The horrific wildfires have claimed the lives of at least 25 people and almost half a billion animals since September
Several athletes set to compete at the 2020 Australian Open have agreed to play in a charity match that will raise funds to combat the devastating Australian bushfires.
Top tennis stars Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal announced on Wednesday that they would be playing in the exhibition match — along with Naomi Osaka, Caroline Wozniacki, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas, CNN reported.
All ticket proceeds from the Australian Open Rally for Relief will be donated to bushfire relief efforts. The games are set to take place on Jan. 15 at Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena, days ahead of the Grand Slam tennis tournament, which begins on Jan. 19.
“This unprecedented bushfire crisis is devastating people, properties, communities, livestock and animals across the country and our hearts go out to all those affected,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We felt it was vital we use all our events across the summer to make a meaningful contribution to help these people and communities rebuild their lives,” he added. “The response from the tennis community – our players, clubs, partners and international tennis bodies – has been overwhelming and it’s wonderful to see everyone pull together.”
Tiley concluded, “The world’s top players, boasting many Grand Slam titles between them, have committed to AO Rally for Relief and we look forward to announcing the line-up in the coming days. The players are keen to be involved – we’ve had a tremendous response from them and they are keen to help.”
The organization announced the charity relief rally after Kyrgios tweeted at Tennis Australia last week, suggesting that the organization put on a charity exhibition match to raise funds for wildfire victims. The athlete then kicked off the donations by pledging $200 Australian dollars for every ace he hits at upcoming matches.
According to CNN, Kyrgios, 24, hit 20 aces during a match on Friday, adding up to a donation of $4,000 Australian dollars.
Earlier this week, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova — who was granted wild card entry for the Australian Open — also donated $17,400 (25,000 AUSD) towards relief efforts, asking fellow tennis player Novak Djokovic to match her contribution. The Serbian athlete agreed and donated $17,400 (25,000 AUSD).
Sharapova also revealed on Wednesday that she had left 10 pairs of signed tennis shoes at her Brisbane hotel that could be bought for $206 (300 AUSD), which she said would be donated to the Red Cross. Within hours the shoes were purchased and the athlete told her Twitter followers that “a 3K donation will be on its way to the Red Cross tomorrow!!”
These tennis stars join a long list of celebrities and athletes who have been using their platform to donate and raise funds for the disastrous fires that have been ravaging the country since September.
Over the last few months, the bushfires are said to have claimed the lives of at least 25 people, burned through more than 12 million acres (some outlets reporting that number is already closer to 18 million as the fires continue to blaze) and killed at least half a billion animals. A seven-day state of emergency was declared on December 23.
So far, a reported 2,000 firefighters have been working in New South Wales alone, with additional help arriving from the United States, Canada and New Zealand.
According to NPR, experts said that the fires will go on for months.