Tennis star and 2011 Wimbledon finalist, Maria Sharapova, is heading to Japan with fellow tennis mates Caroline Wozniacki, No. 1 in the world, and Li Na, the 2011 French Open champion, to help out the victims of Japan.
All three will headline the Pan Pacific Open in September, but before the tournament kicks off, they will participate in charity events helping Japan, since the tragic earthquake and tsunami struck.
“I was deeply saddened by the terrible disaster,” Li Na said. “I continue to think about you during these difficult times.”
They will also meet children from the Fukushima Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant suffered a massive meltdown following the disaster. For Sharapova, this devastation hits close to home.
In 1986, there was an explosion at the Chernobyl plant located in the Ukraine, spreading radioactive clouds over western Soviet Union and northern Europe. Sharapova’s family, who lived in the city of Gomel in Belarus, fled the country shortly before Sharapova was born in Nyagan, Siberia.
“Even though something like that happened such a long time ago, it still causes many people on a daily basis, especially kids that were born and now are having kids, you find that they have something in their body that’s not allowing them to live a normal life from the pollution,” she said.
Sharapova works as a United Nations goodwill ambassador helping the Chernobyl region and ever since the explosion in Japan, it has brought back memories.
“It opens your eyes, and obviously puts a lot of perspective in your life,” she said about Japan. “It’s a country where I have very great memories from. I started playing there when I was very young, and I always loved my experiences there. So to see it going on there to its culture and the people, it’s really sad.”