World No. 1 Ash Barty retires from tennis at 25
10: 14 PM ET
ESPN News Services
Ash Barty surprisingly retired from tennis at age 25 while ranked No. 1 and less than two month after winning the Australian Open for her 3rd Grand Slam singles title.
” I’m so happy and I’m ready. I just know at the moment, in my heart, for me as a person, this is right,” Barty said, her voice shaky at times, during a six-minute video posted on her Instagram account Wednesday in Australia.
Barty stated that she was ready to pursue other dreams and that she doesn’t feel compelled to continue playing tennis as well as she used to.
Barty engaged Garry Kissick, a trainee golf professional, in November leading up to the Australian Open. The pair had been dating since 2016.
“It’s the first time I’ve actually said it out loud, and yeah, it’s hard to say,” Barty said of her decision to retire, which she announced during an informal interview with her former doubles partner, Casey Dellacqua. “I don’t have the physical drive or the emotional desire to be a champion at the highest level of the game. I am spent. This is not the first time Barty quit tennis. She was the Wimbledon junior champion at age 15 in 2011, presaging a promising professional career, but left the tour entirely for nearly two years in 2014 because of burnout, saying she was overwhelmed by the pressure and travel required. She was a professional cricketer back in Australia, and then she picked up a tennis racket to return to the game.
Barty went on to win singles major 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, becoming the first Australian player in 44 years to triumph at the nation’s Grand Slam tournament.
But she hasn’t played a tournament since being 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 straight-sets final victory over Danielle Collins.
“I’m so proud of Ash and that she does what makes him happy,” Goolagong cawley told The Associated Press Wednesday. “I cannot wait to see the next chapter in Ash’s life, and what she does to achieve her dreams. “
Barty won 15 tour-level titles in singles and 12 in doubles since first turning pro in 2010. She spent 121 weeks at No. 1 in the rankings, including the past 114 in a row.
Her announcement was stunning from an on-court perspective, given her recent success. Barty had won 25 of her past 26 matches and three of her past 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, after spending 61 consecutive weeks ranked at the top. Henin also was 25 at the time of her retirement, but she did come back two years after her announcement, reaching the final of the 2010 Australian Open before stepping away for good in 2011. In a statement by the WTA CEO Steve Simon, Barty was called “the ultimate competitor” and stated that she “has always led the way by example through her unwavering professionalism as well as sportsmanship to every match.” Simon said that she will be missed.
During her 21-month sabbatical from tennis as a teen, Barty played cricket with the Brisbane Heat of the Women’s Big Bash League. She returned to tennis in May 2016, playing a $50,000 ITF event in Eastbourne — winning three qualifying matches and three more in the main draw.
One year later, she was ranked No. 88. By the end of 2017, Barty was an established member of the top 20.
” I know that I’ve done it before,” Barty admitted with a smile in the retirement video. “But in a very different way.” I am so grateful for everything that tennis has given to me. It has given me all my dreams, plus more. But I know the time is right now to move on to other goals and, yes, put down the rackets. “
A semifinal loss to Petra Kvitova in Doha, Qatar, in February was the last match she played in 2020; Barty stayed home in Australia for the balance of the season when the pandemic emerged.
After six months on the road in 2021 and after winning five titles, including at Wimbledon, Barty ended her season abruptly after a loss to Shelby Rogers at the US Open.
“Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete,” Barty said. “When you put in so much effort to achieve one goal, to win Wimbledon, which was my true dream, my only true dream in tennis, that really changed my outlook. “
She described a “gut feeling” about moving on after Wimbledon, but she also said that she wasn’t “quite fulfilled” at the time. Barty stated that her victory at the Australian Open satisfied another gap and that she was fully aware that her happiness was not dependent on the results. “
Barty’s final words, at least for the moment — she has a news conference scheduled for Thursday — came at end of the video.
“I will never, ever, ever stop enjoying tennis,” she stated. It will always be a huge part of my daily life, but I feel it’s important that I enjoy the next phase as Ash Barty, the person, and not Ash Barty, the athlete. “
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.