Serena Williams found out today that she became the sportsworld’s all-time $ugar mama — amassing more prize money than any other female athlete in history by making it to the finals of the women’s singles and, with sister Venus, winning the women’s doubles at the Australian Open.
She’s got nothing to be embarassed about. Not at all as she was that night at the ESPY Awards a few years ago when Jamie Foxx serenaded her with a soulful version of a song about how he wanted to be her tennis ball.
There was a moment during her semifinal victory on Thursday against Elena Dementieva when Serena’s ear ring came loose, and she had to stop and pick it up. Why bother? Just buy another one.
Just calculating things from prize money alone, Serena has already eclipsed $23 million. That’s more than Annika Sorenstam won during her LPGA career, which she just decided to end so she could go start a family.
Of course, this is a kind of record that’s all relative. When Billie Jean King and Chris Evert were winning women’s tennis titles on just as regular a basis, they weren’t even getting paid close to what the men were making. And even that, in 1960s, ’70s and ’80s dollars, it’s hardly comparable to today’s hauls.
You wonder what kind of money a Dorothy Hamill could have made as a figure skater if she wasn’t doing so much in the amateur world. Or what Michelle Kwan today has in her account — not from prize money, per se, but just endorsements and all the other perks that have come from her ability to skate.
You put Serena’s career take to what Tiger Woods made in 2008 alone. It’s almost identical. That’s a huge discrepancy, but it does put things into context.
Serena, who said remembered earning $240 for her first pro tennis check, from Quebec City, in 1995, admitted that lately, she’s not spending as much around town on shopping sprees as she might have before.
“I really cut back,” she said, while carrying a $12 American Apparel Inc. bag in Melbourne. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s everywhere in the media, but I am.”
Maybe because she knows that in these uncertain times, every penny counts. And she’s got a lot of pennies in the piggy bank. Hopefully, it paves a road of opportunity for female tennis players long after she’s done playing as well.
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