Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 highest paid athletes in 2018 didn’t feature a single woman — Serena Williams was the only woman in its top 100 in 2017, ranking at No. 51 with earnings of $27 million — she didn’t make the list in 2018 due to pregnancy and time away from the tennis circuit following the birth of her daughter Olympia. This sad fact obviously isn’t because women in sports don’t work as hard as men — it’s just because female athletes still happen to get paid a lot less than their male counterparts for playing many of the same sports.
Hopefully one day the top female athletes in the world will be paid the same as the men who play the same sport. In the meantime, here are some of the women who’ve managed to make a great living and become some of the richest female athletes in the world today.
Taiwanese professional golfer Yani Tseng experienced success early in her career and holds the record for the youngest player ever (male or female) to win five major championships. She was ranked number one in the Women’s World Golf Rankings for 109 consecutive weeks, from 2011 to 2013, and has pocketed more than $10.5 million from her LPGA Tour wins so far, which include 15 victories. In 2010, Tseng reportedly rejected a sponsorship deal worth $25 million (including access to a luxury villa and private jets) because it involved changing her citizenship to Chinese.
Indian badminton champ P.V. Sindhu reportedly earned a total of $8.5 million between June 2017 and June 2018, which placed her at No. seven on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning women in sports that year. However, the majority of her earnings come from endorsements, from brands like Panasonic, Nokia and Gatorade. Sindhu was the first Indian female athlete to win a silver medal at the Olympics — a record she set at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio.
California-born Paula Creamer has racked up almost $12 million in the 15 years she’s been on the LPGA Tour, which includes 10 tournament wins, one of which was the 2010 U.S. Women’s Open. Other career highlights include winning the 2005 Sybase Classic at 18 years old, just four days before graduating from high school, making her the LGPA’s second-youngest event winner ever. Creamer’s nickname is “The Pink Panther” due to the bright outfits she favors on the golf course, and it’s a moniker she embraces by using a Pink Panther club head cover.
During her career as a professional golfer, Lorena Ochoa earned just under $15 million. The Mexican athlete first picked up a golf club at age five, and by the time she retired from the sport to start a family 23 years later, she had finished in the top three in 63 of the 173 LPGA events she’d competed in. She also received many accolades during her career, including one of Newsweek magazine’s 11 Most Powerful Women in 2007 and one of Glamour magazine’s 2007 Women of the Year.
American tennis player Sloane Stephens celebrated her first Grand Slam victory at the U.S. Open in 2017 (making her the first American woman to win a Grand Slam, besides the Williams sisters, since 2002) and several endorsements followed from the likes of Nike, Biofreeze, Colgate, Mercedes-Benz and Rolex. Currently ranked No. eight in the world, Stephens’ career earnings to date — from prize money alone — amount to $13,695,672.
Retired Serbian tennis player Ana Ivanovic was at her career peak in 2008, when she was number one in the world after defeating Dinara Safina in the final of the French Open. Within two years her rank slipped to number 64, but she made an impressive comeback and was ranked No. 12 in 2012. Throughout all the ups and downs, Ivanovic earned over $15 million in prize money, and that doesn’t include her endorsements.
Venezuelan-born Spaniard Garbine Muguruza is a two-time Grand Slam winner (defeating Serena Williams in straight sets at the French Open in 2016 and doing the same to sister Venus at Wimbledon in 2017). Muguruza’s Wimbledon victory resulted in a big bonus from her sponsor, Adidas, and also led to a deal with Rolex. Her 2017-2018 earnings, boosted by other deals with Evian, Beats by Dre and Maui Jim sunglasses, were $11 million. She’s already earned about $18.7 million in WTA earnings so far, at the age of 25.
American LPGA Tour golfer Cristie Kerr was the world’s top-ranked woman golfer three times in 2010. She’s won 20 tournaments on the LPGA Tour, including the U.S. Women’s Open in 2007 and the LPGA Championship in 2010. Kerr, who is naturally left-handed but plays golf right-handed, has earned more than $19.6 million on the LPGA Tour alone so far.
Tennis player Jelena Jankovic has won 15 WTA singles titles and two doubles titles, including the Wimbledon mixed doubles title with partner Jamie Murray in 2007. The Serbian star, who is coached by her brother, Marko, was the world’s top-ranked women’s singles player for 17 consecutive weeks, until Serena Williams took her place, in February 2009. Her total career earnings are $19 million and she’s currently sponsored by Fila; previous endorsements include Rebook and Anta.
Now retired, Chinese tennis star Li Na became the first Asian player to reach the finals of the Australian Open in 2011 (she lost to Kim Clijsters); the same year, she became the first Asian-born tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles event, at the French Open. In 2014, Na went back to the Australian Open, and this time she won, triumphing over Dominika Cibulková. That year, Forbes named her one of the highest-paid female athletes with total earnings of $23.6 million, $18 million of which was from endorsements. Just for her playing career, she earned more than $16.7 million on the court, according to the WTA.
Retired Swedish-born professional golfer Annika Sörenstam is widely considered to be one of the best female golfers of all time. She amassed 89 wins throughout her 14-year career, including 10 major wins. Her 72 career wins on the LPGA Tour puts her at third all time in the tour’s history. She was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003, five years before retiring. According to Sörenstam’s website, she is the first player in LPGA Tour history to earn more than $20 million, raking in $22.5 million just from her playing career.
Swiss former professional tennis player Martina Hingis was hailed as a prodigy when, at 12 years old in 1993, she became the youngest ever Grand Slam junior winner. She turned professional a year later and went on to win a total of 43 WTA singles titles. Named one of the “30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future” by Time magazine in 2011 and inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013, Hingis is believed to have a net worth of more than $25 million.
