Roger Federer's haul over the past 12 months included US$100 million from appearance fees and endorsement deals plus US$6.3 million in prize money. Credit: AFP.

Who knew that hitting a tennis around could be so lucrative.

According to Forbes magazine list of highest-paid global athletes, Roger Federer has topped the list for the first time with pre-tax earnings of US$106.3 million.

The Swiss tennis legend, a men’s record 20-time Grand Slam singles champion, becomes the first player from his sport atop the annual list since its 1990 debut, rising from fifth in 2019, the Buenos Aires Times reported.

“His brand is pristine, which is why those that can afford to align with him clamour to do so,” University of Southern California sports business professor David Carter told the magazine.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic that shut down sports worldwide caused the first decline since 2016 in the total income of the world’s 100 top-paid athletes, a 9% dip from last year to US$3.6 billion, the report said.

Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo was second on the list at US$105 million, US$60 million in salary and US$45 million from endorsements, with Argentine football hero Lionel Messi third on US$104 million, US$32 million of that from sponsorship deals.

Messi and Ronaldo, who have traded the top spot three of the past four years, saw their combined incomes dip US$28 million from last year due to salary cuts when European clubs halted play in March, the report said.

Brazilian footballer Neymar was fourth overall on US$95.5 million, US$25 million from endorsements, while NBA star LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers was fifth on US$88.2 million, US$60 million of that from endorsements, the report said.

NBA star Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was sixth on US$74.4 million with former teammate Kevin Durant next on US$63.9 million.

Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion and a 15-time major winner, was eighth on the list and tops among golfers at US$62.3 million, all but $2.3 million from sponsor deals, the report said.

Woods topped the Forbes list a record 12 times before an infidelity scandal helped end his run.

Two NFL quarterbacks rounded out the top 10 with Kirk Cousins ninth at US$60.5 million and Carson Wentz 10th on US$59.1 million.

The top 100 featured athletes from 21 nations and 10 sports. More NBA players made the list than those from any other sport at 35, but 31 NFL players made the cut, up from 19 from last year, and they pulled down the most money of any league, aided by finishing the season before the deadly virus outbreak, the report said.

Major League Baseball, whose start to the 2020 campaign was postponed by the virus outbreak, put only one player on the list after 15 in 2019. The lone MLB player was Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who was 57th at US$27.3 million with only US$750,000 from endorsements.

Spanish footballer Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid captain, was last among the 100 on US$21.8 million, including US$3 million in endorsements, the report said.

Two women, tennis stars Naomi Osaka of Japan and Serena Williams of the United States, made the list, the most females on it since 2016. Osaka ranked 29th overall on US$37.4 million (US$34 million in endorsements), four spots ahead of Williams with US$36 million (US$32 million in endorsements).

— Agence France Presse