Roger Federer ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo at top of sport's annual rich list

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time"

By Reuters

Image: Roger Federer is the first tennis player to top Forbes' athletes rich list

Roger Federer is the world's highest-paid athlete for 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic knocked footballer Lionel Messi off top spot, according to the annual Forbes list released on Friday.

The Swiss tennis great, owner of a men's record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, earned $106.3m (£86.3m) in the last 12 months, including $100m (£81.2m) via endorsements, to move up four places and become the first player from his sport to top the list.

Soccer players Cristiano Ronaldo (£85.3m), Messi (£84.5m) and Neymar (£77.6m) and American basketball player LeBron James (£71.6m) rounded out the top five.

Image: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been impacted by the pandemic

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100m a year for the tennis great."

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Image: Naomi Osaka is the world's highest-earning female athlete

Japan's Naomi Osaka (£30.7m), who was ranked 29th on the list, surpassed fellow tennis player Serena Williams (£29.5m) as the world's highest-earning female athlete.

Osaka and Williams were the only women on the list.

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Basketball players led all sports with 35 players among the top 100. American football occupied 31 spots, none higher than six-times Super Bowl champion Tom Brady (£36.5m) who was ranked 25th.

Soccer was the next most represented sport with 14 players, followed by tennis (six), boxing and mixed martial arts (five), golf (four), motor racing (three), and baseball and cricket with one each.

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