Like 2013, this year I will do a countdown of the top money list leaders from both the WTA and LPGA. Last year I did the top 30, but this year I will do the top 25. Note that as of this post, the retired Li Na has been removed from the WTA website money list rankings, but I will include her here. Thus, some WTA players will be off by one position on my list compared to the WTA website list. Also, Hyo Joo Kim is not on my LPGA list due to not being a member this year. I’m certain she will be on the list in the future. For the WTA, singles, doubles and mixed are combined for this top 25. Number 2 on this money list for each tour are Maria Sharapova (WTA) and Inbee Park (LPGA).
MARIA SHARAPOVA (Russia)
2014 Official WTA Prize Money: $5,839,357
Best Results: WINNER (4) Roland Garros, Mutua Madrid Open, China Open, Porsche Tennis Grand Prix; SF (4) Sony Open, Western & Southern Open, Brisbane International, Open GDF Suez
WTA Awards: Fan Favorite Facebook, Fan Favorite Major Match of the Year (Roland Garros Final vs Simona Halep)
Early in 2014 I was a little worried about Maria Sharapova. She was highly active outside of tennis, including being an ambassador for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. She acted as a special correspondent for NBC and was part of the torch relay, bringing the Olympic Flame into the stadium during the opening ceremony. She was also making the rounds in promotion of her Sugarpova candy line. It wasn’t even about wins or losses. Even when she won, it was sometimes with more of a struggle than it should have been. To be fair, she was coming back from an end of year injury. But she’s #2 on the money list for the year so clearly things turned around. It seems all she needed was to return to…oh my, I can’t believe I’m about to write this…her best surface, clay. That’s right. The woman who once said she moved on clay “like a cow on ice” is now the hands down Queen of Clay at the moment. Once back on the fine-grained crushed brick of European red clay courts (as opposed to the green clay found in the United States) Masha was in-form. She won 3 of the 4 clay court events she entered, taking her 3rd straight Porsche Tennis Grand Prix and her first Mutua Madrid Open in her 2nd straight Madrid final. It all culminated in her 3rd straight Roland Garros final and 2nd Roland Garros championship. The win in Paris gives Masha her 5th Major singles title.
Sharapova would also add the China Open to her 33 career WTA titles later in the year. It was still kind of feast or famine for Masha. The title in Beijing was impressive, as was a deep run at Cincinnati. But there were also premature exits at Rogers Cup, Wuhan and the WTA Finals. The most perplexing result was a fourth round departure at Wimbledon. Since 2006, she has reached one Wimbledon final, where she lost to Petra Kvitova. Other than that, she hasn’t made it past the fourth round since 2006. It’s strange because she made her mark by winning Wimbledon in 2004, following that up with deep semifinal runs in 2005 and 2006. Ultimately though, she played well in some very big events; Roland Garros, Madrid, Beijing and Cincinnati. Masha is a big-time performer in the spotlight. She’s also mentally as solid as they come. Here’s how good she is. She’s ranked #2, was #2 on the money list, made nearly 6 million dollars in prize money, won four titles, won a Major…and I can’t shake the impression that she didn’t achieve all she was capable of in 2014. Really?!! Maybe I should read those accomplishments again and reconsider my position. But it’s nothing but complete respect for Masha. I guess I’m shocked any time she loses to somebody not named Serena (or Petra on a good day). That’s how highly I hold Sharapova’s game when she’s on. She should dominate everybody on tour save for one or two players.
INBEE PARK (South Korea)
2014 Official LPGA Prize Money: $2,226,641
Best Results: WINNER (3) Wegmans LPGA Championship, Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship, Manulife Financial LPGA Classic; 4th Ricoh Women’s British Open, T10 Evian Championship, 2nd Honda LPGA Thailand, 2nd Meijer LPGA Classic, 3rd Canadian Pacific Women’s Open, 3rd Lorena Ochoa Invitational, 3rd LPGA Lotte Championship, T3 Reignwood LPGA Classic, 4th LPGA KEB HanaBank Championship, T4 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic, T4 HSBC Women’s Champions, T6 Kia Classic, T8 ShopRite LPGA Classic, T10 JTBC Founders Cup
Social Media: Facebook
I have a similar feeling about Inbee Park as I did when reviewing Maria Sharapova’s year. A part of me felt it was a down year for Inbee. But as I look back on things, it was another spectacular showing for Queen Bee. Perhaps the false assessment of her year is because of just how incredible 2013 was paired with not winning on the LPGA until June. She was so amazing in 2013, winning 6 tournaments and the first 3 Majors of the season that I expect every few tournaments or so to see her holding a trophy. I know she won on the Ladies European Tour early in 2014, but that doesn’t count on the LPGA, where her first title came in June at the Manulife Financial Classic. However, she was playing brilliantly from the season’s inception, racking up 6 top tens in her first 7 events including a runner-up in her very first tournament, the Honda LPGA Thailand. She also added her 5th career Major, winning the 2014 Wegmans LPGA Championship. That matches the career Major total of her idol, Se Ri Pak. While Se Ri is generally regarded as the greatest South Korean golfer ever, a case is forming for Inbee Park to usurp that title. Queen Bee still trails in total victories, but she is only 26 and showing no signs of slowing down. She still has a lot of work to do to match Se Ri’s 25 victories (and counting) overall, but having already won 5 Majors Inbee could reasonably pass Se Ri in the Major category with continued great seasons. Getting back to this season, I see 3 victories, a couple of runner-ups including a loss in a playoff to Mirim Lee at the Meijer LPGA Classic, 2nd on the money list, 17 top 10s and her best ever scoring average at 69.68. And I thought this was a DOWN year?!! What was I thinking?!!
In October, Inbee scored her biggest victory to-date when she married her longtime fiancé, Gi Hyub Nam. The guest list read like an honor roll of women’s golf. Suzann Pettersen, Jiyai Shin, Anna Nordqvist, Yani Tseng, Azahara Munoz, Eun-Hee Ji, Shanshan Feng, Belen Mozo and KLPGA star Ha Neul Kim were among the distinguished guests who came to celebrate Inbee’s nuptials. Her bridesmaids were also fellow golf luminaries: Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu, In Kyung Kim and Ji Young Oh. Sometimes as fans we cheer athletes and forget they are regular human beings like anybody else when it comes to searching for happiness in their lives. I am more than pleased to see Inbee find balance and joy in her personal life. I wish her, her husband and any future little ones to come nothing but the best.
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