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No. 1 Ashleigh Barty, Just 25, Retiring From Tennis

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

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

“It was hard,” she said of her decision. “But it surely’s right and I do know, and that brought me plenty of comfort knowing that this is true for me. But I’m very excited.”

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

“I’m so grateful to all the things that tennis has given me — it’s given me all of my dreams, plus more — but I do know that the time is right away for me to step away and chase other dreams and to place the rackets down.”

It was the third time that Barty had stepped away from skilled tennis but the primary time that she had announced her retirement. In 2014, at age 17, when she already was one in every of the highest doubles players, she took an indefinite break from the tour. She was depressed and weary of the travel and the pressures generated by early success. During that 17-month hiatus, she played skilled cricket, but with encouragement from Dellacqua she returned to tennis in early 2016 reinvigorated and commenced her climb to the summit under the guidance of a latest coach, Craig Tyzzer, an experienced and unflappable Australian.

Barty also took an 11-month break from the tour on the onset of the pandemic, remaining in Australia as an alternative of traveling to tournaments abroad even after the tour’s five-month hiatus led to August 2020.

But her surprise retirement announcement, coming with the tour back in full swing and shortly after her triumph in Melbourne, is clearly a choice that she has considered at length and made out of a position of strength.

“There was a perspective shift in me within the second phase of my profession that my happiness wasn’t depending on the outcomes and success for me is knowing that I’ve given absolutely all the things, all the things I can,” Barty told Dellacqua. “I’m fulfilled. I’m comfortable.”

Barty’s victory on the Australian Open was a tour de force. She didn’t drop a set in seven matches, coolly navigating the pressure to grow to be the primary Australian to win the Australian Open singles title in 44 years. Typically poker-faced on the court, Barty made it clear just how much the achievement meant to her by howling with delight after ending off her victory in the ultimate against Danielle Collins of the USA.

“I know the way much work it takes to bring the most effective out of yourself,” she said to Dellacqua within the video posted Wednesday. “It’s just I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and type of all the things it takes to challenge yourself on the very top level anymore and I believe I just know that I’m absolutely, I’m spent.”

Barty has spent a complete of 119 weeks at No. 1, placing her seventh on the profession list. She is the primary women’s player to retire while on top of the singles rankings because the Belgian star Justine Henin unexpectedly announced her retirement in May 2008. Henin, like Barty, was just 25 years old and the reigning champion at two Grand Slam tournaments: the French Open and the U.S. Open in Henin’s case. Henin later returned to the tour in 2010, although she never won one other major title.

If Barty sticks together with her decision, she shall be the primary player to win a Grand Slam singles title in her final match since Pete Sampras, the American star who didn’t play on tour again after winning the 2002 U.S. Open at age 31, announcing his retirement nearly a 12 months later. Marion Bartoli of France retired at age 28 little greater than a month after winning Wimbledon in 2013; Flavia Pennetta of Italy retired at age 33 in 2015 at the top of the season after winning the 2015 U.S. Open. Bartoli returned briefly to the tour; Pennetta didn’t.

For now, and maybe for eternity, Barty has finished her profession with $23.8 million in prize money and 15 profession singles titles, including three at Grand Slam tournaments. She won the French Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2021 and the Australian Open this 12 months, meaning that she won major singles titles on all three of tennis’ primary surfaces: clay, grass and hardcourt. Together with her versatile game and tactical acumen, she was an all-court threat and in addition won the 2019 WTA Finals, the tour’s lucrative year-end championship, on an indoor hardcourt in Shenzhen, China.

“Ash has all the time traveled down the road less worn, and it’s what has made her so special,” said Darren Cahill, an Australian who’s a former player, an ESPN analyst and a number one coach. “She’s never conformed to the norm and even her game is actually unique on the WTA Tour today. She’s the entire player and person each on and off the court. A real Aussie legend.”

Barty said that winning Wimbledon, long considered the final word achievement for Australian tennis players with their country’s close ties to Britain, shifted her outlook on her profession. Winning the Australian Open gave her a storybook ending. She withdrew from the BNP Paribas Open, the distinguished event in Indian Wells, Calif., making her Melbourne triumph her final match.

“To have the ability to win Wimbledon, which was my dream, my one true dream that I wanted in tennis, that actually modified my perspective,” she said, adding, “And there was just slightly a part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. After which got here the challenges of the Australian Open and I believe that for me just seems like essentially the most perfect way. My perfect technique to rejoice what a tremendous journey my tennis profession has been.”

Her sudden retirement is clearly a blow to the game. She is enormously popular in Australia together with her unpretentious personality and, as a distinguished figure of Indigenous Australian descent, she has also broadened the game’s appeal at home and abroad.

“I believe it’s a significant loss,” Cahill said in an interview. “Personality, game style and the way in which she represented the game as a No. 1 are all significant. Plus, she’s from a Grand Slam nation, which adds to the loss.”

But though she struggled to maintain her composure early in her exchange with Dellacqua, Barty sounded resolute. She is engaged to the Australian skilled golfer Garry Kissick, who has often traveled on tour together with her. But Barty has regularly made it clear that she is happiest at home in Australia.

“I’ve given absolutely all the things I can to this beautiful sport of tennis and I’m really comfortable with that. And for me that’s my success. And I do know that folks may not understand it and that’s OK. I’m OK with that. Because I do know that for me, Ash Barty the person has so many dreams that she desires to chase after that don’t necessarily involve traveling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I’ve all the time desired to be.”

“And I’ll never ever, ever stop loving tennis,” she said. “It’ll all the time be a large a part of my life. But now I believe it’s essential that I get to enjoy the subsequent phase of my life as Ash Barty the person and never Ash Barty the athlete.”

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