MILAN | ITALY – Maria Sharapova has pledged $17,400 (25,000 AUSD) to Australia’s bushfire relief and urged Novak Djokovic to do the same.
The five-time grand slam champion becomes the latest of a host of tennis stars to donate to the cause after Australian Nick Gyrgios kick-started a wave of support from the sport earlier this week.
Wildfires have raged across Australia for months killing 23 people and burning about 6 million hectare (23,000 squares miles) of bushland.
Naval and air rescue operations were launched on Friday as mass evacuations of towns at risk of being engulfed by flames got underway.
“The month of January in Australia has been my home for the past 15 years”, Sharapova wrote on Twitter.
“Watching the fires destroy the land, its beautiful families and communities of animals is deeply (heartbreaking).
“I would like to begin my donation at 25K.@DjokerNole, would you match my donation?”
A shoulder injury last year has resulted in Sharapova slipping to No.133 in the world rankings. The 32-years-old will complete in the Brisbane International which starts on Monday ahead of the Australian Open.
Ashleigh Barty, the top seed in Brisbane, will donate her winnings at the tournament to the Australian Red Cross bushfire appeal.
The Australian, who won her first grand slam title at the French Open last year, had already donate $20,850 to the RSPCA to support wildlife affected by the fires at the end of last year, and would donate a further $265,500 were she to win in Brisbane.
“Wildlife has been lost but it has also affected lives and homes so I have been sitting down and thinking with my team and family on ways we can help”, Barty told reporters on Sunday.
“There have been really great initiatives from cricketers, tennis players, golfers, soccer players all over the country trying to help put”.
Players this week started to pledge donation for each ace they during upcoming tournaments.
Kyrgios and compatriot Samantha Stosur promised $140 (200 AUSD) foe every ace, while Alex de Minaus and John Millman chipped in with donations of $174 (250 AUSD) and $70 (100 AUSD) per ace respectively.
World No.4 Simona Halep has agreed to use her coach as a means of raising money: “Well guys, you know I love Australia, but I also know I don’t hit too many aces”, she wrote on Twitter.
“Sooo I want to help and my pledge is this… every time I give @darren_cahill a hard time in box during all my matches in Aus, I will donate $200.” “This way I will raise a lot more money”.
Tennis Australia has pledged $700.000 towards the repair of tennis facilities damaged by the fires, and the organization will also donate $100 (70AUSD) for every ace hit at the ATP Cup.