(TMU) — Tennis superstar Serena Williams has won her first major tennis championship title since she gave birth to her daughter in 2017. To celebrate her victory the 23-time Grand Slam winner gave up her prize money to pay it forward in a big way.
After winning the top spot at the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, the tennis icon announced that she would donate all of her cash winnings from the match to Australia’s wildlife relief efforts.
The country has been the focus of global attention and concern as its bushfire crisis continues to smolder with devastating repercussions for wildlife, people, and the environment.
“I’ve been playing Australia for over 20 years and it’s been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that’s been happening in Australia with all the fires and over a billion animals and people who have lost their homes.
So I decided that I would donate all my prize money for a great cause.”
A first title in three years for @serenawilliams !
— WTA (@WTA) January 12, 2020
The 38-year-old champion triumphed over fellow U.S. tennis player Jessica Pegula in the final, winning the trophy and a cash prize equivalent to $43,000. She also announced that she would auction each dress that she’s worn across the nine-match tournament.
The former World No. 1’s win comes just one week ahead of the beginning of the Australian Open where Williams won seven of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles.
The Compton, California native won her first Women’s Tennis Association title in February 1999 making this the fourth consecutive decade within which she’s earned her titles—a span surpassing that of veteran superstar Martina Navratilova.
Since the fire crisis broke out in September, at least 28 people have been killed and countless others forced to evacuate—often repeatedly—as the historic wave of bushfires ripped through 25.5 million acres (10.3 million hectares) of land, an area equal to the size of South Korea.
Ecologists at the University of Sydney estimate that over 1 billion animals have been killed in the bushfires. Because the fires have extended to wetlands, dry eucalyptus forests, and even rainforests many animals have been unable to find refuge in neighboring regions.
Williams’ donation adds her to a list of celebrities who have contributed to relief efforts in Australia. Others who have pitched in to the cause include Chris Hemsworth, Nicole Kidman, Elton John, Lizzo, Kylie Jenner, Shawn Mendes, Pink, and Ellen DeGeneres.