London: Li Na, who recently became the first Asian-born player to win a singles Grand Slam title, is poised to become the richest woman in tennis as companies fight to cash in on her enormous popularity in China.
Li, 29, has only played four tennis matches and won nearly 25,000 pounds in prize money since her French Open tennis victory at Roland Garros in June.
She has now signed at least 26 million pounds of sponsorship deals with the big companies like Mercedes-Benz, Rolex and Haagen Dazs, the Telegraph reports.
These companies believe that she may be the key to the lucrative Chinese market.
Li’s agent Max Eisenbud said it was ‘hard to set a price’ after she has became the first Chinese to win a grand slam tennis tournament.
Terry Rhoads, the former head of sports marketing at Nike who gave Li her first 15,400 pounds a year sponsorship deal in 1998 said that ‘two years ago, she could not buy a sponsor, but now she is the only person with a Nike deal who can wear patches from other sponsors on her clothes.’
“As international brands try to chase the Chinese market, Li is in a seller``s market,” he added.
At present, Li is only out earned by Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova, who she beat in the semi-finals in Paris, but they are likely to swap positions if she can continue to triumph in major tournaments.