The world’s number one tennis player is likely adding another accomplishment to an already pleasantly exhaustive list. Serena Williams, who holds 21 tennis titles, could be on her rise to the top of the list as the world’s highest-paid female athlete, from her no. 2 position, following Maria Sharapova’s admission to failing a drug test.
The world’s no. 7 player announced last week she failed a drug test at the Australian Open in January. Fortune reports many of the big brands the Russian five-time major champion endorses have suspended their deals. This includes Nike, Porsche, and TAG Heuer.
“We are saddened and surprised by the news about Maria Sharapova,” Nike, who signed a $70 million deal with Sharapova, said in a statement. “We have decided to suspend our relationship with Maria while the investigation continues. We will continue to monitor the situation.” The endorsement deal was inked in 2010. It was extended to end in 2018.
“We regret the current news about Maria Sharapova. Until further details emerge and we are able to analyze the situation, we have decided to suspend planned activities,” Porsche said in their statement.
The current top endorsement earner has been taking a drug, called meldonium, since 2006 for health reasons. The drug was placed on the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Tennis Federation’s list of banned substances this year. An addition that was missed by Sharapova’s entire team.
In 2015, Forbes estimated Sharapova’s total compensation at $29.7 million, including $23 million from endorsements. Williams’ total compensation of $24.6 million, including an estimated $13 million from endorsements. Williams holds deals with Nike and Gatorade, among others.
This is also good news for Caroline Wozniacki, currently the third biggest endorsement earner.
Weird how this news is just coming out. Williams topped Sharapova in the Australian Open quarterfinals in January. Williams’ 6-4, 6-1 victory was her 18th straight against Sharapova, of Russia. Ironically, being bested by Williams will be Sharapova’s fate heretofore.