Being a professional tennis player is a lucrative career, and that’s because not many people have the skill or talent to get to the professional level. Much like any sport, tennis takes a lot of hard work and dedication. In short, it just isn’t easy to do. However, pros make it look easy, and that’s why they get paid the big bucks. Chinese professional tennis player Li Na has managed to accumulate a net worth of $50 million throughout her career. That’s an impressive number for any athlete, and we’re going to look at exactly how she did it.
Li Na was born on February 26, 1982 in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Growing up, Li Na watched her father play badminton professionally. When her father passed away when Li was only 14 years old, her mother refused to tell Li Na about it for fear that it might affect her game. The family enrolled Li Na specifically into a school that focused on sports. For her father’s sake, Li Na continued to pursue sports—training and working as hard as possible in order to win. After her father’s death, Li Na’s mother fell into some hard debts, and Li Na pushed herself just so she could win tournaments for money. It was a tumultuous time in Li Na’s life, but it proved her strength, her determination, and her capacity to succeed.
By the time she turned 17 years old, she was ready to work towards a bigger goal: to land on the sport’s top 10 list. In 2002, Li Na was ranked the number 1 tennis player in China, and her goal became that much closer to being attainable. However, she only ranked number 135. Still, she had a lot going for her, and people were rooting for her to succeed. That was 2002 and Li Na was already on her way to the top. Next thing everyone knew, she disappeared from the public eye altogether.
A Retirement Note
One early morning, Li Na slipped out of training camp with nothing but a small backpack to carry a few of her belongings. She left a note on her desk stating that she was retiring from tennis, but she left no reason as to why. People speculated that it could’ve been burnout. She was working too much and too hard. Some people also say that she was tired of getting the hormones for her menstrual pain. However, it was her relationship with fellow tennis player Jiang Shan that became the main reason. Relationships were rather taboo in the tennis world—especially during training—because it’s difficult for a tennis player to get distracted. Li and Jiang left the training center together in order to start a new life as university students. Jing became Li Na’s stronghold, her coach, and her biggest supporter. After so many years, Li Na ended up marrying Jiang Shi, and the two remain husband and wife to this day. The couple believes to this day that they were destined to be together.
Destiny or not, it was their partnership that created their dynasty. Li Na’s current accumulated net worth of $50 million USD. She made money not because she pursued journalism after she got her degree. She made money because she decided to go back to tennis after she graduated from college. After coming back, Li Na won 19 ITF tournaments and 7 WTA tournaments that all made her some sum of money. She’s played at the Australian Open; she’s played at Wimbledon. She’s also played at the US Open and at so many other tournaments. Every single time she won or placed in anything, Li Na made some tournament money. Apart from her tournament earnings, she also had some endorsements. After Li Na won the 2011 French Open, she became an overnight sensation. Her popularity quickly increased, and she managed to land a solid endorsement out of her fame. She signed a $7 million endorsement deal that included brands such as Nike, Samsung, Mercedes Benz, Haagen Dazs, and a couple others into a portfolio. She had a $2 million endorsement deal before that as well.
However, the biggest salary report we’ve gotten far was for her salary from 2013, which added up to $18 million annually. During that year, she became one of the highest paid female athletes. From 2010 until 2012, she was averaging an annual salary of roughly $8 million. Li Na has amassed an impressive $16,709,000 in prize money throughout her career. This is 17thin all-time rankings for both males and females.
Li Na will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame on July of 2019, and it’s surely an accolade that’s more than deserved. Although Li Na is now retired, she’s still very much involved in the world of tennis. Throughout the course of her career, she’s inspired many people in her home country of China to pursue their dreams no matter what. She’s also inspired many people to consider tennis as a possible career option. She now devotes her time to the future generation of Chinese tennis players. Li Na has been dreaming up a tennis school since 2014, and that dream is getting closer to fruition. She currently offers free youth tennis clinics for children that are part of the City Park’s Foundation’s tennis program in New York. Li Na has literally taught thousands of students across New York’s five boroughs. This new legacy is as important as all the wins she’s achieved throughout her career.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker