Maria Sharapova has pledged $17,400 (25,000 AUSD) to Australia’s bushfire relief, a donation which has been matched by Novak Djokovic.
The pair are the latest of a host of tennis stars to donate to the cause after Australian Nick Kyrgios kick-started a wave of support from the sport earlier this week.
Wildfires have raged across Australia for months, killing 24 people and burning about 14.7 million acres 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 lands, 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?”
The defending Australian Open champion replied on Monday offering his support: “Yes, @MariaSharapova I would like to match your $25k donation to double the aid sent to these communities,” Djokovic wrote on Twitter. “We stand by you, #Australia.”
Five-time grand slam champion Sharapova will compete in the Brisbane International which starts on Monday, while world No. 2 Djokovic has been competing for Serbia at the ATP Cup 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 donated $20,850 ($30,000 AUSD) to the RSPCA to support wildlife affected by the fires at the end of last year, and would donate a further $265,500 ($382,000 AUSD) 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 out.”
Players this week started to pledge donations for each ace they hit during upcoming tournaments.
Kyrgios and compatriot Samantha Stosur promised $140 (200 AUSD) for every ace, while Alex de Minaur and John Millman chipped in with donations of $175 (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 you 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 my 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 (1 million AUSD) towards the repair of tennis facilities damaged by the fires, and the organization will also donate $100 (70 USD) for every ace hit at the ATP Cup.
It will also hold a Rally for Relief exhibition match at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena on January 15.
The bushfires have also forced the Canberra International, one of the tournaments that forms part of the buildup to the Australian Open, to be moved 600 kilometers west to the city of Bedigo.