Ash Barty: Top tennis player retires at 25 and goes out on her own terms after Australian Open

BRISBANE, Australia – Ash Barty did things on her own terms as she won three Grand Slam singles titles and spent more than two consecutive years at No. 1 in the women’s tennis rankings.

She also retired on her own terms. At the age of 25, just two months after winning the Australian Open title.

The announcement stunned the tennis world on Wednesday.

“I just know in my heart right now that that’s right for me as a person,” Barty said, voice sometimes shaking, during a six-minute video posted to her Instagram account in Australia on Wednesday.

Barty, who announced her engagement to budding golf pro Garry Kissick in November, said it was time to “chase other dreams”.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually said it out loud and yeah, it’s hard to say,” Barty said during an informal interview with her former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua. “I no longer have the physical drive, the emotional desire and everything it takes to challenge myself at the highest level. I am exhausted.”

This isn’t the first time Barty has left tennis: she was a 2011 Wimbledon junior champion at the age of 15, which indicated a promising professional career, but left the tour for almost two years in 2014 due to burnout, overwhelmed by the pressure and journey necessary.

She played professional cricket at home in Australia, but eventually picked up a bat again and returned to her other sport.

Barty won major singles championships on three different surfaces – on clay at the 2019 French Open, on grass at Wimbledon last year and on the hard courts of Melbourne Park in January’s nation’s Grand Slam tournament.

But she hasn’t played a tournament since she was presented with her Australian Open trophy by seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley, her mentor and Indigenous and Australian tennis icon, after a final win in straight sets over Danielle Collins.

“I’m so supportive of Ash doing what makes her happy,” Goolagong Cawley told The Associated Press. “I can’t wait to see what happens in the next chapter of Ash’s life and what will help her achieve her dreams.”

Barty has won 15 tour-level singles and 12 doubles titles since turning pro for the first time in 2010. She spent 121 weeks at No. 1 in the rankings, including the last 114 in a row.

Her announcement was all the more impressive given her recent winning streak from a pitch perspective: Barty had won 25 of her last 26 games and three of her last four events.

Only one other woman has left the sport while at the top of the WTA rankings: Justine Henin was No. 1 when she retired in May 2008.

In a statement released by the WTA, CEO Steve Simon called Barty “the ultimate contender”.

During her 21-month hiatus from tennis as a teenager, Barty played cricket with the Brisbane Heat of the Women’s Big Bash League. In May 2016, she returned to tennis, playing at a $50,000 ITF event in Eastbourne.

A year later, she was ranked 88th; At the end of 2017, Barty was an established member of the Top 20.

“I know I’ve done this before,” Barty said, laughing in the resignation video, “but with a very different feeling. I am so thankful for everything tennis has given me. It’s given me all my dreams plus more, but I know now is the time to step back and chase other dreams and, yes, put down the thugs.”

A semifinal loss to Petra Kvitova in Doha in February was the last game she played in 2020; Barty stayed home in Australia for the remainder of the season as the global pandemic hit.

After six months on the road in 2021 and after winning five titles including Wimbledon, Barty ended her season abruptly after losing to Shelby Rogers at the US Open.

“Wimbledon changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete last year,” said Barty. “When you work so hard your whole life for one goal – to win Wimbledon, which was my dream, the only true dream I wanted in tennis, that really changed my perspective.”

She described what she described as a “gut feeling” after Wimbledon that she might be ready to move on, but she also described herself as not “quite fulfilled” at the time. Her win at the Australian Open closed another gap, and Barty said she was fully aware that “my happiness doesn’t depend on results”.

Barty was one of the most popular players on the tour, with many praising her for her retirement on Wednesday.

“Ash, what can I say, you know I’m in tears, right?” tweeted Simona Halep. “My friend, I will miss you on tour. You were different and special and we shared some amazing moments… Be happy and live your life to the fullest.”

Madison Keys wrote, “An incredible tennis player but most of all one of the nicest guys on tour.”

Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup team coach Alicia Molik said Barty’s decision was “unusual to retire at the top”.

“It’s pretty bold, it’s pretty classy,” said Molik. “What an athlete, what a pioneer and what a role model.”

Andy Murray tweeted: “Happy for (at) ashbarty gutted for tennis what a player.”

Barty’s final words, for now at least – she’s planning a media conference in Brisbane on Thursday – came at the end of the video.

“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 get to enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty as a person, not as Ash Barty as an athlete.”


AP sportswriter John Pye in Brisbane and AP tennis writer Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Ash Barty: Top tennis player retires at 25 and goes out on her own terms after Australian Open

Dais Johnston

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