Swiss tennis star Roger Federer is officially the highest paid athlete of the year, with an estimated total pre-tax earning of US$106 million in the past twelve months.
The tennis player beat out both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, who have respectively held the number one spot three of the past four years. The two football players earned a combined US$209 million – which is a US$28 million drop from the previous year, mainly because of salary reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Federer managed to edge past both Ronaldo and Messi largely due to the “best endorsement portfolio in the world of sports” according to Forbes. The tennis player earned approximately US$100 million from his endorsement deals with Mercedes-Benz, UNIQLO, Credit Suisse, and 10 other brands, which allowed him to jump from fifth place to the top spot in just one year.
It’s also the first time that two women have made the ranks since 2016 — 22-year-old Naomi Osaka earned US$3.4 million in tournament pay and US$34 million from brand endorsements while Serena Williams earned US$4 million in tournaments and US$32 million in endorsements.
According to Forbes, the total earnings of the 100 top earners (US$3.6 billion), which includes athletes from over 21 countries across ten different sports, was down by 9 per cent year over year, which is the first decline since 2016, when Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao had skewed the numbers with their US$400 million pay-per-view “Fight of the Century” payout.
The earnings downturn is likely to extend for another ranking season before picking back up as Nascar and German football are the only sports leagues to pick back up after the pandemic thus far.