FOR his fans watching on from courtside seats or living rooms across the country, it is an added incentive to cheer Andy Murray on to continued success.
In a novel charity endeavour which will have tennis fans the world over hoping the world number three’s serves go unreturned, the Scot is to donate £50 to charity for every ace he hits until the end of the year.
The pledge will raise funds for those caught up in the deepening refugee crisis across Europe’s borders and is expected to see Murray hand over tens of thousands of pounds of his own money to help aid efforts.
The 28-year-old said he felt he “had to do something to help” after seeing pictures broadcast on the news in recent weeks of thousands of families forced to make dangerous journeys to Europe.
Murray’s money will go to Unicef to support its work to help children fleeing their homes, although the total windfall is likely to run into six figures.
His sponsor Standard Life, along with the tennis governing bodies the Lawn Tennis Association and the Association of Tennis Professionals, have said they will match the overall donation of the reigning men’s Olympic champion, meaning every ace will be worth £200 to Unicef.
Speaking ahead of Britain’s Davis Cup semi-final against Australia in Glasgow, Murray said: “Having seen the images in recent weeks, I felt I had to do something to help the millions of children and their families who have been forced to flee their homes and had their lives turned upside down.
“I’ll get that little bit more satisfaction from each ace I hit knowing that it will be helping Unicef keep children safe.”
While the total amount raised will only become clear at the end of the season, there are few better tennis players to entrust with hitting aces. The father-to-be hit 64 in his four matches at the US Open this month, which would have raised £12,800.
He has delivered no fewer than 4,663 over the course of his career, the equivalent of £233,150 based on his pledge to the leading children’s charity.
While his previous aces will not count, there is reason to be optimistic that Murray’s donation will be considerable. Whereas he only made 353 aces over the course of the 2013 season, the number has been creeping up, with 450 last year. In 2015, he has already beaten that record, with 461 aces to date, according to ATP Tour statistics.
According to Murray’s schedule, he will play at last three tournaments between now and the end of the year: the Shanghai Rolex Masters in October; the BNP Paribas Masters in November; and the ATP World Tour Finals later that month.
On top of that, any aces he makes in the Davis Cup semi-final - and potentially the final - will also count.
Murray also rallied his supporters to make their own donations to Unicef as part of the fundraising effort, adding: “I’m asking my fans across the world to join with me to support Unicef’s vital work. Together we can help make a safer world for every child.”
David Bull, Unicef’s executive director, said: “The conflict in Syria continues to have a devastating impact on the lives of children, both in the region and beyond. The fear, the lack of opportunity and loss of hope has forced thousands of families to make the dangerous journey to Europe. The support of Andy, and his fans and the wider tennis community, can help us continue to provide support for children whenever and however disaster strikes.”
People can donate £5 by texting ACE to 70800 or online at www.justgiving.com/AndysAces, where a target of £15,000 has been set.