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Osaka earns record $53M

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NEW YORK • Naomi Osaka has been to the top of the world, fallen into the depths of depression, and now the Japanese tennis star is back to the summit again.

The 22-year-old has become the world's highest-paid female athlete, making US$37.4 million (S$53.3 million) in the past 12 months for an earnings record, Forbes magazine reported on Friday.

She is also the first Asian athlete to have achieved this feat. The twice Grand Slam winner edged out US rival Serena Williams by US$1.4 million in prize money and endorsement income over the past year.

Both shattered the old single-year earnings mark of US$29.7 million set in 2015 by Russia's Maria Sharapova, who retired in February with five Grand Slam titles.

"To those outside the tennis world, Osaka is a relatively fresh face with a great backstory," University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told Forbes.

"Combine that with being youthful and bicultural – two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences – and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon."

Osaka, whose father was born in Haiti and whose mother is Japanese, ranks 29th on the 2020 Forbes list of the world's 100 top-paid athletes, four spots ahead of 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams.

The complete list, due to be released this week, has not featured two women since 2016.

Since Forbes began tracking women athletes' income in 1990, tennis players have topped the annual list of female top income earners every year.

But Williams, Sharapova, China's Li Na and now Osaka are the only women to rank among the 100 top earners in sports since 2012.

Williams, 38, had been the world's highest-paid female athlete in each of the past four years. Sharapova, 33, ruled for the five years before that. The pair had each earned over US$300 million, much of it in endorsement deals.​

KEY ASSETS

Being youthful and bicultural – two attributes that help her resonate with younger, global audiences – and the result is the emergence of a global sports marketing icon.

DAVID CARTER, University of Southern California sports business professor, on the factors for Naomi Osaka's off-court success.

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    ANA (Industry: Airlines, Country: Japan, Sponsors since 2019)

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    CITIZEN Watches, Japan, 2018

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Osaka's rise to the top of the list was a perfect convergence of her heritage and her success on court.

She won back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open, her victory over Williams in the Flushing Meadows final the first Slam singles crown for a Japanese woman.

Now ranked 10th, she also became Asia's first world No. 1 last year after her Melbourne win.

But, following her remarkable triumphs, Osaka fell into a slump and admitted that she was suRead More – Source