Naomi Osaka makes rich list history after toppling Serena Williams

Naomi Osaka has overtaken Serena Williams as the highest-paid female athlete in the world. Pic: Getty

Naomi Osaka made her name beating Serena Williams on the court.

Now, she’s topped the tennis icon at another key venue — the bank.

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Osaka, 22, earned US$37.4 million ($A57.2m) in prize money and endorsements over the last 12 months, supplanting Williams as the highest-paid female athlete in the world, according to Forbes.

The figure is also the highest ever for a female athlete, passing the $29.7 million ($A45.4m) payday Maria Sharapova earned in 2015, according to the report.

Born in Japan, Osaka is also hugely popular in the United States, where she has lived since the age of three.

“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.”

Four-year streak for Williams snapped

There’s no need to shed a tear for Williams, though. The 38-year-old, 23-time Grand Slam winner did just fine, earning US$36 million for the second-biggest payday ever for a female athlete.

Osaka’s money move snaps a four-year streak for Williams, who had been the world’s highest-paid female athlete since 2016.

Sharapova held the honour the previous five years, earning at least $24.4 million in each year from 2011 to 2015.

Even though Osaka is female sport's top earner, she still only manages to come in at 29th on the Forbes list for 2020, with Williams four places back at 33.

Not since 2016 have two women cracked the top 100 of the male-dominated list.

Osaka’s breakthrough win over Serena

Osaka burst on the scene in 2018 when she beat Williams at the U.S. Open for her first major title at 20 years old. The match was one of the year’s biggest sports controversies, as Williams berated chair umpire Carlos Ramos, calling him a “liar” and a “thief” during an on-court meltdown at the heated final.

It made for a difficult scene for Osaka as she fought through tears during the trophy presentation.

But it also made for one of the year’s biggest stories, raising her profile even further.

She followed up her U.S. Open victory by claiming the Australian Open title in 2019 for back-to-back Grand Slam victories.

According to Forbes, Osaka has 15 endorsement deals with partners Nike, Nissan, beauty brand Shiseido and racket-manufacturer Yonex each paying her seven figures.

Her deal with Nike is worth more than $10 million annually and runs through to 2025.