While competing down under in the Australian Open, Serena Williams used her on-court fashion to pay tribute to the millions of animals that perished in the country’s massive wildfires.
Though Serena Williams has her mind on winning the 2020 Australian Open, her heart goes out to the millions (and in one estimate, the billion) of animals killed in the Australian bushfires. The 38-year-old tennis icon, who has already pledged her winnings from the Auckland Classic to relief efforts, paid tribute to the wildlife affected by the devastating fires during her second-round match against Slovenia’s Tamara Zidanšek on Jan. 22. As those gathered at Melbourne Park watched Serena put away Tamara in two sets (6-2, 6-3), the eagle-eyed fans saw that one of Serena’s fingernails was different than the others. On her left hand’s ring finger, she wore a nail painted with a koala design. Her other nails featured crystals and a pastel color scheme.
Serena’s support of Australia isn’t just cosmetic. After she won the ASB Classic in Auckland, New Zealand on Jan. 12, she donated her prize money — AUD 62,300 or about $43,000 USA – to combat the bushfires. Her husband, Alexi Ohanian, expressed his pride in her generosity. “What a start to the decade, @serenawilliams. We’re all so proud of you,” he wrote on Instagram. “And just when I think I can’t possibly be more proud, you donate all your prize money to fight the #australianbushfires.” It was a significant move on Serena’s part, especially since the ASB Classic was her 73rd(!) WTA title and her first in three years.
The Australian bushfires, exacerbated by climate change, have swept through vast swaths of Australia since September, according to Vox. The area affected is bigger than Vermont, and New Hampshire combined, affecting a mix of rural and suburban areas. At least 24 people have been killed, more than 15.6 million acres have gone up in flames, and about 1,400 homes were destroyed. As for animals, one biodiversity expert estimates that 1 billion creatures have perished in the blaze. Initially, the number of animals killed by the fires was put at 480 million, but Chris Dickman, a biodiversity expert at the University of Syndey, said that figure might be too low
“The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds, and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It’s over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone,” he told Huffington Post. If we were to count bats, frogs, and invertebrates, the number would be twice the initial estimate. “Over a billion would be a very conservative figure.”
Serena continues to chase that record-equally 24th grand slam title that has eluded her for years. (If she wins the Australian Open, it will tie her with Margaret Court, 77, the Australian player who currently holds the record.) It’s also safe to presume Serena will donate her winnings to the cause.