Naomi Osaka tops Serena Williams as world’s highest-paid female athlete

Naomi Osaka has surpassed Serena Williams as the world’s highest-paid female athlete, raking in $37.4million in prize money and endorsements over the last year, according to Forbes.

The 22-year-old twice Grand Slam champion’s total is the most ever earned by a female athlete in a 12-month period.

She earned $1.4 million more than American great Williams who had topped the list for the last four years.

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Maria Sharapova had held the record for 12-month earnings for a female athlete, having made $29.7 million in 2015.

Female tennis players have always occupied top spot on Forbes’s women’s list since 1990 with either Williams or Russian Sharapova leading the way from 2004.

Osaka burst into the limelight by beating Williams in the 2018 U.S. Open final — a highly-controversial match in which Williams was given three code violations by the umpire.

The Japanese then won the next Grand Slam, the 2019 Australian Open, although her form has dipped since and she has fallen from world number one to 10th on the WTA rankings.

Florida-based Osaka’s mixed heritage – she has a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father – her engaging personality and attacking style of play have combined to make her one of the world’s most marketable athletes.

Part of the stable of management group IMG, Osaka currently has 15 sponsorship deals, including with global brands such as Nike, Nissan Motors, Shiseido and Yonex.

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Naomi Osaka using coronavirus lockdown to conquer her inner demons

Two-times Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka is using the novel coronavirus shutdown as one of self reflection to try and overcome her crippling shyness.

The tennis season was suspended in early March due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and the hiatus will continue until at least mid-July with many countries in lockdown to contain the virus.

Japan’s Osaka, who trains in the United States, the country worst affected by the flu-like virus with over 1.4 million infections and more than 83,000 deaths, is taking advantage of the extended break to do some soul searching.

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“I think people know me as being really shy, I want to take the quarantine time to just think about everything, and for me, I have a lot of regrets before I go to sleep,” Osaka told CNN Sport.

Petra Kvitova said last year Osaka would have to get used to having a target on her back after the Japanese said she struggled to deal with increased scrutiny in the wake of her rise to the top of the world rankings.

“Most of the regrets are because I don’t speak out about what I’m thinking. I feel like if I asserted myself, I would have gotten the opportunity to see what would have happened,” Osaka said.

Osaka, who became the first Japanese player to attain the world number one ranking following her 2019 Australian Open victory, believes tennis is not a top priority at the moment.

“I want to take this time to learn something new because I’m pretty sure I won’t have this much free time ever again. It’s not like I’ll forget how to play tennis,” the world number 10 added.

With no access to gyms and tennis courts, the 22-year-old found a training partner in former world number one Venus Williams, with the two sharing a workout session on social media.

“I don’t want to train five hours a day right now because I think that’s how you get burned out and you never know when tournaments will start again,” Osaka said.

“I did an Instagram live with Venus just now. It was kind of more intense than I thought it was going to be.

“For some reason I thought we were going to be stretching, but yeah, we were doing a bit of movement drills and then lunges and stuff.” Reuters

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