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Puig: 'I want to provide hope to people who have lost everything'

Tennis

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Maria Sharapova and Monica Puig arrived in Puerto Rico on Monday to help with recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. 

Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, and Puig, who won Puerto Rico's first Olympic gold medal in any sport at the Rio de Janeiro Games last summer, landed on the island Monday and were received by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, whose administration will help them to distribute portable stoves, medicine and other supplies.

"My mom [Astrid Marchan] always told me that God put me in this world for a reason. I think that the reason is to help Puerto Rico and provide hope for all those people who have lost everything. At this moment, this is what we need," Puig said during a news conference at San Juan's Luis Munoz Marin airport.  

The two WTA players will visit San Jorge Children's Hospital in San Juan and then attend an activity in the town of Loiza. The agency that represents both players said Wednesday that Puig has raised more than $125,000 to help storm victims, while Sharapova is donating proceeds from her candy company for the rest of 2017.

Puig lost in the weekend's final in BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open to Germany's Carina Witthoeft 6-3, 7-5 but dedicated her week to the people of Puerto Rico with an emotional speech during the event's awards ceremony.

"I'm going to try and get through this without crying, so bear with me," Puig told the fans. "Before I thank everybody else, to everybody that's watching in Puerto Rico -- this tournament is for you. I know we've had our ups and downs, but I hope that everything is going to get better.

"I'm going to stand by your side and be there to support every step of the year, and we're going to come back stronger from this. Puerto Rico, fuerza and lo qiuero mucho."

On Monday, Puig said that she hoped Puerto Ricans could be motivated by her finals loss in Luxembourg.

"It was a tournament that could motivate and be good news for Puerto Rico. I know that this year hasn't been the most positive for me, either, but it is very special to me when I can represent Puerto Rico and do something for my island. I was able to reach my first final and it was in the last tournament of the year. At least I was able to contribute with my little grain of sand to give some happiness and something positive," she said.

Sharapova's Instagram statement said: "It's been a long few weeks around the world and I couldn't think of a better way to wrap it up today. We will be distributing supplies that were delivered into Puerto Rico yesterday, purchased from her fund-raising efforts. Little things make a big difference and her efforts are so incredibly admirable."

Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, causing at least 48 deaths, according to the official tally. It caused widespread flooding and knocked out the entire power grid for the island of 3.4 million people.

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