At the top of her sport, Ashleigh Barty has retired from tennis.
In a stunning move, Barty, the number 1 ranked women’s player who won her country’s major championship, the Australian Open, announced in January, Wednesday, that she is leaving tennis for other activities.
Barty, who turns 26 next month, posted a video on Instagram announcing her decision through a conversation with her compatriot Casey Delacqua, a retired gamer, one of her best friends and ex-partner. Barty said she will also hold a press conference.
“It’s hard to say, but I’m very happy and I’m totally prepared,” Barty said. “And I know right now in my heart for me as a person, it’s true.”
She added, “I am so grateful for everything tennis has given me – it has given me all my dreams, plus more – but I know now is the time to let go and chase other dreams and put my rackets down.”
It was the third time that Barty had walked away from professional tennis, but it was the first time she had announced her retirement. In 2014, at the age of 17, when she was already one of the sport’s best doubles players, she took an indefinite break from the tour, citing the stress of early success. During her 17-month hiatus, she played professional cricket but returned to tennis in early 2016 and got active and started climbing to the top.
Barty also took an 11-month break from the tour at the start of the pandemic, staying in Australia rather than traveling to tournaments overseas even after the tour’s five-month hiatus ended in August 2020.
But the announcement of her sudden retirement, which came with the Tour back in full swing and after her latest win in Melbourne, is clearly a decision she has studied at length and from a position of strength.
“There was a shift in my outlook in the second phase of my career, where my happiness was not dependent on results, and success for me is knowing I gave absolutely everything I could do,” Barty told Dellacqua. “I am satisfied. I am happy.”
“I know how much work it takes to bring out the best in you,” she said, adding later, “I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional desire and kind of all it takes to challenge yourself at the highest level anymore, and I think I I just know that I absolutely, have spent.”
She is the first female player to retire to the top of the singles rankings since unexpectedly Belgian star Justine Henin. She announced her retirement in May 2008. Henin, like Barty, was only 25 years old and was the current champion in two Grand Slam tournaments: the French Open and the US Open in Henin’s case. Henin later returned to the tour in 2010, although she never won another major title.
If Barty sticks with her decision, she will be the first female player to retire after winning a singles Grand Slam title since Pete Sampras, the American star who did not play another game after winning the 2002 US Open, announced his retirement almost a year later.
Barty has won 15 singles titles in her career, including three in Grand Slam tournaments: she won the French Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2021, and this year’s Australian Open.
Barty said winning Wimbledon, long considered the ultimate achievement for Australian tennis players with their country’s close ties to Britain, changed her perspective on her career. Her victory at the Australian Open gave her an end story.
“Being able to win Wimbledon, which is my dream, my only real dream that I wanted in tennis, that really changed my perspective,” she said, adding, “And there was a small part of me that wasn’t completely satisfied, not fully fulfilled. Then came the challenges The Australian Open and I think that for me is the best way. My perfect way to celebrate this amazing journey that has been my tennis career.”
Barty continued, “I’ve done everything I can for this beautiful sport of tennis and I’m really happy with that. And for me that’s my success. I know people may not understand that and that’s okay. I’m OK with that. Because I know that for me, Ash is Barty has a lot of dreams that she wants to chase after that doesn’t necessarily involve traveling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I’ve always wanted to be.”
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