Murray shared this photo of himself with Zahgari-Ratcliffe on Twitter
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe brought Andy Murray to tears when she interviewed the famous tennis player for her guest-editing edition of the Today programme.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was one of the few selected figures to front Radio 4′s flagship show between Christmas and New Year this year, months after her six-year imprisonment in Iran ended.
The Iranian-Brit was detained on spying charges, which she has always denied, and released in March this year once the UK government repaid its £398.8 million debt to Iran.
Her return to Britain was widely celebrated, and she subsequently made it onto the BBC’s annual list of 100 inspiring and influential women this year.
Her life experience may seem far removed from Murray’s, as the former World Number 1 tennis player, but during their Radio 4 exchange she revealed a surprising connection – and he welled up while expressing his dismay at how she’s been treated.
One of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s few privileges while under arrest was access to a TV sports channel back in 2016 – the year Murray won Wimbledon for the second time – while books and newspapers were prohibited.
But, Zaghari-Ratcliffe told the tennis player that her prison guards “had no idea what they had given me” when they let her watch the tournament.
“I was always a big fan of you but also there I was, in solitary confinement, watching the match that you actually won, in the end,” she said.
“I can’t tell you how joyful it was, and I was ecstatic just to see you win, but also to think that – obviously for a very very long time I wasn’t sure when I was coming out – but at the time, I thought I’m going to get out and find your email, and write you an email to say: ‘I’m very very proud, but also you have no idea where I watched you and I was in solitary.’
“And then, just to give myself a prize, I even thought I’m going to get a friend of mine who can get me tickets for next year and I’m just going to go and watch him in person.
“But of course, that never happened because I was in prison for such a long time.”
She added that it was “an honour” to be meeting with him.
He replied: “That’s made me quite emotional, hearing you speak about that, so I appreciate you telling that to me.”
He recalled that the 2016 victory was an “amazing day” for him, and “probably the best moment I’ve had on a tennis court”.
During their conversation at the Lawn Tennis Association, Zaghari-Ratcliffe also asked him what were the strangest circumstances he had heard about people watching him win in.
Murray replied: “I think what you’ve told me is by far the strangest, most incredible story I’ve been told about someone watching me.
“Nothing has come close to that – sorry, maybe you want a different answer, but for me, that’s incredible, really.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she always had Murray on her charades list when she played the game with her friends in prison, and that her peers knew of Murray as a player – which was a source of relief for her.
“It felt like a connection, it felt like an escape, I was close to home all of sudden, and that was through sport, and probably something the Iranian government probably never thought I would have had it.”
The tennis player said he thought her story was “incredible”, and that he frequently finds himself “getting quite emotional that someone could be treated” in the way she was. His voice caught in his throat at this point, as he welled up.
“Sorry,” Murray said, before taking a moment in the interview.
He then asked her to share more about her traumatic experience, explaining: “I’m thinking if I was in that situation, or if someone I knew was in that situation, I would feel very angry – but you seem well.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe explained: “Thank you – at times I do feel very very angry, but I guess I decided at some point I should put the anger away otherwise it will eat me up for the rest of my life.”
She added that she doesn’t know “how I survived” – but that if she had known on the first day of her arrest that it was going to take six years for her to be released, she would have just “dropped dead”.
You can listen to an extract from their interview here:
The reaction of @andy_murray when he hears from our guest editor Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she was able to watch his 2016 Wimbledon win while in solitary confinement after she was allowed access to a sports channel.
Listen live: https://t.co/QA8HiKKik3pic.twitter.com/ntS9MB0Fam
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) December 28, 2022
Murray wasn’t the only person who found his conversation with Zaghari-Ratcliffe gut-wrenching – and inspiring – either.
Wonderful interview. I was choking up listening to it. So happy these two inspirational people got to meet and discuss this on national radio so we could all share it. What a gift. Thank you.
— Jan Fox (aka Olivia J Fox) (@janfox53) December 28, 2022
Very emotional, actually, as Murray breaks down in tears when trying to ask Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe about her experiences in prison.
— James Gray (@jamesgraysport) December 28, 2022
Wow. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s interview with Andy Murray on @BBCr4today was so moving. Great choice of guest editor
— Elly Griffiths (@ellygriffiths) December 28, 2022
Oh my goodness just listened to the incredibly affecting conversation between Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Andy Murray on #Today and I seem to have a tennis ball in my eye.
— Richard Coles (@RevRichardColes) December 28, 2022
Is there currently anyone in the UK more impressive (and interesting) than Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe?
— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) December 28, 2022
After listening to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on R4 this morning, I am kind of convinced she should become an MP or be given a peerage or something. Such an eloquent and grounded person given what she's been through
— Jack Mendel (@Mendelpol) December 28, 2022