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Maria Sharapova’s tennis ban will cost her millions – here’s a breakdown

The star will lose on-the-court winnings and endorsement earnings

Tennis star Maria Sharapova’s public nightmare began on March 7, when she held a press conference to announce that she had tested positive for a banned substance, Meldonium. Nike temporarily suspended its lucrative endorsement deal with her in a matter of hours, and other sponsors followed, but the question remained: What would the sport do?

Now we have an answer. The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Wednesday it has banned Sharapova from competition for two years. Thanks to her “prompt admission of her violation,” the ban is back-dated to when she tested positive for the substance, which was Jan. 26, so the ban will end at midnight on Jan. 25, 2018.

At that time, Sharapova will be three months shy of turning 31. The average age of the top 200 women on the WTA Tour is 25. Steffi Graf retired at 30. Justine Henin retired at 25. It is a legitimate question whether Sharapova will ever compete again, if the ban is upheld.

She is appealing the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. (There is no timeline yet for when there might be a decision on appeal.) But it’s worth asking how much money the star will miss out on by missing two years of play. For the past decade, Sharapova was the highest-earning female athlete in the world (on-the-court winnings plus off-court endorsements). Now Forbes already has her falling to No. 2 behind Serena Williams in the last 12 months, due to the scandal.

What about the next 24 months, if she doesn’t get to play?

On the court: $8.2 million

Sharapova has earned a grand total of $36.76 million in career winnings on the WTA Tour, No. 2 only to Serena Williams (who has more than doubled her). But in 2016, she has only made $281,663. She won that amount at this year’s Australian Open, according to the WTA. But because that tournament took place after her failed drug test, the IFT has decreed she must forfeit her winnings from the event. That’s $281,663 lost.

Sharapova is still at the height of her skill on the court, a top contender at every tournament. In that way, this scandal is different from that of, say, NFL running back Ray Rice, who was likely nearing the end of his career anyway. Sharapova, presumably, would continue to compete well in tournaments for the next two years. So let’s use the most recent full year as an indicator. In the calendar year 2015, according to the WTA, Sharapova made $3,949,284 in total winnings, including big paydays at the Australian Open ($1.35 million), Wimbledon ($750,000) and the WTA Finals ($650,000). If we use that as a baseline for how she could do in the next two years, that’s $7,898,568 lost.

The year before, 2014, was even better for Sharapova: She earned $5.16 million on the court. So it’s possible she would win even more than $7.9 million in the next two years.

Off the court: $10 million+

Not all of Sharapova’s sponsors have jumped ship. Nike announced Wednesday it had ended its suspension of Sharapova and would continue to work with her, because the ITF “found that Maria did not intentionally break its rules… We hope to see Maria back on court and will continue to partner with her.” Bottled water company Evian and racket-maker Head are also sticking with her. The Nike deal is her biggest, bringing her an estimated $12 million a year, but Nike could cut that figure down, thanks to “morals clauses” typically included in endorsement contracts. That’s what Nike did with Tiger Woods in 2010 and 2011, Fortune uncovered, cutting his annual check in half for two years as a punishment following his extramarital affair and public meltdown. But let’s assume Sharapova won’t earn any less from those brands, over the next two years, than she would have pre-scandal (a generous assumption).

Tag Heuer, Porsche, and Avon (AVP) did flee. All three had contracts with the star that had just expired or were about to, and they have ended talks of renewal, though Porsche said it is monitoring the appeal process and “will continue to keep all activities with her on hold until the final judgement has been reached,” suggesting it could re-sign her if the appeal goes her way. (Just last year, Porsche used Sharapova in a glitzy ad for the new 911 model, along with chess player Magnus Carlsen and a CGI version of Muhammad Ali.) These deals were collectively worth an estimated $5 million per year. Over two years, that’s $10 million lost.

Forbes has estimated that Sharapova was earning $23 million a year just in endorsements; Fortune and Sports Illustrated, in 2014, put the figure at $20 million. More than half the total each year was from Nike, and that deal also carries performance bonuses for high finishes at Major tournaments, so even if Nike sticks with her during her ban, she will miss out on bonuses. If the ban is upheld, Nike (and Evian and Head) could still drop her. So $10 million of endorsement money is the very least she will lose; she could end up missing out on $40 million.

Over the years, Sharapova has endorsed the likes of Canon PowerShot, Colgate-Palmolive, Land Rover, Motorola, Pepsi, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Those are deals that have since expired but reflect the fact that she was a marketer’s dream, and at any time, had the potential to sign new deals and grow her portfolio. If she isn’t competing, new deals are unlikely.

Global sports research firm Repucom, which tracks athlete marketability based on seven different attributes, reported exactly one year before Sharapova’s failed drug test that she was the most marketable female athlete in the world. Repucom gave her the highest scores of all female tennis players for “breakthrough,” “trend-setting” and “endorsement.” As examples of her high-profile deals, Repucom listed Nike, Evian, Tag Heuer and Porsche. Half of those are now gone. It’s hard to imagine Sharapova maintaining her high scores after a 2-year ban.

If Maria Sharapova's tennis ban sticks, at the very least she is going to miss out on $18 million. And that’s a conservative estimate.


Daniel Roberts is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering sports business and technology. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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An earlier version of this story stated Sharapova earned $281,663 in WTA winnings in the last 52 weeks. That is the amount she earned in 2016 so far.