Highest-paid female athlete, Maria Sharapova, rakes in $29 million

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

It’s not always about the money, but it must be nice to be Maria Sharapova, the Russian tennis champ who first got a big pay boost in 2004 when she won Wimbledon as a 17-year-old. The 6’ 2” tall blonde soon won mega sponsorship deals with companies like Nike and Samsung. She recently picked up a deal with Porsche in April, probably thanks in no small part to her French Open win in 2012.

Sharapova doesn’t let it stop at tennis, though. She recently launched a candy business called Sugarpova – clever name, huh? The gummy candies come in bags for about $5, and her company expects to sell 1.5 million bags! She’s then going to take that money and expand her business into other areas like accessories, make-up, and fashion. Talk about a woman with dreams and willpower!

Serena Williams at the 2012 Wimbledon.

In second place for earnings is Serena Williams, who’s another legendary female tennis player. She’s known for totally dominating the court and is also sponsored by Nike. At 31 years old, she established herself as number one in February for the sixth time in her legendary career. That makes her the oldest woman to ever hold the top spot. I guess age really is just a number!

What’s great about tennis, is that it’s one of the few sports where the pay disparity – the difference – between male and female athletes is not that big. See, even when it comes to non-sports jobs, women usually earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in the US. When it comes to sports, it’s a thousand times worse! For example, the maximum salary in the Women’s NBA is $107,000, but meanwhile, Kobe Bryant will earn $30.5 million from the LA Lakers next season. Ouch!

Now, a lot of that difference in pay comes from the fact that many male-dominated sports are watched by more people, which means the teams make more money from fans. More money from fans means better pay for players. However, even less mainstream sports like golf also have a huge difference in pay. For her impressive US Open golf win, Inbee Park won $585,000, whereas Justin Rose, the men’s winner, walked away with $1.4 million. Park, who’s at the very top of her game, could probably earn $5 million in 2013 from sponsors and prize cash, but meanwhile, Tiger Woods is the highest-paid athlete in the world with a cool $78 million.