The 35-year-old wrote an essay for ATPTour.com detailing the thought process behind his philanthropic efforts, what motivated him as a younger player to further involve himself with charity work and more.
* * *
In February I was playing the tournament in Dubai and I remember watching the news and there were rumours about something happening between Russia and Ukraine.
A few days later when Russia invaded Ukraine everyone was very worried about what it would mean. When all the images on the news showing what was happening to families began pouring in, it was devastating. Houses were bombed and families were displaced. Young children were affected by this, with many injured and in some cases dying. I wasn’t sure what I could do to help.
Shortly after I decided that from Indian Wells onwards, I would donate my prize money for the rest of the season to UNICEF’s humanitarian response – the final total was just over $630,000. It seemed like something that would give me some extra motivation this year. I thought I could also raise some awareness and hopefully get others involved in helping, too.
There are 7.5 million children in Ukraine and after more than nine months of increased conflict, 5.2 million of them are in need of assistance. UNICEF is working around the clock to keep children safe by ensuring child health and protection services are sustained, critical supplies are delivered to families and that children have clean water and nutritious food.
When you see images of children on the news who were impacted by things like this, that makes it even more difficult to stomach. I have four young children who are really fortunate that everything is fine with them. But being a parent, it affects you differently. You try to put yourself in their shoes. If something like that happened with your own family, how difficult would that be? It is hard to fathom.
I’m in the fortunate position to try to make some sort of difference, so hopefully the money that’s been raised through UNICEF can help some of the children who have been affected.
I think in situations like these it is important to be empathetic and do what you can to help others. When I was younger, in my early 20s, I didn’t really think about anything else except my tennis. As you start to get older and maybe mature a little bit, you realise there are things that are more important than sport.
I found it important to speak out on certain subjects that were important to me or to do certain things for charities that touched me or were important to me. I did some fundraising early in my career for one of my best friends, Ross Hutchins, who was diagnosed with cancer.
Ross, who was also a professional tennis player, called me with the news one day when I was in Abu Dhabi and I was shocked. I remember sitting in my room for quite a while after he told me. I was upset by the whole thing and then started thinking about any ways I could help him or get him engaged with something that might make a difference for him or give him something to look forward to. You don’t expect that to happen to one of your best friends, especially someone who was in his mid-20s and as fit and healthy as he was.
Around that time was when I saw the positive benefits to doing more charity work. Because something happened to someone very close to me, I probably was more encouraged to do more of that as I got older. I saw a greater responsibility to speak out and do things when I had the opportunity. Maybe when I was first starting out on the Tour, I didn’t realise how important it was.
More From The 2022 ATP Awards
Rafa Named Fans' Favourite
'Super Happy' Coric Is Comeback Player Of The Year
Rune 2022 Newcomer Of The Year
In 2014, I became a UNICEF UK Ambassador, and later that year I received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for the first time. It’s an honour to be named recipient again. The reason to do the right thing is not for an accolade like this, but it is nice that it is appreciated somewhere.
Arthur Ashe was a special person, so to win an award named after him means a lot. He was a great tennis player and has been recognised for that as well, but it speaks for what he’s done off the court that people remember how he helped others.
Billie Jean King is someone else in tennis circles who has done that. She was also an incredible tennis player, but what she’s done away from the game has been incredible too and I think athletes have a responsibility to use their platform in a positive way if they can. Arthur and Billie Jean certainly did that.
I join Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi as two-time winners of this award. Agassi is someone who I looked up to a lot growing up. I know he has done a lot of great things away from the court with his school. Roger’s foundation has also staged fundraising matches for parts of Africa and I know Aisam has been involved in peace talks in his part of the world.
I think that a lot of the young players who are coming through seem like good guys. I’m sure they’re going to be great ambassadors for the sport moving forward. I’d encourage them to try and find some causes that are important to them and mean something to them and to try and give back when they get the chance.
* * *
UNICEF PRAISES MURRAY’S COMMITMENT
Jon Sparkes OBE, the Chief Executive at the UK Committee for UNICEF, issued the following statement in praise of Murray’s efforts in Ukraine:
We are hugely grateful to UNICEF UK Ambassador, Andy Murray, for generously donating this season’s prize money to UNICEF UK. The incredible donation will support UNICEF’s work responding to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which is having a devastating impact on the country’s 7.5 million children.
Over nine months of war has left millions of children in need of humanitarian assistance, with destroyed infrastructure and freezing weather leaving Ukraine’s children facing an uncertain future. UNICEF is working day and night in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to keep children safe by helping to make sure that child health and protection services are sustained, delivering critical supplies to families and ensuring children have clean water and nutritious food.
Andy’s endless dedication to the role of UNICEF UK Ambassador has seen him support many life-changing fundraising initiatives and advocacy campaigns since he took on the role in 2014. During this time he has launched his exhibition match, Andy Murray Live in 2016, and donated generously to UNICEF’s work around the child migrant and refugee crisis in 2015.
I know I speak on behalf of everyone at UNICEF UK when I say a huge thank you.