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Murray Wins Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, Pens Essay

  • Posted: Dec 15, 2022

Murray Wins Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award, Pens Essay

35-year-old is fourth two-time winner of prestigious award

Andy Murray on Thursday was named the 2022 Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award recipient in recognition of his support for the humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.

Murray is the fourth player who has earned the award multiple times (also 2014), joining Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi.

The 35-year-old wrote an essay for detailing the thought process behind his philanthropic efforts, what motivated him as a younger player to further involve himself with charity work and more.

My Point: Get The Players' Point Of View

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Historic Season Earns Alcaraz Most Improved Player Of The Year Award

  • Posted: Dec 15, 2022

Historic Season Earns Alcaraz Most Improved Player Of The Year Award

Spaniard became youngest World No. 1 in Pepperstone ATP Rankings history

The accolades for Carlos Alcaraz’s stunning 2022 breakthrough have come from far and wide. Now, his fellow players have taken the chance to acknowledge the 19-year-old’s remarkable rise to World No. 1 by voting the Spaniard as the Most Improved Player of the Year in the year-end ATP Awards.

“I’m really happy to receive this award, and I want to say thank you to all my colleagues who voted me as the Most Improved Player of the Year,” said Alcaraz. “For me it’s an amazing achievement. This year has been a really good year for me, a dream year for me, and I’m looking to improve the year in 2023. Thank you very much.”

Billed as a budding superstar on the heels of a strong finish to 2021 — one that saw him reach the US Open quarter-finals and later claim the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals title — Alcaraz had a lot to live up to this season. The Spaniard not only met those lofty expectations, he exceeded them in record time.

After winning the first of his five titles on the year at the ATP 500 in Rio de Janeiro to break into the Top 20, Alcaraz showed he could deliver on the game’s biggest stages by winning his first ATP Masters 1000 title in Miami after a semi-final run in Indian Wells. He then brought the show to his home fans, claiming a Spanish trophy double in Barcelona and Madrid, beating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in succession in the latter event.

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More success put Alcaraz in position to reach the top spot in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings at the US Open, and he took the chance with aplomb to become the youngest World No. 1 since the rankings began in 1973.

“For me it’s a dream come true being No. 1 in the world, to be a Grand Slam champion,” Alcaraz told the ATP Tour after the US Open.

“Everything has come so fast. I didn’t think at the beginning of the year that I’m going to have the year that I’m having right now,” he continued. “I always believe in my team and in my work, so this is something that came with the hard work that I put in every day, the hard preseason, the work during the year with my team. Everything pays off.”

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It was the second consecutive year that Alcaraz had been nominated for Most Improved Player in the ATP Awards. His fellow nominees in the category this year were Maxime Cressy, Jack Draper and Holger Rune.

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My Life As An ATP Supervisor: Tom Barnes & Thomas Karlberg

  • Posted: Dec 15, 2022

My Life As An ATP Supervisor: Tom Barnes & Thomas Karlberg

Duo’s impact on Officiating department remains strong

Call them the odd couple of ATP Officiating: Tom Barnes, the poker-faced former marine who would hold his own in a stare down with Clint Eastwood, and Thomas Karlberg, the mild-mannered softly spoken Swede. The career-long friends and colleagues were both honoured for their lifetime of service in December as part of the ATP Officiating department’s year-end meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Barnes, who lives in Fresno, California, worked his last event at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals. Karlberg stepped away after officiating in Basel in October this year.

At first glance, they seem as different as topspin and slice. But peel back the surface layer and you’ll find an underlying dichotomy that connects them.

“Tom is a very, very good friend,” Karlberg said. “He may scare most of the people around him, but that’s just on the surface. If you look under his skin a little bit he is a golden-hearted person and very fun to be around.”

Similarly, Barnes said that first impressions of the genial Karlberg don’t paint the full picture. “He’s probably the strongest one out of all of us even though he doesn’t look or act like he is,” Barnes said. “He’s a very strong character, critical thinker, friendly guy and good to be around.”

Tom Barnes in action in Milan.

Barnes’ career has spanned the birth of the ATP Tour in 1990 through to its newest events, including the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. Photo: Getty Images.

