Back as world No. 1, Saina Nehwal signs Rs 25 crore deal

HYDERABAD: It was double delight for Saina Nehwal on Thursday. The World Championships silver medallist regained the No. 1 rank – surging 2,180 points ahead of Carolina Marin – and also struck a landmark deal with management company IOS Sports & Entertainment.

Saina’s deal is worth Rs 25 crore over two years. IOS also manages top sportspersons like Suresh Raina, MC Mary Kom, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh.

Confirming the development to TOI, Saina said she was delighted at her new association with IOS. “I am happy to join them. I am sure they will take care of the deals and I just have to worry about the game and do well,” she said. “I have been performing well on the international circuit but always felt that the management of my brand image, logistics plus commercial activities was not being done in the best professional way. Having seen how IOS has built MC Mary Kom as a big brand in the industry, I was convinced that I should allow them to manage my portfolio too. That was the major reason for deciding to join hands with IOS,” said Saina.

IOS managing director Neerav Tomar said: “We are pleased to welcome another top sportswoman of the world into the IOS family. Saina is an achiever. At such a young age, she inspires millions of youngsters in the country and has become a national icon.

“She is a superbly talented player and world-class competitor who demonstrates a very strong character through her passion and commitment to her game,” said Tomar. Saina was first managed by a newspaper. Then she shifted to Rhiti Sports Management Company, which is linked to MS Dhoni. Though she signed a Rs 40-crore deal for three years in 2012, Saina walked out of it owing to some differences with the company.

The shuttler was also excited to be back on the top of the world rankings. She secured the No. 1 rank for the first time on April 2 but remained there only for five weeks. However, this time round, the Indian will enjoy a longer reign. With 82,792 points, Saina is 2,180 points ahead of world champion Carolina Marin. Third placed Tzu Ying Tai of Chinese Taipei is over 12,000 points behind the Indian.

Saina is scheduled to play the Japan Open and Korea Open in September. But the results in these two Super Series events will not affect her ranking. “It’s a great feeling to be number one in the world. I just want to keep working hard and do well in the upcoming events,” said Saina.