Australian world No.1 Ash Barty has shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement from tennis at the age of 25 in an emotional interview posted on social media.
Barty broke the news on Instagram via a tear-filled six-minute chat with good friend and former player Casey Dellacqua.
“I’ll be retiring from tennis. That’s the first time I’ve said it out loud,” Barty said. “It’s hard to say but I’m so happy and I’m so ready and I just know at the moment in my heart that for me as a person that this is right.”
“I know I’ve done this before but in a very different feeling. I’m so grateful to everything that tennis has given me. It’s given me all of my dreams plus more but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the racquets down.”
Barty is a three-time grand slam champion in singles and had just won the Australian Open on home soil, breaking a drought for home-grown singles winners which stretched back to 1978. She received the trophy from her childhood hero and fellow Indigenous icon, Evonne Goolagong-Cawley.
Retiring at the peak of her powers will leave many tennis fans scratching their head. Barty stands to earn millions more in prizemoney and endorsements if she continues but despite shedding a few tears as she made the announcement, she seems content with her decision.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I’ve had a lot of incredible moments in my career that have been pivotal moments and Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete. When you work so hard your whole life for one goal,” she said.
“To be able to win Wimbledon which was my dream, the one true dream that I wanted in tennis, that really changed my perspective. I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it and there was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled.
“And then came the challenge of the Australian Open and that for me just feels like the most perfect way, my perfect way to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been. As a person, this is what I want.”
In explaining why she announced her retirement with a chat with her former doubles partner, Barty said there was no right way or wrong way.
“I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to do this but so many times in my professional and private life, you’ve been there for me. There’s no right way or wrong way it’s just my way and this is perfect for me to share it with you, to talk to you about it, with my team my love ones that I’ll be retiring from tennis.”
Barty won her first grand slam at the French Open in 2019 before winning at Wimbledon last year and then adding the Australian Open to her trophy cabinet in January when she defeated American veteran Danielle Collins 6-3 7-6.
The nation was captivated by her run to the final and more than 4 million viewers tuned in to see the Queenslander lift the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, the first Australian to do so since Chris O’Neil in 1978.
“There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results. Success for me is knowing I’ve given absolutely everything I can,” she said.
“I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself. I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top level anymore.
“I just know that I’m absolutely spent. I have nothing more to give and that to me is success. I’ve given everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis. I’m really happy with that. I know that people may not understand it and that’s OK. I’m Ok with that because I know Ash Barty the person has so many dreams that she wants to chase after that don’t necessarily involve travelling the world and being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I’ve always wanted to be.”
Barty said would “never, ever ever stop loving tennis” but it was important that she got to enjoy the next phase of her life without being defined as solely an athlete.
Not just a singles specialist, in all formats she shone. Barty finishes with a 305-102 record in singles and a 200-64 record in doubles, earning total career prize money of $US23,829,071.
She took an extended break from tennis earlier in her career at the age of 18 and played in the WBBL for the Brisbane Heat before returning to the sport after 21 months away.
Her reign at No.1 of 114 weeks, which will now sadly come to an end, was the fourth-longest streak in WTA Tour history behind icons of the sport in Steffi Graf (186 weeks), Serena Williams (186) and Martina Navratilova (156). Barty’s 121 weeks at No.1 over the course of her career rank her seventh all time.
Barty, who announced her engagement to Australian professional golfer Garry Kissick in November, is due to hold a media conference on Thursday. “It was hard but it’s right and I know that’s brought me lots of comfort knowing this is right for me. I am very excited.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to Barty.
“I do want to say thank you for inspiring the country, inspiring a nation at a time when this country really needed a good shot in the arm,” Morrison said.
“None of us will forget, of course, the triumphant win in Wimbledon and none of us will ever forget that and come back down there at the Australian Open this year.
“Which once again showed everybody what you can do when you really apply yourself.”
WTA Tour chairman Steve Simon said Barty was a special player.
“With her accomplishments at the grand slams, WTA Finals and reaching the pinnacle ranking of No.1 in the world, she has clearly established herself as one the great champions of the WTA. We wish Ash only the very best and know that she will continue to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport of tennis as she embarks on this new chapter of her life. We will miss her.”
Kim Clijsters retired for the first time at the age of 23 before returning two years later while Bjorn Borg also hung up his racquet in the prime of his career at 26 and made a belated comeback eight years later.
Justine Henin is the only other world No.1 women’s player to retire while holding the top ranking when she quit in 2008 only to return a couple of years later.
So we may not have seen the last of Barty on a tennis court if history is any guide.
And if we have, then she’s produced one of the greatest careers in Australia’s rich history in the sport even if it left us wanting more.
Born: Ipswich, Queensland
Lives: Brisbane, Australia
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US23,829,071 ($A31,919,040)
Career titles: 15
Career win-loss record: 305-102
2022 win-loss record: 11-0
Grand slam titles: 3 (French Open 2019; Wimbledon 2021; Australian Open 2022)
Grand slam win-loss record: 57-24
Australian Open win-loss record: 24-8
French Open win-loss record: 10-6
Wimbledon win-loss record: 12-4
US Open win-loss record: 11-6
Coach: Craig Tyzzer