FRENCH OPEN champion Li Na has illustrated the huge commercial value of Chinese athletes by becoming the world’s second highest earning sportswoman off the back of her first grand slam title.
Li has signed sponsorship contracts worth up to £45m since her breakthrough triumph at Roland Garros in June and is now second only to fellow tennis player Maria Sharapova in the earning stakes. The 29-year-old’s historic defeat of Francesca Schiavone in the Paris final made her Asia’s first grand slam champion and was watched by an estimated audience of 116m in China alone.
She has since agreed seven endorsements lasting three years each that are worth a minimum total of £8.5m annually and up to £15m, depending on performance.
If Li maximises those contracts she is likely to overtake Sharapova, who is thought to earn around £15m a year in prize money and sponsorship.
CHINA DALEYS | FAR EAST SPORT STARS
Liu Xiang Hurdler is first Chinese athlete to achieve triple crown of world champion, Olympic champion and world record
Yi Jianlian Basketball star has played in NBA for Milwaukee Bucks, New Jersey Nets and Washington Wizards
Liang Wen-Chong Only Chinese golfer in world’s top 100 and the first to make cut at a Major, The Open in 2008