirts, hoodies, and leggings.