To the surprise of no one who follows women's sports, or sports in general, closely, tennis leads the way in pay both on and off the court or field of play for its professionals. The sport seized the top three spots among individual athletes' monetary hauls in the past year, according to Forbes' own Kurt Badenhausen.

What's more, Maria Sharapova has turned it up to 11. Years, that is. As in years at the top of said list, about $5 million ahead of her nearest opponent, Serena Williams, who (suffice it to say) has Sharapova's number within the lines of tennis courts the world over. Sharapova earned $29.7 million in prize money and endorsements between June 2014 and June 2015.

Sharapova hasn't defeated Williams in a tennis match since 2004. Funnily enough, her Wimbledon championship and season-ending championship run that year—each of which came at the expense of Serena—propelled her into the upper echelon of female-athlete millionaires. She hasn't looked back.


Caroline Wozniacki comes in third on the Forbes roster, and then NASCAR's Danica Patrick breaks the flood of tennis players. It's solely Patrick, UFC's Ronda Rousey and LPGA golfer Stacy Lewis who break the tennis tide on this list.

Ana Ivanovic, Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep and Agnieszka Radwanska also make the list. Missing in action is one Venus Williams, who has earned $31 million in her career to date but doesn't pull in on-court results and endorsement dollars as she once did. Even so, Venus, now the relative grande dame of women's tennis at age 35, should be thanked by all the tennis players landing on the list for her work to catalyze payouts for women at Wimbledon that are equal to the round-by-one takes their male counterparts claim each year.

The younger Williams sister may very well turn her recent "Serena Slam" from the past four major tournaments into a bona fide calendar-year Grand Slam. If so, she would likely find herself a lot closer to Sharapova as pay goes than her Russian pseudo-rival finds herself mid-match, where she's so often in Serena's rear-view mirror.

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