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Top-ranked Ashleigh Barty announces retirement from tennis at 25

Ashleigh Barty acknowledged the crowd after winning the Australian Open in January. (Andy Brownbill/AP)
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Ashleigh Barty, the Women’s Tennis Association’s top-ranked player and the winner of this year’s Australian Open, announced that she is retiring.

“Today is difficult and filled with emotion for me as I announce my retirement from tennis,” Barty, a 25-year-old Australian, wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “… I am so thankful for everything this sport has given me and leave feeling proud and fulfilled. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, I’ll always be grateful for the lifelong memories that we created together.”

In her post, Barty shared an interview with Australian tennis broadcaster Casey Dellacqua, a former player and Barty’s onetime doubles partner, who asked why Barty made the decision to retire now. Barty said she was “spent” and wanted to “chase other dreams.”

“I’m fulfilled; I’m happy; and I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself,” she said. “I’ve said it to my team multiple times — it’s just, I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top level anymore.”

The January win in her home country gave Barty three Grand Slam titles, along with the 2019 French Open and 2021 Wimbledon. She said in the interview that winning Wimbledon meant she attained her “one true dream” in tennis and that it changed her perspective. However, Barty said she still wanted more and got it with an Australian Open victory that she described as “my perfect way to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.” She became Australia’s first Australian Open singles champion since 1978.

Barty began playing professionally in 2010. After finding success in doubles, she announced following the 2014 U.S. Open that she was taking a break from the sport to pursue playing cricket. She returned to the WTA Tour in 2016 and won her first singles title the following year. In all, she has won 15 WTA singles titles and 12 doubles titles, and she finished as the year-end No. 1 from 2019 through 2021.

After winning the French Open, Barty said her Grand Slam breakthrough would not have happened had she not stepped away from tennis.

“I needed time to step away, to live a normal life, because this tennis life certainly isn’t normal,” Barty said then. “I needed time to grow as a person, to mature.”

Ashleigh Barty walked away from tennis to find her way forward. Will other pros follow?

In her interview with Dellacqua, she said her new goals “don’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.”

Barty also took advantage of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, which largely shut down sports around the world, to sit out WTA events even after the tour returned from a five-month hiatus. After a nearly 11-month break, Barty rejoined the tour and immediately won a tuneup event in Melbourne ahead of the 2021 Australian Open, where she lost in the quarterfinals. She went on to win four more events last year, including Wimbledon, and reached the final of another.

At this year’s Australian Open, Barty was almost untouchable. She didn’t drop a set and was rarely tested before American Danielle Collins pushed her to a tiebreak in the second set of the final. Another special moment awaited Barty after her win when Evonne Goolagong Cawley, Australia’s previous winner of the event with whom Barty shares an Indigenous heritage, presented her with the trophy.

Barty has been the WTA’s No. 1 player for 114 weeks, the fourth-longest streak in tour history. According to the WTA, the only other of its players to retire while ranked No. 1 was Justine Henin in 2008.

“With her accomplishments at the Grand Slams, WTA Finals and reaching the pinnacle ranking of No. 1 in the world, she has clearly established herself as one the great champions of the WTA,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “We wish Ash only the very best and know that she will continue to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport of tennis as she embarks on this new chapter of her life. We will miss her.”

Barty said in her Instagram post that she would reveal more at an upcoming news conference.

“I’m so happy, and I’m so ready [for retirement],” she told Dellacqua. “I just know at the moment, in my heart, for me as a person this is right. … It’s something I’ve ben thinking about for a long time.”

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