She has won 21 Grand Slam titles — more than any current professional tennis player, male or female — earned more than $77 million in prize money, launched her own fashion line, and opened two schools in Africa and one in Jamaica. Now, for the first time in her career, Serena Williams has topped Forbes list of highest-paid female athletes.
With this accomplishment, Williams unseats longtime titleholder Maria Sharapova, who spent 11 years at the top of the list. Williams earned $28.9 million in 2015, while Sharapova brought in $21.9 million.
Though Williams has defeated Sharapova in every on-court match-up since 2005 (holding a 19-2 record against her), Sharapova has repeatedly out-earned Williams thanks to lucrative sponsorship deals. After failing a drug test in March of 2016, Sharapova lost several partnerships and will possibly face further consequences because her two-year suspension will prevent her from playing in the number of matches required by her contracts. Though topping the Forbes list of highest earning female athletes is a major accomplishment for Williams, her 2015 earnings are still far behind those brought in by men in professional sports. Despite holding court as one of the world's greatest athletes for nearly two decades, Williams comes in at number 40 on Forbes list of the world's highest paid athletes and trails the top-ranked Cristiano Ronaldo by nearly $60 million. In her recent Glamour cover interview, Williams addressed the pay gap in professional sports and a need to achieve pay equity.
"These sports have a lot of work to do. And I really hope that I can be helpful in that journey because I do believe that women deserve the same pay," she told Melissa Harris Perry. "We work just as hard as men do. I’ve been working, playing tennis, since I was three years old. And to be paid less just because of my sex — it doesn’t seem fair."
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