Swiss tennis magician Roger Federer retired from professional tennis in September 2022 following his involvement in the Laver Cup. Despite this – and having dropped out of the world top 50 in June through injury, eventually becoming unranked – Federer was still the seventh highest-earning professional athlete in world sport last year.
That’s according to data from experts in sports commerce, Sportico, which ranked the top 100 athletes on the planet by total earnings, inclusive of endorsements.
According to Sportico, Federer was the top earner from the world of tennis, raking in $85 million in endorsements and a meagre $724,000 in prize money through 2022. All of which goes to underline his lack of game time in his final year and his clear commercial pull as a gifted sportsman.
Which sports stars made the top ten cut?
Interestingly, four NBA basketballers are in the top ten of the rankings, which makes basketball the most prominent sport in terms of individual earnings. LeBron James was number one in the rankings for 2022, taking in a combined $126.9 million, comprising $36.9 million in salary and $90 million in endorsements.
In fact, of all America’s major league sports, many would have expected to see at least one NFL athlete inside the top ten. The Los Angeles Rams’ Matthew Stafford finds himself just on the cut-off in 11th place, although his salary ($70.3m) comprised the majority of his $73.3 million earnings last year.
Ranking it purely on salaries alone, five of the top ten earning athletes were from the NFL. Surprisingly, none of these stars will be involved in the sport’s iconic Super Bowl LVII this weekend.
The Chiefs’ number-one quarterback Patrick Mahomes, was ranked 26th on Sportico’s list. The Eagles’ quarterback, Jalen Hurts, is in similarly fantastic form this season too, which makes Super Bowl LVII a very close call indeed.
The latest Super Bowl odds have the point spread as tight as 1.5 points either way at present. All the indications suggest it will be a tight but fascinating contest at the State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
The WTA icons lead the way for endorsements
The next two highest-earning tennis stars in 2022 were in fact, female. Japanese ace Naomi Osaka was ranked 20th highest earner, narrowly behind 19th-ranked F1 icon Lewis Hamilton. Osaka earnt just $1.2 million of her $53.2 million annual earnings from prize money, with the majority generated by endorsements and sponsorship deals.
It’s a similar story for American veteran Serena Williams, who won just $270,000 in prize money in 2022, with the remainder of her $35.3 million generated by endorsements. Williams’ endorsements are likely to continue long into 2023 and beyond despite her unofficial retirement and the decision to “evolve away from tennis” in September.
As for Federer, his absence from men’s tennis is already being felt on the biggest stage. Last month saw the first Grand Slam of the year staged at the Australian Open, which was won comfortably by Novak Djokovic over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Channel 9, the owners of Australian Open broadcast rights, confirmed that viewing figures were down by almost 40% year-on-year.
British tennis ace, Andy Murray, who made another triumphant comeback in Melbourne, said the absence of one of the greats of the modern era of tennis will have certainly weighed heavily on viewing figures. Murray also noted the lack of home favourite, Nick Kyrgios, as another reason for Aussies not to tune in and cheer on one of their own.