Indian Wells, CA — The players left in the draw at the BNP Paribas Open have their eyes on the prize, but there is an overriding concern among players for the survivors of Japan’s worst natural disaster and nuclear crisis.
The WTA’s No. 1 player, Caroline Wozniacki, who has been very vocal about her expressions of concern and sympathy for the people of Japan, took the initiative to locate a Japanese flag and place a personal message on it, as a way to show her support. Caroline said that her manager had to drive two hours away from the tournament just to find a Japanese flag. Caroline and close friend, Victoria Azarenka spent the night before their quarterfinal match trying to figure out what to write on the flag. “I wanted to do it so perfectly that my hand almost cramped when I was doing it,” she said with a smile.
Caroline and Victoria brought the Japanese flag out onto center court before the start of their quarterfinal match, and requested a moment of silence for the victims of the recent tragedy in Japan. The words on the flag read: “Our Thoughts Are With You.”
Azarenka, who retired from her quarterfinal match against Wozniacki due to a left hip injury, recently sent out a message on her Twitter feed: “And to all the people in Japan u r in prays and thoughts! I love u guys and ur country and I hope it all will be over for u very soon xxxx.”
Maria Sharapova, who’s own parents escaped the devastating nuclear accident in Chernobyl in 1986, feels a strong a connection to those affected by the nuclear crisis unfolding in Japan. “Well, it’s really devastating, and something I don’t think even words can describe.”
Sharapova, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), recently donated $100,000 to Chernobyl-related projects. In her post-match press conference on Thursday (after defeating Shuai Peng in the quarterfinal), Sharapova commented on how technology has changed the face of fundraising, making it more accessible. “Ten years ago, if something like that [Japan] happened, you wouldn’t see such quick recovery effects. You can go on any website right now and you can donate to the Japan relief,” she said.
Sharapova is hoping that the Toray Pan Pacific Open tournament, held a few weeks after the US Open, will go on, and players will be able to raise money prior to the tournament.