'Just brilliant': Tennis legends in staggering donation for bushfire victims

Serena Williams ended a three-year title drought and donated her entire winner's cheque to victims of the Australian bushfires in an emotional WTA Auckland Classic final on Sunday.

Williams raised expectations for this month's Australian Open, where she can equal Margaret Court's record of 24 Grand Slam titles, with her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Jessica Pegula - her first WTA trophy since she won in Melbourne in 2017.

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But the 38-year-old tempered celebrations as she donated her $62,000 winner's cheque to the Australian bushfire relief fund and described how the tragedy had affected her deeply.

Serena Williams celebrates with the trophy after winning the ASB Classic. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

"I've been playing in Australia for over 20 years and it's been really hard for me to watch all the news and everything that has been happening in Australia with all the fire and... animals and people that have lost their homes," she said.

"I decided at the beginning of the tournament... I'd donate all my prize money for a great cause."

It is Williams' first title since 2017 - and her first as a mother - since she won the Australian Open while pregnant.

Her 73 WTA titles now stretch across four decades, after she won her first in 1999.

ATP donates $725,000 to bushfire relief

The ATP will donate $725,000 to the WWF Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery Fund as part of the bushfire relief efforts, the governing body of men's tennis says.

The donation from players was announced by Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal after Serbia defeated Spain to capture the inaugural ATP Cup team event in Sydney.

The Australian bush has been burning for nearly three months and the fires have killed 28 people, claimed 2000 homes and consumed millions of acres of land and wildlife.

"This donation with the ATP is on behalf of all the players and our thoughts and support go out to all those who have been affected," ATP Player Council president Djokovic added in a statement.

Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal announce the bushfire donation. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

"Australia is such an amazing and welcoming country and it feels like home for us at the start of each season. To see the damage to wildlife and nature... has been devastating."

As part of the #Aces4BushfireRelief campaign, several ATP and WTA players have pledged personal donations towards relief and recovery efforts.

Serena, Roger Federer and Nadal will feature in an exhibition match on January 15 ahead of the Australian Open to raise funds.

Former Australia cricketer Shane Warne, who raised over $1 million by auctioning off his prized "baggy green" cap, will play in a charity Twenty20 game next month for bushfire relief.

The Australian Open tennis tournament, the first Grand Slam of the year, starts in Melbourne on January 20.

with AAP