2. Maria Sharapova
Credentials: 11 singles titles; first Russian tennis player ever ranked No. 1 in the world (2005); Wimbledon singles champion in 2004; Women’s Tennis Association Player of the Year in 2004; Russia’s tennis federation named Sharapova the country’s best female tennis player in 2005.
Fan interest: The 6-foot-2 part-time model appeals to men with her physique and to aspiring women tennis players with her play on the court.
Cashing in: Forbes named Sharapova, 19, the highest-paid female athlete in the world in 2005. She is listed as earning upwards of $19 million per year.
A majority of this money comes from her endorsement deals with Nike, Canon, Colgate-Palmolive, Motorola and Land Rover.
7. Serena Williams
Credentials: 26 singles tennis titles, including seven grand slam singles titles; 2000 Olympic gold medalist in doubles competition (Sydney); defeated her sister Venus five times in separate grand slam singles titles.
Cashing in: Williams, 24, has endorsement deals with Nike, Wilson, McDonald’s and Estee Lauder. She made TV appearances on ER and the Bernie Mac Show. Forbes estimated she made $10 million on and off the court in 2005.
8. Venus Williams
Credentials: 33 singles tennis titles, including five grand slam singles titles; 2-time Olympic gold medalist in 2000 (Sydney), one in singles, one in doubles.
Cashing in: The elder sister has endorsement deals with American Express, McDonald’s and Wilson. Forbes estimated Williams, 26, made $7 million on and off the court in 2005.
9. Anna Kournikova
Credentials: 13 tennis doubles titles; ranked No. 1 on Nov. 22, 1999 in doubles ranking; named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003.
Cashing in: Forbes estimated Kournikova made $5 million last year,
mostly from endorsements with Adidas and Berlei bras. Darren Rovell, ESPN sports business reporter, said Kournikova consistently made more than $10 million per year.
Analysis: Kournikova remains one of the most recognized names in tennis. The reason she wasn’t ranked higher was due to her performance on the court. Kournikova, 25, has never won a tennis singles title. Her highest singles ranking was eighth. She is now retired from tennis. Kournikova made the list mostly from her starpower off the court.
“At the end of the day, guys like pretty girls,” Wheeler said. “And sex sells. I hope I wouldn’t be too naive to think that wasn’t a factor.”