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Leylah Fernandez continues her slow ascent back to the top of the world rankings. Although the comeback she was counting on this past season didn’t materialize, the former No. 13 still managed to close out 2023 with a bang in terms of numbers—tennis stats and wealth.
Outside the WTA, Leylah ranks in another Top 20 as one of the world’s highest-paid female athletes. She shares the 13th spot with Mikaela Shiffrin, who holds the most World Cup wins of any alpine skier in history. Their earnings total US$6.1M this year: US$1.1M in prize money and US$5M in sponsorships.
Fernandez is currently working with 10 sponsors, including Lululemon, Subway, Google, Gatorade, Lego, Ritz Canada and Morgan Stanley.
When Morgan Stanley partnered with the WTA, she signed on to be in a women’s tennis campaign that was broadcast during the US Open this summer.
But back to tennis.
Since mid-September, Leylah’s won 15 of 18 matches including qualifiers and Billie Jean King Cup, where her four victories for Canada were the highlight of the season.
And the best is yet to come.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Former World No. 1 Naomi Osaka is gearing up for a comeback after giving birth to her daughter Shai. But even in her year off the courts, her vast sponsorship portfolio brought in several million dollars.
Indeed the avalanche of contracts that followed her 2018 US Open triumph at the expense of Serena Williams—the first of four Grand Slam crowns—continues to pay off.
And like Serena and the other women who’ve had children and returned to the WTA, Naomi is now playing for more than just herself. She’ll always have Shai on her mind, on and off the court.
She may not have competed in 2023, but the Japanese tennis star is No. 5 in Sportico’s ranking of the highest-paid female athletes. In case you were wondering, Coco Gauff is no.1, followed by No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
Take a closer look, and you’ll see that the Top 8 are all tennis players with the exception of no. 3, US-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu who’s signed with some 20 partners including Estée Lauder, Louis Vuitton, Victoria’s Secret and Tiffany & Co., as well as Chinese brands like China Mobile, Anta, Bank of China and JD.com.
And that’s what’s so extraordinary about Gu’s success. With a Chinese mother and an American father, she’s among the multicultural icons who reach hundreds of millions, even billions, of people. She’s taken home around $27K in prize money and banked $20M in deals.
A sign of the times: the No. 4 and No. 5 have similar heritages.
Emma Raducanu, whose mother is Chinese and whose father is Romanian, collected $238,000 from tennis tournaments and $16M from her partners. Naomi Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and whose father is Haitian, secured $15M in non-tennis income.
Djokovic, hands down
Novak Djokovic is way ahead.
Way, way ahead.
If there are still any doubts as to his supremacy, it’s time to face facts. After trailing Rafa and Roger, Novak caught up and proceeded to leave them in the dust. And he’s not even close to retiring.
In exceptional form at 36, he bettered his own record when he wrapped up the season as the year-end No.1 for the eighth time thanks to the three Slam titles he took home from the four finals he competed in this season.
What’s more, his dominance at the recent ATP Finals is enough to discourage anyone eyeing his spot. In the semis and final, he outplayed Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner. Unlike their performances in their other matches in Turin, they both racked up a tremendous amount of unforced errors—proof that the Djoker had gotten into their heads.
On Dec. 11, 60 Minutes aired a twelve-minute segment on Novak. It featured an interview from his home in Serbia that speaks volumes about his mythical ability to dominate physically and especially mentally.
This past season, he conquered the only category he wasn’t yet lording over: big titles.
He now has the most Grand Slam titles, the most Masters 1000 titles and the most ATP Finals titles.
Some people don’t like the idea of a GOAT, saying that you can’t compare champions from different eras. Fair enough, but that doesn’t hold water when you consider Novak’s record.
And the next generation has a way to go. Daniil Medvedev has eight big titles. Zverev has seven, Alcaraz has six.
A long, long way.
On with the show!
The players have taken to exhibition tennis.
And there are more and more events every season.
Competitors earn attendance fees, of course, but most importantly, they have a great time. Without any pressure to perform or secure ranking points, the top players RSVP yes when they’re invited to the Hopman Cup, World Tennis League, United Cup or Ultimate Tennis Showdown (UTS).
Let’s start with the UTS created by none other than Patrick Mouratoglou during the pandemic. Meant to be an opportunity for players to compete while waiting for WTA and ATP tennis to resume, the event has kept coming back.
The Grand Final 2023 will be decided in mid-December in London. Local hero Jack Draper will be there along with Rune, Rublev, Ruud, Bublik, Schwartzman, Monfils and Paire.
A few days before Christmas, the United Arab Emirates will host the World Tennis League. At last year’s inaugural event in Dubai, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Eugenie Bouchard made up one of the four teams in competition and got as far as the final.
This year, Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi will welcome four teams who’d be the envy of any tennis tournament. Leylah Fernandez will play for Canada.
After that, she’ll head to Perth, Australia, for the United Cup. She and Félix will lead our national squad, which also includes Stacey Fung, Alexis Galarneau and Adil Shamasdin.
Our two young compatriots may also be at Tennis Plays for Peace in Melbourne again this year, just ahead of AO 2024.
In 2023, they were in the mix with Maria Sakkari and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
Follow all our Canadians in action here.