Despite his lack of success on the court of late, Roger Federer remains one of the highest-paid sportspeople on the planet. In the 2022 Forbes Rich List, the Swiss placed seventh, behind football stars Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar along with the NBA’s LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry. In terms of tennis, Federer remains the prominent figure in the sport, although his last Grand Slam victory came in 2018 and he has since been passed as the most decorated player in the game by Spain’s Rafael Nadal.
The 40-year-old’s standing among the elite tennis player has been diminished due to his form and injury problems. There once was a time when he was considered the nailed-on favourite for Wimbledon on a yearly basis at the peak of his powers. Now for a bet on Wimbledon 2022, Novak Djokovic is clearly the outstanding player on grass in the field, with odds of 8/11 to back that up, and is threatening Federer’s legacy at the All England Club.
Both Nadal and Djokovic have surpassed Federer’s career earnings on the court, with the Serb leading the way with $156.4m and Nadal with $130.68 to his name after his latest triumph at Roland-Garros in the French Open. However, both are nowhere near Federer’s standing on the rich list as the Swiss joined the elite in sport having earned over $1bn.
The 40-year-old is the prime example of asset management, ensuring that he has maximised his earning potential on the court. In the mould of Michael Jordan, LeBron and Tom Brady, he has ensured that his legacy and financial standing will not be affected in his life post-tennis.
How has Federer achieved this?
Federer was once the tennis player synonymous with Nike, especially during the early years of his success. He earned a fair amount per year in the region of $10m before he opted to end his longstanding deal with the American giant in 2018 to branch out.
Federer stunned the sporting world by signing a massive deal with the lesser-known Uniqlo. However, the company is now reportedly paying the Swiss a huge $300m over 10 years of the deal, which does not include a retirement clause. As a result, Federer will be earning a huge sum of money from the company should he retire before the expiration of the deal.
Federer also used his nous to exclude footwear from part of the deal, and although he continued to use Nike shoes without being paid by the company, he utilised his contractual freedom to buy a percentage of stock in On Running. With 3 per cent of the company, which was reportedly worth $10bn on launch into the stock exchange, Federer’s shares have a value of $300m. A staggering amount, displaying that he not only has a brilliant tennis brain, but also nous in the business world too.
He gambled on his reputation and image rights and has been handsomely rewarded, which will ensure that he remains a huge figure in the world of sport long after he opts to call time on his career.
Will any tennis player catch Federer’s riches?
Federer is a unique player in tennis, as even Serena Williams has not been able to match his financial earnings despite her prowess on the court and her appeal to brands off it. Nadal and Djokovic have been outstanding on the court, but have not managed to secure the partnerships that Federer has enjoyed. The 40-year-old established his dominance before the two were able to match him on the court, and already had a firm grounding with many companies that may have looked elsewhere.
Being based in Switzerland certainly helped as a face of tourism and the grandeur of many businesses in the country, including Rolex. Few sportspeople could secure the types of contract that Federer received from Uniqlo, despite the fact that his skills on the court were diminished at the time. Still, when people think of tennis, Federer is the face of the game much like Jordan in basketball, Brady for the NFL and David Beckham for the world of football. There is always a next superstar on the rise.
That is the beauty of sport, but whether they can encapsulate all of the attributes required to be a global brand and a successful businessperson is difficult to comprehend. Federer has truly been an outlier in the world of tennis, which is proven by the fact no other man and only Naomi Osaka and Williams were the only other stars from the sport, included in the top 50 of the Rich List. Osaka could be the one to make a run at Federer’s record due to her unique standing as Japan’s leading athlete, but it would be a surprise to see her overhaul the Swiss.