Japanese star Naomi Osaka has become the world's highest-paid female athlete, making $37.4 million in the past 12 months for an earnings record, Forbes magazine reported on Friday. The figure is also the highest ever for a female athlete, passing the $29.7 million payday Maria Sharapova earned in 2015, according to the report.
Despite not now holding a Grand Slam title and slipping to 10th in the women's tennis rankings, the former world number one registered the most lucrative ever year for a sportswoman in 2019, earning $1.4 million more than Williams, Forbes reported.
"To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great back story", University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told Forbes.
The 22-year-old surpassed Serena Williams in annual earnings, according to Forbes.
The complete Forbes list, due to be released next week, has not featured two women since 2016, the magazine says.
Williams has been the top female earner for each of the past four years, earning between $18 million and $29 million before tax each year, as well as around $300 million from endorsers throughout her long career. Sharapova held the honor the previous five years, earning at least $24.4 million in each year from 2011 to 2015.
Williams had annual incomes from $18 million to $29 million and has collected almost $300 million, much of it in endorsement deals.
The pair met in the 2018 US Open final with Osaka winning her first Grand Slam title in a highly controversial match in which Williams was given three code violations by the umpire.
Part of the stable of management group IMG, Osaka now has 15 sponsorship deals, including with global brands such as Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex. The two-time Grand Slam champion has inked deals with Nissan Motors, Yonex, Nike, Procter & Gamble, All Nippon Airways and Nissin.