Li Na, the first Chinese player to win a major tennis title, is set to become the world’s second- highest earning female athlete after signing endorsement contracts worth at least $42 million.
The 29-year-old, who became Asia’s first Grand Slam singles champion at the French Open in June, has since signed seven deals worth between $2 million and $3.5 million each annually, her agent Max Eisenbud said in an interview. All seven contracts are for a period of three years.
“We could do five more endorsement deals but she just doesn’t have the time,” said Eisenbud, a vice president at Coral Gables, Florida-based IMG Tennis who signed Li in November 2009. “It’s incredible.”
The endorsements may make Li the second-highest earning female athlete in the world, behind former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova. The Russian, who is also represented by Eisenbud, makes about $24 million a year from prize money and endorsements, according to Forbes.
Li, who has won $3.1 million in prize money so far this season, became the first Chinese player to reach a Grand Slam final at January’s Australian Open. Her success has made her a household name in the world’s fastest-growing major economy.
While Chinese women had won Olympic gold medals and Grand Slam titles in doubles, Li broke their singles drought when she defeated Italy’s Francesca Schiavone in Paris. Her victory was watched by 116 million viewers in China, according to the WTA Tour, which runs the elite women’s circuit.