Barnes worked his first event in Guam in 1990 and completed his tournament report on three laminated pieces of paper. Known by many as ‘Baaaaarnes‘ after being given the moniker by former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, the Californian said that over the years he bonded with some of the game’s more prickly players.

“I tend to get along better with the difficult players than the not-so-difficult players,” he said. “Why, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because of my marine corps background. It’s all personal relationships.

“We have one goal in mind and that’s to provide good tennis. The Supervisor is in charge of everything and is the final authority on site. The most challenging part of the job is to keep everything in balance and make judgments when it’s important. I always try to consider what is best for the tournament, players, and spectators.”

Karlberg was a Supervisor for the Men’s International Professional Tennis Council and Tournament Director of the Bastad ATP event before joining ATP in 1991, the year after the Tour was formed. Having worked alongside thousands of players from Jimmy Connors to Pete Sampras to Carlos Alcaraz, Karlberg said that to preserve impartiality he would be friendly to players, but would not seek to become their friends.

“It’s like a circus with everyone travelling around, players, coaches, officials, and everyone else, so it’s inevitable that you develop relationships, but you have to be clear where the line is,” Karlberg said. “Of course we will have friendly conversations with players and their teams, but we wouldn’t go out for breakfast or dinner.”

“Every Supervisor and Chair Umpire currently working for ATP has been mentored by Tom and Thomas,” said Ali Nili, ATP Senior Director, Officiating Administration. “They are an institution in Officiating and there will never be another Tom Barnes or Thomas Karlberg. They will be truly missed, but their legacy will live forever.”

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While elements of the job have evolved through the continued growth of technology, Barnes said that the key quality he looks for in good Supervisors has not changed in his 30 years in the job.

“Common sense is the number one thing,” he said. “We constantly have to make decisions and some of them are pretty significant, like defaulting a guy. You can easily make the wrong choice in either direction. You have to have a mindset that can look at incidents and shut out all the other noise and think about what the situation deserves.

“The most challenging thing is to keep everything in balance and make judgments when it’s important. Always try and consider what is best for the tournament, players, and spectators.”

Karlberg added: “Knowing how to deal with people is also very important. To be calm when something goes wrong, to listen to other people, show respect to the players and the people you work with.

“And there’s no substitute for having full knowledge of the rules. When you’re called out on court in the heat of the moment with thousands of spectators looking on, you can’t reach for the rulebook.”

Thomas Karlberg in action in Monte Carlo

Thomas Karlberg sends Rafael Nadal back to the locker room during a rain delay at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters. Photo: Getty Images

Both men have been privileged to sit courtside for thousands of matches, watching the game’s greatest champions up close. But they don’t view matches in the same manner as fans.

“It is a nice perk of the job, but I don’t watch tennis like my wife does,” Barnes said. “I’m looking at it from a technical standpoint and not really from the artistic level. I’m making sure the ballkids are doing what they’re supposed to do, linespeople, chair umpire are doing things correctly and the players aren’t misbehaving.”

With both men spending decades on the road away from their families and homes, Karlberg and Barnes paid tribute to their wives, Eva and Debbie, for the sacrifices they made that allowed them to pursue their careers with the ATP.

“I didn’t realise when I started this job what my life would become,” Karlberg said. “I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll try that’. Now I’ve had more than 30 years with the ATP. My wife has always supported me to do this; she realised I really loved to work in tennis. I thank her very much. I realise that she has done a hell of job raising three kids and working at the same time. I have her to thank.”

Barnes said of his wife, Debbie: “She’s my rock. We made the decision together that I would pursue this as a full-time career. I did it a little later in life, our son was already off in college so no young ones at home to worry about, which may have made it a little easier.”

Both men are also thankful for the friendships they made on the Tour, in what Roger Federer once called his “second family”.

“The relationships that I’ve developed, the friends that I’ve made is something I will always treasure,” Karlberg said.

Barnes added: “With my colleagues, everyone, travelling and seeing different countries and meeting different people, I learned a lot from that. It’s like we live together; in many cases guys spend more time with each other than their own family, especially in the beginning when you work 30 weeks in a year.”

Now both men can enjoy plenty of family time at home.

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