Nr. 1 Ashleigh Barty, only 25, retires from tennis

At the peak of her sport, Ashleigh Barty is retiring from tennis.

In an astonishing move, Barty, the No. 1 ranked female player who won her country’s major tournament, the Australian Open, announced in January, Wednesday, that she was leaving tennis for other pursuits.

“It was hard,” she said of her decision. “But it’s right, and I know it, and it gave me a lot of comfort knowing that this is the right thing for me. But I’m very excited.”

Barty, who turns 26 next month, posted a video on Instagram announcing her decision through a conversation with her compatriot Casey Dellacqua, a retired player, one of her closest friends and her former double partner. Barty said she would also hold a press conference.

“I’m so grateful for all that tennis has given me – it’s given me all my dreams plus more – but I know the time is right now for me to go away and chase other dreams and put the rackets away from me.”

It was the third time that Barty had walked away from professional tennis, but the first time that she had announced her retirement. In 2014, at the age of 17, when she was already one of the best doubles players, she took an indefinite break from the tour. She was depressed and tired of the journey and the pressure created by early success. During the 17-month break, she played professional cricket, but with encouragement from Dellacqua, she returned to tennis in early 2016, revived and began her climb to the top under the guidance of a new coach, Craig Tyzzer, an experienced and incomparable Australian.

Barty also took an 11-month break from touring at the start of the pandemic and stayed in Australia instead of traveling to tournaments abroad, even after the tour’s five-month break ended in August 2020.

But her surprising announcement of retirement, coming with the tour back in full swing and shortly after her triumph in Melbourne, is clearly a decision she has carefully considered and taken from a position of strength.

“There was a change of perspective in me in the second phase of my career that my happiness was not dependent on the results, and success for me is knowing that I have given absolutely everything, everything I can,” Barty told Dellacqua. “I’m satisfied. I’m happy.”

Barty’s victory at the Australian Open was a tour de force. She did not lose a set in seven matches and navigated the cool pressure of becoming the first Australian to win the Australian Open singles title in 44 years. Barty, who is typically the poker face on the court, made it clear how much the performance meant to her by howling with joy after finishing her victory in the final against Danielle Collins from the USA.

“I know how much work it takes to get the best out of yourself,” she told Dellacqua in the video released Wednesday, “I just do not have that in me anymore. I do not have the physical drive, the emotional desire and that kind of all it takes to challenge yourself at the top level anymore and I think I just know that I’m absolutely, I’m used. ”

Barty has spent a total of 119 weeks at No. 1, placing her seventh on the career list. She is the first female player to retire while at the top of the singles rankings since Belgian star Justine Henin unexpectedly announced her retirement in May 2008. Henin, like Barty, was only 25 years old and the reigning champion by two Grand Slam Tournaments: French Open and US Open in Henin’s case. Henin later returned to the tour in 2010, though she never won another major title.

If Barty sticks to her decision, she will be the first player to win a Grand Slam singles title in her final match since Pete Sampras, the US star who did not play on tour again after winning the 2002 US Open at the age of 31, announced his retirement almost a year later. Marion Bartoli of France retired at the age of 28 just over a month after winning Wimbledon in 2013; Flavia Pennetta of Italy retired at the age of 33 in 2015 at the end of the season after winning the 2015 US Open. Bartoli returned briefly to the trip; Pennetta did not.

For now, and maybe forever, Barty has ended his career with $ 23.8 million in prize money and 15 career singles titles, including three at Grand Slam tournaments. She won the French Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2021 and the Australian Open this year, meaning she won major singles titles on all three major tennis courts: clay, grass and hardcourt. With her versatile play and tactical acumen, she was an all-court threat and also won the 2019 WTA Finals, the tour’s lucrative year-end championship, on an indoor hardcourt in Shenzhen, China.

“Ash has always traveled down the road less worn out, and that’s what has made her so special,” said Darren Cahill, an Australian who is a former player, an ESPN analyst and a leading coach. “She has never followed the norm and even her game is truly unique on the WTA Tour these days. She is the complete player and person both on and off the pitch. A true Australian legend.”

Barty said winning Wimbledon, which has long been considered the ultimate achievement for Australian tennis players with their country’s close ties to the UK, changed her outlook on her career. Winning the Australian Open gave her a history book finish. She withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open, the prestigious event in Indian Wells, California, making her Melbourne triumph her final match.

“Being able to win Wimbledon, which was my dream, my only true dream, that I wanted in tennis, it really changed my perspective,” she said, adding, “And there was just a small part of me who was not completely satisfied, was not completely fulfilled.And then came the challenges of the Australian Open and I think to me it just feels like the most perfect way.My perfect way to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been. “

Her sudden retirement is clearly a blow to the sport. She is hugely popular in Australia with her unpretentious personality, and as a prominent figure of native Australian descent, she has also expanded the sport’s appeal at home and abroad.

“I think it’s a big loss,” Cahill said in an interview. “Personality, playing style and the way she represented the sport as No. 1 are all essential. In addition, she is from a Grand Slam nation, which increases the loss. “

But even though she struggled to stay calm early in her exchange with Dellacqua, Barty sounded resolute. She is engaged to Australian professional golfer Garry Kissick, who has often traveled on tour with her. But Barty has often made it clear that she is happiest at home in Australia.

“I’ve given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis, and I’m really happy about it. And for me it’s my success. And I know people may not understand it, and it’s okay. It’s I’m okay, because I know that for me, Ash Barty, the person has so many dreams that she wants to pursue, that do not necessarily involve traveling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I have always wanted to be. ”

“And I will never, ever, ever stop loving tennis,” she said. “It will always be a big part of my life. But now I think it’s important that I enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty and not Ash Barty the athlete.”

Leave a Comment