Serena Williams may have come off second best in the final of the French Open, but she has claimed the top spot in terms of being the world's highest paid female athlete.

According to Forbes magazine, Williams has beaten out fellow tennis player Maria Sharapova for the number one spot.

Williams' overtaking ends Sharapova's 11-year run atop the list, as she earned US$28.9 million (NZ$41.9M) over the past 12 months.

Sharapova, who lost sponsorship money after testing positive for recently banned substance meldonium at January's Australian Open, slips to the second spot after making US$21.9 million (NZ$31.8M) over the past year.

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American mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey owns the third spot on the list at US$14M (NZ$20.2M) after a jump from eighth last year, just ahead of fourth placed NASCAR driver Danica Patrick who earned US$13.9M (NZ$20.1M).

The rest of the women's top ten is made up of tennis players, including Spain's newly crowned French Open champion Garbine Muguruza (US$7.6 million, NZ$11M).