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A female Indian badminton star makes more money than the world’s best tennis player

By Kabir Chibber

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu won a silver medal in badminton at the 2016 Rio Olympics. That makes her one of 28 Indian athletes to ever medal at the Olympics—in the history of the games—and the first to ever win silver. If you haven’t heard of her, it’s because she’s mostly famous in India.

In a sign of the country’s growing economic power due to its enormous domestic audience, that is enough to make her one of the highest-paid female athletes in the world.

Sindhu, 23, earned a total of $8.5 million between June 2017 and June 2018, according to the latest list by Forbes, making her the seventh-highest-earning woman in sports. Most of that comes from sponsorship from brands like Gatorade, which made her its first brand ambassador from India, as well as Bridgestone, Nokia, and Panasonic.  She gets an endorsement fee of up to 12.5 million rupees (about $178,000) a day, her agent told CNBC, second only to its world-famous male cricket captain, Virat Kohli.

That puts her ahead of Romania’s Simona Halep, the world tennis number one at the moment and the favorite to win the US Open. Halep made $7.7 million in the past year, Forbes reported. (The contrast is especially stark because, unlike badminton, tennis is one of the world’s most popular sports.)

Sindhu also earned more prize money than Serena Williams, the American tennis star who is one of the most famous faces in the world. Sindhu earned $500,000 from badminton winnings, whereas Williams made just $62,000—because she took a 14-month break after her pregnancy. (Williams earned $18 million in sponsorship, making her the highest-paid female athlete last year.)

Williams has a chance to change that in one go, though, at the US Open, which begins Aug. 27. The tournament in New York offers $3.8 million for victory in the women’s game, the richest prize in the sport’s history.