Polish tennis player Agnieszka Radwańska has 20 WTA singles titles under her belt so far, which have contributed to her total career earnings of $27.6 million. She was ranked number two in the world in 2012, the year she reached her first career Grand Slam final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Serena Williams in three sets. Radwańska was voted the WTA’s Fan-Favorite Singles Player from 2011 to 2016, more times than any other player.
Karrie Webb is Australia’s most successful female golfer, and she’s also one of the richest, with career earnings surpassing the $20 million mark (only the second player in LPGA history who can stake this claim). Webb has a total of 41 LPGA Tour wins (more than any other active player), including seven majors, and was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2005. When Webb isn’t swinging golf clubs, she can be found wielding fishing poles on her 32-foot Intrepid 32, “Ayr Waves II.”
South Korean figure skater Yuna Kim — aka “Queen Yuna” — is a record-breaking Olympic gold medalist, widely regarded as having brought the 2018 Olympics to South Korea. She didn’t compete in the 2018 games herself — she retired in 2014 — but had the honor of lighting the cauldron during the opening ceremony. Kim has many big endorsement deals, including Nike, Samsung and Hyundai, and modeled for jewelry brand J. Estina. In 2012 Forbes ranked her as the seventh highest paid female athlete in the world, with earnings of around $9 million a year, and her net worth is estimated to be in the region of $21 million.
Over the course of her 17-year career, American tennis player Lindsay Davenport was ranked the world number one in women’s tennis several times and won 93 WTA titles (55 singles and 38 doubles), including three Grand Slams in singles competition. In 2014, four years after she retired, Davenport was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. She brought in $22.2 million in prize money throughout her career.
Victoria Azarenka became the first Belarusian tennis player to win a Grand Slam singles title, when she defeated Maria Sharapova at the Australian Open in 2012. She returned to defend her title in 2013, winning the final against Li Na. In total, Azarenka has won 20 WTA singles titles and earned $29.5 million from WTA events to date. According to Forbes, she brought in $3.6 million in prize money and $3 million in endorsements in 2016 alone.
German tennis star Angelique Kerber was named the 10th richest female athlete by Forbes in 2018. She earned $3 million in prize money and $4 million in endorsements, plus another $3.3 million for taking home the Wimbledon trophy, giving her $10.3 million in that year alone. To date, she’s amassed $28.1 million in career earnings and her singles ranking is currently number five in the world.
She’s one of the biggest names in women’s tennis, but Anna Kournikova actually never won a Grand Slam singles title. Nonetheless, the Russian player, who was forced to retire at age 21, due to injury, reached No. eight in the world in 2000 and made a huge amount of money from endorsements and modeling campaigns, estimated at $50 million in total. Her earnings from playing tennis, on the other hand, amounted to $3.5 million. At the height of her fame, from 2002 to 2003, Kournikova’s name was one of the most common image search terms on Google, making her a brand all her own.
Danica Patrick is the most successful female race car driver of all time. At the Indy 500 in 2005, Patrick was the fastest driver during the pole runs and set a record as the first woman to ever lead the Indy 500. In 2008, she became the first woman to win an IndyCar Series race. She retired in 2018 after earning around $7.5 million (from prizes and her many lucrative endorsements) over just the previous year.
According to Forbes, Romanian tennis player Simona Halep won $6.2 million in prize money in 12 months between 2017 and 2018; her total career earnings amount to $28.9 million, according to the WTA. Her most successful year yet was 2015, when she won three singles titles and was runner-up in two more tournaments. Currently ranked number two in the world, Halep won the Jerry Diamond ACES Award in 2016 for her dedication to off-court charitable, community and fan events.
Seven-time Grand Slam singles winner Venus Williams is regarded as one of the greatest female tennis players of all time and has the earnings to match. The California-born athlete is estimated to be worth around $95 million, and a significant portion of that isn’t even from prize money. She earns up to $100,000 a pop from speaking gigs, is a grand ambassador for EA and has her own successful athletic clothing line, EleVen. In case you wondered, she’s earned a whopping $41.3 million in WTA prize money in her stellar career, including 49 singles titles and seven Grand Slam titles.
She’s earned $33,811,635 in prize money over her 14 years as a professional tennis player, with 30 WTA singles titles to her name and one Grand Slam win (the Australian Open in 2018). One of Denmark’s greatest athletes, Caroline Wozniacki boosts her wealth with endorsement deals with Adidas, Usana and Rolex, and in 2018 she teamed up with Ovvo Optics to create her own sunglasses line — named after Wozniacki’s family, friends and fellow famous Danes like Viggo Mortensen and Freja Beha Erichsen. Her entire net worth is estimated to be around $185 million.
Russian tennis legend Maria Sharapova, who has been ranked the world number one in singles five times, is an Olympic medalist and the only Russian to hold the career Grand Slam. She’s estimated to be worth around $195 million, thanks to almost 20 years of six-figure prize money and deals with brands like Nike, Evian and Porsche. In 2018, Sharapova signed a multiyear deal with UBS to help the wealth management firm improve its services to female clients. She even runs her own candy company, cheekily called Sugarpova.
She’s not the No. one female tennis player in the world right now (although she was on eight separate occasions between 2002 and 2017) but Serena Williams is definitely number one when it comes to career earnings among women athletes. To date, the 23-time Grand Slam winner has earned $88.6 million in prize money alone — twice that of her older sister Venus, who won an inredible amount herself. Plus, no other female athlete comes close to her magnificent endorsement portfolio, which includes deals with Lincoln, Beats by Dre, Nike and JPMorgan Chase. In 2018, Williams launched her own fashion collection, Serena.