Tennis: From sporting success to digital star. GETTY IMAGES

A recent study analysed the online popularity of the highest-earning female tennis players and the number of followers they have on social media. We found that money and success are not synonymous with followers or likes.

Ahead of the 2024 Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the year, '', a platform specialising in the analysis of online content creators, has tracked the world's top tennis players, their social media interactions with followers and the income generated by their sporting success on the circuit.

The study focuses on the online popularity of the highest-earning female tennis players and the number of social media followers, revealing that money and success do not necessarily correlate with followers.

The current highest-earning female tennis player on the circuit is Victoria Azarenka, who has earned more than $36 million. The Belarusian topped the WTA rankings for 51 weeks between 2012 and 2013, but she is not the most popular on social media, with only 740,000 followers on the platform. On the other hand, Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, who has won 4 Grand Slam titles, stands out not only for her success on the court, but also for her ratio of followers.

Japan's Naomi Osaka smiles ahead of the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. GETTY IMAGES
Japan's Naomi Osaka smiles ahead of the 2024 Australian Open at Melbourne Park. GETTY IMAGES

Osaka, the first Asian woman to reach the top of the women's singles tennis rankings, has over 2.7 million followers and 493,000 monthly searches on social media and has earned $21,177,252 in prizes. The relationship between Osaka's earnings (which are closely linked to her sporting success) and her followers is impressive, with a ratio of 0.127 followers per dollar earned. Azarenka, on the other hand, has 0.020 followers per dollar in prize money. 

Mathematics aside, the number of followers does not necessarily correlate with sporting success, as Osaka has almost four times as many followers as Azarenka with just over half the prize money. 

Therefore, using this example, which can be verified by examining the relationship between earnings and followers for the list of current top female tennis players, as the pattern repeats in all cases, a linear relationship between sporting success, earnings and social media followers cannot be established. 

This relationship is critical for major commercial brands and tennis sponsors. Until 15 years ago, a brand's reflection could be seen in traditional campaigns or traditional media, usually with photos, videos, banners, or sponsors on billboards or marquees. This reality has completely changed and the exposure of athletes takes place both during competitions and, even more so, outside of them on various social media platforms. 

The importance of this study is therefore for sponsors and elite athletes, who can generate additional revenue from social media, despite not being as successful on the playing field. It is no longer necessary to win the most matches or to be at the top of the rankings for the most weeks to promote a product or, at least, to establish the relationship between the price and the impact of advertising. The new era has arrived and we must adapt.

Naomi Osaka hits a racket with Victoria Azarenka. GETTY IMAGES
Naomi Osaka hits a racket with Victoria Azarenka. GETTY IMAGES

Income and social media popularity of top female tennis players (

Victoria Azarenka

Prize Money: $36,650,719. 

Instagram Followers: 732,592. 

Monthly Searches: 86.3k. 

World Ranking: 22. 

Victoria Azarenka stands out for her extraordinary earnings of over $36 million. Her online presence is also remarkable, with over 732,000 followers on Instagram. Her digital popularity is clearly reflected in the 86,300 monthly searches for her name generates on Google. Ranked 22nd in the world, Azarenka's success is a testament to her tennis skills and digital appeal.

Angelique Kerber

Prize money: $31,886,468.

Instagram followers: 658,516.

Monthly searches: 30.8k.

World ranking: 657.

Despite being ranked 657th, Angelique Kerber has amassed an impressive $31.89 million in prizes, reflecting her exceptional tennis skills. Her digital footprint is notable, with a significant online presence of 658,000 followers on Instagram and 30,800 monthly searches. However, it seems more modest compared to her remarkable achievements on the tennis court.

Karolina Pliskova

Prize money: $25,356,224.

Instagram followers: 441,000.

Monthly searches: 20.3k.

World ranking: 37.

Karolina Pliskova has achieved considerable financial success in tennis, earning more than $25.35 million. Ranked 37th in the world, she has a significant online presence, as evidenced by her 441,000 followers on Instagram and 20,300 monthly searches. This suggests a consistent but comparatively discreet digital profile.

Iga Swiatek

Prize money: $24,592,763.

Instagram followers: 1,423,831.

Monthly searches: 1.15M.

World ranking: 1.

Iga Swiatek, who holds the prestigious top spot in the world rankings, has left her mark on the court with $24.59 million in prize money and reigns supreme in the digital realm. Her impressive digital influence is evidenced by her extensive 1.15 million monthly searches and a follower base of over 1.42 million on Instagram, establishing her as a prominent digital figure in tennis.

Elina Svitolina

Prize money: $22,876,442.

Instagram followers: 1,460,652.

Monthly searches: 230k.

World ranking: 23.

Elina Svitolina, ranked 23rd in the tennis world, has earned a remarkable $22.88 million in her professional career. Her digital influence is equally impressive, as evidenced by her leading Instagram following of 1.46 million and substantial monthly searches of 230,000. This underlines her overall popularity beyond her achievements on the court.ç

Naomi Osaka

Prize money: $21,177,252.

Instagram followers: 2,706,246.

Monthly searches: 493k.

World ranking: 833.

Despite being ranked 833rd, Naomi Osaka has been very successful with $21.18 million in prizes. Her exceptional digital presence is underlined by a prominent position in Instagram followers, with over 2.7 million. This is complemented by a high level of public interest, as evidenced by 493,000 monthly searches, demonstrating her huge impact both on and off the court.

Aryna Sabalenka

Prize money: $20,377,563.

Instagram followers: 1,203,758.

Monthly searches: 664k.

World ranking: 2.

Holding the second spot in the world tennis ranking, Aryna Sabalenka has accumulated a total earnings of $20.38 million. Her strong online popularity is evident, with 1.2 million followers on Instagram and an impressive 664,000 monthly searches. This demonstrates her strong digital presence, which matches her outstanding performance on the court.

Sloane Stephens

Prize money: $17,972,351.

Instagram followers: 584,208.

Monthly searches: 139k.

World ranking: 43.

Currently ranked 43rd, Sloane Stephens has amassed $17.97 million in career earnings. With a strong online following, as evidenced by her 584,000 Instagram followers and 139,000 monthly searches, Stephens shows a significant but comparatively moderate level of digital engagement compared to her fellow athletes.

Madison Keys

Prize money: $17,366,870.

Instagram followers: 243,164.

Monthly searches: 211k.

World ranking: 18.

Madison Keys, 18th in the world, has earned $17.37 million in her career. Her online popularity is less significant, with 243,000 followers on Instagram and 211,000 monthly searches, but still underlines her status as a player who attracts attention both on the court and in the digital realm.

Caroline Garcia

Prize money: $16,931,236.

Instagram followers: 273,882.

Monthly searches: 227k.

World ranking: 20.

Ranked 20th, Caroline Garcia has earned $16.93 million in prizes, demonstrating her prowess. Her online presence is notable, with 273,000 followers on Instagram and 227,000 monthly searches, reflecting the growing interest in her career and achievements, both on the court and in the digital realm.