Ash Barty dropped a bombshell on the tennis world on Wednesday, the 25-year-old announcing her retirement at the peak of her game and just two months after claiming a third Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Citing the fulfilment of her tennis goals and fatigue with life on the tour, the world No.1 walks away with 15 titles to her name, the last coming at Melbourne Park where she ended Australia’s 44-year wait for a home champion.
“I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself … I don’t have that in me any more,” she said in video posted on her Instagram account on Wednesday.
“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top level any more. I am spent.”
It marks Barty’s second retirement from the sport, having walked away from the game as a teenager in 2014 after becoming disaffected by the tour.
She returned in 2016 and rose rapidly up the rankings, earning global acclaim for her tennis and fans’ affection for her sportsmanship and laid-back demeanour.
Spending 121 weeks as world No.1, Barty won the 2019 French Open and Wimbledon in 2021 and appeared well set for more Grand Slam success to take her place among the game’s greats.
However, she never made any secret of her dislike for the touring life and her battles with homesickness.
She said realising her “one true dream” by winning Wimbledon last year had changed her perspective.
“Ash Barty the person has so many dreams she wants to chase after that don’t necessarily involve travelling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I’ve always wanted to be,” she said in the video, interviewed by her close friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua.
“I’ll never, ever stop loving tennis, it’s been a massive part of my life, but I think it’s important that I get to enjoy the next part of my life as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete.”
Barty suffered depression on the tour after turning professional as a teenager, leading her to quit and briefly reinvent herself as a professional cricketer in her home state of Queensland.
When Covid-19 halted tennis in 2020, she took nearly a year off to stay at home with family rather than rejoin the circuit when it resumed.
Barty’s bombshell triggered tributes from players and officials.
WTA boss Steve Simon said Barty led by example through her professionalism and sportsmanship in every match, while Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley described Barty as “an incredible role model” both on and off the court.
“Enjoy the retirement and this next chapter of your life, we can’t wait to support you in whatever you choose next,” Tiley said in a statement.
Her retirement echoes Justine Henin’s decision to quit in 2008 as a 25-year-old world No.1 with seven Grand Slam titles. Henin came out of retirement in 2010, inspired by fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters’s comeback.
Women’s tennis will have a new world No.1 in Poland’s Iga Swiatek.