Tennis great Maria Sharapova has broken her silence on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and put her money where her mouth is.
Former tennis star Maria Sharapova has joined the ranks of Russian athletes who fought back against her native country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 34-year-old five-time Grand Slam champion is one of Russia’s most successful sporting exports. But Sharapova, who retired in 2020, raged against the war in Ukraine and pledged to donate to Save The Children’s crisis relief fund.
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“With each passing day, I am increasingly heartbroken and deeply saddened by the images and stories of families and children affected by this escalating crisis in Ukraine,” she wrote on Instagram.
“I’m donating to the Crisis Relief Fund of Save the Children, an organization that works tirelessly to provide food, water and relief kits to people in need.
“Please join me in donating. I pray for PEACE and send my love and support to all those affected.
Sharapova was among a group of the best female players of her era and her marketability saw her retire second on the all-time list of career-winning women in tennis.
Forbes reported that the five-time big winner is just one of four female athletes to earn $20 million in one year.
Sharapova left tennis with staggering career gains in prize money, endorsements and appearances totaling $325 million, according to Forbes.
The figure ranks second among female athletes, behind only Serena Williams ($350 million), and comes from endorsement deals with Nike, Evian, Porsche and Tag Heuer.
Sharapova’s family left Russia for the United States in 1994 to learn tennis at the famous IMG Academy in Florida and they are now said to live in Los Angeles.
Sharapova is not the first Russian athlete to criticize the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Late last month, men’s tennis world number six Andrey Rublev wrote “no war please” on camera after a win in Dubai.
“Watching the news from home, waking up here in Mexico, hasn’t been easy,” he said. “Being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world. We play in so many different countries. It’s not easy to hear all this news. I am for peace.
World number one Daniil Medvedev also called for “peace in the world, peace between countries”.
Similarly, Russia’s top-ranked player Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova joined, adding: “Personal ambitions or political motivations cannot justify violence. This takes away the future not only from us, but also from our children.
Ice hockey superstar Alexander Ovechkin has also responded to the war before.
“I have family in Russia and these are scary times. But there is nothing we can do. We just hope it will be over soon and everything will be fine,” Ovechkin said.
“Please no more war. It doesn’t matter who is in the war – Russia, Ukraine, different countries – I think we live in a world, like, we have to live in peace and in a big world.
The sports world has reacted strongly against Russia with events and bans, while many Russian athletes will be forced to compete under neutral flags.