Japan hits home for Sharapova

2011-03-15 20:28

Indian Wells - Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova says seeing footage of Japan's quake-tsunami disaster has brought back memories for her family of the Chernobyl nuclear crisis 25 years ago.

The devastating quake compromised a nuclear plant, and three explosions and a fire at the facility have sent radiation to dangerous levels.

"Crazy, right? Can you believe one disaster 25 years ago? Now another?" said Sharapova who wore a T-shirt to her Indian Wells press conference on Monday with a reference to the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear crisis.

Sharpapova's family was living just 130km north of Chernobyl in Gomel, Belarus, when her mother was pregnant with Maria in 1986.

The family fled Gomel and ended up in Nyagan, Siberia, where Sharapova was born.

"It is something you can't even prepare for," said Sharapova, following her third round win. "It happens, and you see the coverage on it and the videos, and it's really incredible that something like that can even happen in the world."

Sharapova has been active over the years in raising awareness for the victims of Chernobyl by working as a United Nations goodwill ambassador.

The three-time Grand Slam winner has visited Japan over the years and has fond memories of the people she met and places she saw.

"It's a country where I have very great memories from," Sharapova said of Japan. "I started there when I was very young, and I always loved my experiences there. So to see what is going on there to its culture and the people, it's really sad."

World number one Rafael Nadal said Monday that the players are thinking about what they can do to help the victims of Japan's worst earthquake and the deadly tsunami that followed.

"We are thinking about what we can do," Nadal said following his win on Monday over American Ryan Sweeting.

"I was in Japan last year and people were nice to me," Nadal said. "I am so sad at what happened. It is terrible. I hope the situation gets better soon but it is going to be difficult."