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Eight of the 10 highest-paid global female athletes between June 2009 and June 2010 played either tennis or golf, according to research by Forbes.

Top Earning Female Athletes 2009-2010
1. Maria Sharapova – Tennis – $24.5 million
2. Serena Williams – Tennis – $20.2 million
3. Venus Williams – Tennis – $15.4 million
4. Danica Patrick – Racing – $12 million
5. Kim Yu-Na – Figure Skating – $9.7 million
6. Annika Sorenstam – Golf – $8 million
7. Anna Ivanovic – Tennis – $7.2 million
8. Jelena Jankovic – Tennis – $5.3 million
9. Paula Creamer – Golf – $5.2 million
10. Lorena Ochoa – Golf – $5 million

Rackets and Clubs Earn Bucks
Five of the 10 highest-earning female athletes, including the top three, play tennis. Another three play golf. Interestingly, two of the golfers, number six Annika Sorenstam and number 10 Lorena Ochoa, are retired. However, Sorenstam, who retired in 2008, still has lucrative endorsement deals, and Ochoa only retired in April 2010 (she will continue to host and play in an annual LGPA event named for her).

Individual Sports Provide Most Dough
All 10 of the athletes on this list perform in individual sports. Although tennis, golf and figure skating are all global sports, these athletes still earn most of their money competing in events that are held and/or televised in the US. Women’s team sports do not generally do well in the US market, limiting the earning potential of those athletes.

Top Earners Come From Around the Globe
In contrast to the Forbes list of top 10 earning male athletes, eight of whom are US natives, the top 10 earning female athletes are a much more international bunch. In addition to four Americans, the list includes ), two Serbs (Ivanovic and Jankovic), one Russian (Sharapova), one South Korean (Kim Yu-Na), one Swede (Sorenstam) and one Mexican (Ochoa). This reflects the international nature of competition in women’s tennis, golf and figure skating.

Williams Sisters Favorite US Sports Stars
In addition to ranking two and three in female athlete earnings, Serena and Venus Williams also rank one and two in female athlete popularity with US sports fans, according to a recent Harris Poll.

Following is race car driver Danica Patrick (fourth on the earnings list). Perhaps thanks to the recent World Cup excitement, soccer player Mia Hamm took fourth place, followed by Maria Sharapova (tops on the earnings list).

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