Tennis players at the elite level earn millions of pounds competing on the ATP and WTA circuits each year.
And with prize money a hot topic in tennis, it’s no wonder the best players take home fortunes when they win major events.
Serial Grand Slam champions such as Martina Navratilova, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf earned big while playing in the 1980s and 1990s — yet they don’t make the all-time prize money list here!
That’s because tournament prize money has inflated so much over the past two decades that now most of the players in the Top 10 list are still playing, or have recently retired.
So who do you think has earned the most prize money in tennis history? Check out the top 10 here.
10. Caroline Wozniacki – £26.6m
Denmark’s golden girl Wozniacki earned a World No 1 ranking at the age of just 20 back in 2010. Yet criticism followed her career until she finally won a Grand Slam at the 2018 Australian Open.
Wozniacki claimed 30 career titles before retiring in 2020 and it is these WTA Tour victories that have plumped up her career earnings. What’s more, her WTA Tour Finals victory in 2017 earned the Dane a cool £1.5m.
9. Simona Halep – £27.8m
Halep boasts two Grand Slam singles victories to date (2018 French Open, 2019 Wimbledon) and began her professional career as a teenager. The Romanian has enjoyed the crown of World No 1 and reached the WTA Tour Finals final in 2014.
The bulk of Halep’s prize money has not come from Grand Slams – she has progressed past the quarter-finals stages on just eight occasions as of February 2020. But she is a serial WTA Premier title winner, having clinched her first Premier crown back in 2014. Halep’s ability to excel on hard, grass and clay surfaces means she often goes deep in tournaments all year round.
8. Maria Sharapova – £30.4m
Russian Sharapova earned her first big payday when she won the 2004 Wimbledon singles crown aged just 17. She picked up a £560,500 winners’ cheque and would go on to sign multiple sponsorship deals.
Sharapova’s net worth is thought to be just shy of £150m. Only a fifth of that income was earned through prize money, which highlights just how marketable the Russia remains to this day.
Sharapova won five Grand Slam titles in her career and would arguably have won more, were it not for Serena Williams. She retired in February 2020 after crashing out of the Australian Open first round.
7. Venus Williams – £31m
The elder of the two Williams sisters and the first to make it on the Grand Slam scene, Venus was the dominant force in women’s tennis until Serena took over the mantle. At the age of 40, Venus is still playing professional tennis, having began her career as a teenager.
Venus’ first big payday was when she reached the US Open final in her first year on the WTA Tour in 1997. She lost the match in two sets to Martina Hingis — but by the end of 2001 she was a four-time Grand Slam champion.
Williams won the Wimbledon singles title on five occasions and lost three further finals — all to Serena. Her last Grand Slam triumph at SW19 in 2008 earned the American £750,000.
6. Pete Sampras – £32.7m
The only player in this list to earn the majority of his prize money in the 1990s, Sampras retired in 2002 after winning the US Open for a fifth time. He was a Wimbledon sensation, winning every men’s singles title bar one between 1993 and 2000.
The prize money at Wimbledon during that period ballooned from £305,000 for the champion in ’93 to £477,500 by the end of the decade. Back then, women were still not permitted pay parity with the men, despite playing in the same tournament.
Sampras’ last pay day was that 2002 US Open final where he beat Andre Agassi in four sets to claim the £300,000 pay cheque and quit tennis on the ultimate high.
5. Andy Murray – £46.4m
Murray won three Grand Slams during the peak of his career yet actually earned more money from the eight losing final appearances he made between 2008 and 2016.
The Brit infamously reached a record five Australian Open finals without winning a single one, but crucially broke his majors curse at Wimbledon in 2013 by beating Novak Djokovic in three sets.
Murray earned £2m when going unbeaten to clinch the 2016 ATP World Tour Finals and finished the season as World No 1 that year. He has won 46 career titles to date and isn’t quite ready to quit the sport just yet, despite enduring hip injuries into his early 30s.
4. Serena Williams – £70m
Few athletes in the history of sport have proved as successful as Serena at grinding out results. The American shot to superstardom in 1999 when winning the US Open final against tournament favourite Martina Hingis.
Serena has since gone on to win 22 more Grand Slam titles and is eyeing Margaret Court’s record of 24. What’s more, she boasts a further 14 Grand Slam doubles titles, two Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns and four Olympic gold medals.
Williams, like Sharapova, has a net worth thought to be around £150m. Her career earnings make up around half of that and she doesn’t look ready to retire just yet.
3. Rafael Nadal – £92m
Nadal has earned an estimated 20 per cent of his entire career prize money at the French Open. The King of Clay has won the Roland Garros crown a record 12 times to date and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
He has scooped up around £16.8m from winning the French Open and boasts seven further majors in his trophy cabinet.
Nadal earned his first mega payday when winning the Roland Garros title in 2005. He had failed to get past the third round of a Slam until that tournament. Nadal has also won two ATP World Tour Finals and two Olympic gold medals.
2. Roger Federer – £98m
Many may be surprised to see Federer sitting second on the all-time top earning tennis players list. That’s because his rival, Novak Djokovic, has earned a greater share of his prize money in the 2010s.
Federer was on tour for four years before finally winning his first Grand Slam – at Wimbledon – in 2003. That title earned him a £575,000 cash injection and triggered a run of five straight Wimbledon triumphs.
Federer boasts 20 Grand Slam singles titles to date, six ATP World Tour Finals triumphs and an Olympic gold medal in the doubles. He is thought to be worth around £340m, of which over a quarter of his earnings have come on the tennis court.
1. Novak Djokovic – £108m
Serbia’s Djokovic has benefitted more than any other player from the large increases in prize money paid to competitors at Grand Slam events over the past few years. The prize money inflation has not only helped those who crash out in the early rounds but also the eventual champions.
Djokovic boasts 17 Grand Slam singles titles, with his first coming at the Australian Open back in 2008. He has made Melbourne his spiritual home with eight titles won over 12 years.
Since Wimbledon 2018 Djokovic has won five of the seven available Grand Slam titles — each boasting a boosted prize money from previous years. He is also closing in on 80 career singles titles, with 34 currently coming at ATP Masters 1000 events, which provide the highest prize pots outside of Grand Slams.