Crossing the last threshold after a string of six silvers in major finals this year, P V Sindhu pocketed her biggest single-week pay cheque totalling USD 1.2 lakh — around Rs 86.30 lakh — after she finished No. 1 Sunday at the World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, beating Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-17. Claiming gold after repeated losses — seven in minor and major events this year alone — the China win took her total earnings to over Rs 4.22 crore in 2018.
At the World Tour Finals, Sindhu remained unbeaten through the week, scoring commanding wins over badminton’s biggest contemporary names: Tai Tzu Ying, Akane Yamaguchi, Ratchanok Intanon and Okuhara, her 2017 World Championship nemesis.
Slumping to the floor and tearing up soon after the title win, Sindhu said she was thrilled at finally crossing the hurdle. “Yes, now you people will not ask me about why I keep losing finals. Because all the time, it was like, ‘you are coming in the final and not winning’. But in a way, it was good for me. To take it in the positive sense, because people kept asking me and targeting me, I had to literally think what was happening,” she said.
The win took her to No. 3 in the players’ rankings, and also third in women’s badminton singles prize earnings this year — the focus was on Worlds, Asiad and CWG — behind Tai Tzu Ying (Rs 7.98 crore) and Ratchanok Intanon (Rs 4.90 crore). Badminton’s Asia-centric reach means Sindhu doesn’t make the Top 10 list of the “world’s most marketable” female athletes, including the Williams sisters, racer Danica Patrick, MMA star Ronda Rousey, gymnast Simone Biles, ski racer Lindsey Vonn and athlete Allyson Felix.
But she has broken into a largely tennis-centric earners’ list led by Serena Williams with USD 18.1 mn (Rs 130 crore). Before this win, Forbes magazine had pegged Sindhu’s combined earnings, from prize money and endorsements, at Rs 61.13 crore and ranked her No.7 among the highest-earning sportswomen.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tuhin Mishra of Baseline, who manages Sindhu’s endorsements, recalled that before the Rio Olympics, corporates shied away from a Rs 20-lakh sponsorship deal. “Her endorsement deals have since been to the tune of Rs 2-2.5 crore, and in the lead-up to Tokyo and especially after she’s won this title, it will be in the Rs 3.5-4 crore bracket,” Mishra said.
According to Mishra, Sindhu’s “humility and simplicity” as well as a “mature public bearing” make her popular across all age-groups in India. “She’s playing the best players every single time, week in, week out. It’s not like cricket with two big series in a year. Reaching the finals is no mean achievement and now she’s won her first,” he said.
“Brands are renewing partnerships with her… it’s a misconception that all the cricketers earn high. It’s only the top two or three. Sindhu’s payouts are right up there, and even greater than some cricketers, save Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni,” he said.
Sindhu endorses a number of brands, including Vizag Steel, Bank of Baroda, Panasonic batteries, J&J, Bridgestone, Myntra, JBL headphones, APIS Honey and Gatorade. A major deal with an insurance company is on the anvil, while her equipment sponsorship with Yonex is estimated to be in the Rs 4-5 crore range.
On December 4, speaking at the Express Adda event in Mumbai, Sindhu had said: “I’m happy about being amongst the top-earners, but it’s my parents who look into all the deals. I’m only into playing badminton…”