Serena Williams crushed Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals of Wimbledon on Thursday. The 6-2, 6-4 thrashing was Williams’ seventeenth straight victory over Sharapova.
It has been 11 years since Sharapova last beat Williams. Since that time, Williams has won an incredible 14 Grand Slam titles. Williams has won 20 overall, nearing the all-time record of 24 set by Margaret Court in 1974.
Sharapova has 5 Grand Slam titles. She has lost to Serena in a Grand Slam final three times.
Of late, Williams has been particularly dominant. If she is victorious in the Wimbledon final it will be her fourth straight Grand Slam victory. (The accomplishment is known as the “Serena Slam” since she achieved the feat in 2003.)
But it is Sharapova, not Williams, who makes the most money. In 2014, she was listed as Forbes’ highest paid female athlete, earning $24.4 million. Serena earned $22 million.
The difference is endorsements. Sharapova earned $22 million in endorsements and just $2.4 million in prize money. Williams, dominant on the court, took home $11 million in prize money but just $11 million in endorsements.
Serena Williams is the most dominant female athlete of our era and perhaps any era. So why isn’t she earning more in endorsements?
Kevin Adler, a marketing expert, suggested there is a double standard for male and female athletes. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a popular male athlete who doesn’t also have physicality and sex appeal. But that comes second to winning for guys, whereas for female athletes, looks come first,” Adler told Women’s Wear Daily in 2013.
This isn’t to suggest that Serena Williams is not attractive. But perceptions of her body are frequently overlaid with racist stereotypes. Sharapova, by contrast, is blond, thin, leggy and has worked as a model. In the eyes of corporate marketers, that is apparently valued more than on-court performance.