Ashleigh Barty: Retiring world number one says 'wait and see' on plans

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Media caption,
Ashleigh Barty: ‘I’m excited for my next chapter’

World number one Ashleigh Barty told people to "wait and see" about her next move following her shock retirement at the age of 25.

The Australian three-time Grand Slam champion said she had "given everything" to tennis.

Barty did not rule out trying another sport but said she was more keen to "give back" to the community.

"I have always wanted to have the time to contribute more in other ways and now I have that opportunity," she said.

"That is what lights me up inside."

Barty said she was particularly excited to help provide fellow Indigenous Australians with "more opportunity to get into the sport" from a young age.

A talented all-round sportswoman, she played in the first season of cricket's Women's Big Bash League in 2015-16 after taking a break from tennis in 2014.

Asked about reports she could take up golf or Australian Rules football, she said: "I have always been an athlete in terms of trying different things, so we'll see how we go."

Barty won the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021, and in January this year became the first home player to win the Australian Open men's or women's singles title in 44 years.

On Thursday Barty said she had started thinking about retirement after her Wimbledon triumph.

She revealed she last picked up a racquet about 10 days ago, but that an injury after the Australian Open had taken longer to heal than she had hoped.

Former Grand Slam champions Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin returned to tennis after retiring.

Asked about about one day making a comeback, Barty said: "Well, you never say never. It's a long way off."

Barty said she had been "spoiled" by many messages of support from other players since her announcement on Wednesday.

She also confirmed she had set a wedding date with fiance Gary Kissik, but did not give further details.

Coach Craig Tyzzer said Barty's decision was "not a shock for me".

"Ash does her own thing. I think it is the right time," he said. "She won the Aussie Open for everyone and I don't think there's anything left in the tank for her."

He said it was at the Olympics in Tokyo - which followed Barty's Wimbledon win - that "the motivation wasn't really there".

Barty's retirement means Poland's 20-year-old Iga Swiatek is likely to become world number one when the rankings are updated next week.

Swiatek is the first player since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009 to win five or more titles before the age of 21.

Barty said: "If it is Iga, there is no better person. She's an incredible person, a great tennis player. The way that she's brought this fresh, fearless energy on to the court has been incredible.

"She thoroughly deserves it. I hope that she can take it and still be her, do it her own way, and really chase what she's after in her career and her dreams."

'Disbelief' and 'no regrets' - how the players reacted

Barty's retirement was met with surprise and praise from across the sport.

"I can't lie. I was sad to read your decision but also happy for your new chapter," 23-time Grand Slam singles champion Serena Williams wrote on Twitter. "Always your fan close up and afar. Sending all my love."

Former world number one Naomi Osaka said being away from home on tour for most of 2021 "certainly took a toll" on Barty, adding she can "leave with no regrets".

Britain's reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu said Barty's retirement illustrated "how personal everyone's objectives and goals are".

"I feel like if I set out with a goal when I'm starting to play tennis, once I'm happy, it kind of makes sense to finish on a high," Raducanu said.

Stefanos Tsitsipas said he watched Barty's retirement video "in disbelief".

"I couldn't believe what I just saw," Tsitsipas said.

"Honestly she's at the peak of her game right now. I knew she would want to take a break after the Australian Open, which I guess is normal. Didn't expect it to be coming any time soon."

A different kind of ambition

Simon Atkinson, BBC News, Brisbane

Even in retirement Ash Barty says she'll still be "hitting tennis balls", just no longer for the "selfish" reason of progressing her career.

And that's exciting for the boys and girls who stand to benefit from her coaching and expertise. Many have credited Barty for getting them into the game.

Chatting to young players at the Queensland Tennis Centre after Wednesday's shock announcement, I was struck by how much they appreciated Barty's spirit and determination as much as her famed backhand slice.

Media caption,
Shocked, stunned, proud: Watch for reaction from players at the Brisbane tennis centre where Barty trained

Georgia Campbell, the state's under-14 clay-court champion, excitedly recalled the time she got Barty's autograph, but said the player had also given her something more important - inspiration to train hard, never give up and have fun.

As a proud Aboriginal woman, Barty is keen to give particular focus to working with young Indigenous Australians, and helping them fulfil their potential on and off the court. Her recent visit to communities in the Northern Territory is something she wants to do "much more of".

Such community-minded ambition doesn't make for great headlines, but as 'Ash Barty the athlete' morphs into 'Ash Barty the person' there are few complaints here.

Barty became world number one in 2019, a position she held for 114 consecutive weeks since then.

Only Steffi Graf, Serena Williams (both 186 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (156) have enjoyed longer streaks as world number one in the women's game.

Williams is the only other active female player to have won major titles on clay, grass and hard courts, and at the time of her retirement Barty had earned $23.8m (£17.9m) in prize money.

Her Australian Open win cemented her reputation as a national hero.

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