By: Ben Raby (www.twitter.com/benraby31)
As Andy Murray makes his return to the Citi Open this week, the former World No.1 will again be playing for more than just personal accolades. Continuing his long-standing relationship with UNICEF, Murray announced in March that he would be donating all of his prize money for the remainder of 2022 to UNICEF aid for Ukrainian children in the war-torn country.
“You definitely do feel it a bit,” Murray said of his pledge serving as a motivator these past few months. “You still need to go and do all the training and all the work and everything that goes into performing. But certainly I've always felt like when I'm playing for something more than just yourself as being motivational or inspirational.”
For Citi Open Chairman Mark Ein, Murray’s pledge was inspirational in itself. So much so, that as the Citi Open field was starting to take shape months ago, Ein made Murray a promise.
“If Andy would come here,” Ein recalled thinking, “I felt that we would want to match his donation and whatever he makes here. So we're doing that. We're announcing that whatever Andy makes here and donates to UNICEF, we're going to match it.”
Ein shared the news publicly Saturday afternoon as he and Murray met with the media.
“It's brilliant,” Murray said. “Thanks a lot to Mark and all the team here for supporting that. I think it really helps. It shows when the players and the tournaments work together, that really good things can happen. Once again, really appreciate the support from the tournament here on that. Hopefully, I can have a good run and lots of the fans can get involved, too, raise a lot of money this week.”
To date, Murray’s efforts have raised more than $300,000.
The amount will continue to grow not only with Murray’s prize money and the matching contribution from the Mark and Sally Ein Foundation, but also from fans, who will have the opportunity to make a difference in the days and months ahead.
The Citi Open has launched a new website, www.MatchUkraine.org, encouraging fans on-site and from around the world to support efforts in the embattled country by donating with every round Murray plays.
“They can give by the match,” Ein explained. “They can be part of Andy's journey. In fact, we'll extend it through the year. People can be part of Andy's mission here to make a real difference in something in the world that's horrible and really deserves all of our support.”
Murray has been a UK Ambassador for UNICEF since 2014. The three-time Grand Slam champion said in Washington that the tragic conditions in Ukraine cannot be ignore. Murray said when he made his pledge in early March, the dire conditions in Ukraine were widely shared on the news. That is no longer the case, Murray said, despite the harsh reality that many are still suffering.
“You can't just forget about this,” he said. “It's still going on. People are still getting killed, children are still having to flee their homes, and are in really, really tragic situations. I think it's important that the media continues to shine a light on it, keep talking about it. Hopefully what the tournament is doing here can help a little bit with that.”
Murray naturally also hopes to make a deep run to further add to the contributions.
“I just want to try and win as many matches as possible and raise as much money as I can,” said Murray, who is coming off a quarterfinals appearance in Newport and also reached the finals earlier this summer in Stuttgart.
“Yeah, it will be a significant amount hopefully by the end of the year. Hopefully it makes a difference.”
Murray’s quest for a deep run in DC begins Monday afternoon against Mikael Ymer of Sweden. The two will be meeting for the first time on Tour with the winner to face No.15 seed Aslan Karatsev in the second round.