Being at the top in women’s sports takes grit, dedication, hard work and the ability to be at the top of your game in the face of rampant sexism. In 1970, a group of nine female tennis players decided to create their own tournament in protest of the huge difference in prize money for men and women on the circuit: men sometimes got paid as much as 12 times more than women.
The Original 9 found a sponsor, held a successful tournament and convinced the sponsor to back an entire circuit of tournaments. This led to the foundation of the Women’s Tennis Association in 1973 and a vigorous fight for equal prize money: of the Grand Slam tournaments, the US Open started awarding equal prize money for female and male players in 1973 while the Australian Open waited 28 more years — until 2001 — to do the same. The French Open followed in 2006 and Wimbledon in 2007.
In other sports, women still lag far behind when it comes to prize money, so it’s no wonder that tennis players are leading the ranks of the richest female athletes based on net worth. Let’s take a look at who they are. All amounts are given in US dollars.
20. Victoria Azarenka (Estimated net worth: $20 million)
19. Kim Clijsters (Estimated net worth: $20 million)
18. Lindsay Davenport (Estimated net worth: $20 million)
17. Billie Jean King (Estimated net worth: $20 million)
16. Monica Seles (Estimated net worth: $20 million)
15. Martina Navratilova (Estimated net worth: $25 million)
14. Martina Hingis (Estimated net worth: $25 million)
Martina retired in 2003 due to injuries. She made a series of comebacks and retirements until 2017, when she laid down the racquet for the last time. Among her many wins are five Grand Slam singles titles, 13 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles, seven Grand Slam mixed doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal in the doubles.
13. Naomi Osaka (Estimated net worth: $25 million)
12. Agnieszka Radwanska (Estimated net worth: $25 million)
11. Simona Halep (Estimated net worth: $30 million)
10. Annika Sörenstam (Estimated net worth: $40 million)
9. Caroline Wozniacki (Estimated net worth: $50 million)
8. Anna Kournikova (Estimated net worth: $50 million)
7. Li Na (Estimated net worth: $50 million)
6. Danica Patrick (Estimated net worth: $80 million)
5. Venus Williams (Estimated net worth: $95 million)
In between tennis tournaments, Venus earned degrees in fashion design and business administration. She has her own interior design firm, her own fashion line and a bestselling book. Venus and her sister Serena were also the first Black women to own a stake in an NFL franchise when they became minority owners of the Miami Dolphins.
4. Alexis DeJoria (Estimated net worth: $100 million)
3. Steffi Graf (Estimated net worth: $145 million)
She also has a Grand Slam doubles title and an Olympic gold, silver and bronze medal to her name. Long after she retired, she still got endorsement deals – some alongside husband Andre Agassi, who is one of the richest tennis players in the world in his own right too.
2. Maria Sharapova (Estimated net worth: $180 million)
He took on low-paying jobs to fund her lessons until she was old enough to enroll at the academy. She turned pro on her 14th birthday. Three years later, she won her first Grand Slam title. Four more would follow, as would an Olympic silver medal. She was the first Russian woman to make it to No. 1 too. Maria, who retired from the game last year, has been one of the highest paid female athletes several times, with plenty of endorsements, modelling gigs and her own tennis apparel and shoe and handbag collections.
1. Serena Williams (Estimated net worth: $210 million)
The younger of the Williams sisters, she made her professional debut at 14 and when she won the U.S. Open for the first time in 1999, she was the first African American woman of the Open Era to do so. With her many endorsements, TV and movie appearances, stakes in sports teams, fashion collections and even a nail collection for which she became a certified nail technician, she’s the richest female athlete in the world. It’s easy to forget how much prejudice she has faced in her career. She is an outspoken on various social justice issues. She’s also spoken openly about her pregnancy-induced health struggles, including postpartum depression.