11th April, 2022
The biggest retirement in professional tennis this year—thus far—came from someone we didn't expect.
On Wednesday morning in Australia, Ash Barty, the 25-year-old current WTA No. 1, Wimbledon champion and Australian Open champion, posted a six-minute interview with compatriot Casey Dellacqua on Instagram that outlined the reasons she is stepping away from the sport for good.
“It's something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Barty said. “Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete. When you work so hard your whole life for one goal, to be able to win Wimbledon—which was the one true dream I wanted in tennis—that really changed my perspective. I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it.
“There was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. And then came the challenge of the Australian Open. I think that for me just feels like the most perfect way, my perfect way, to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.”
This isn't the first time Barty has retired from tennis; she left the game in 2014 to pursue another Australian athletic pastime, cricket. But she returned two years later and began a sustained climb that would eventually see her become one of the most admired and accomplished players on the WTA, and a threat on any surface she played. While her classic, slice-heavy game was best suited for grass, she won her first of three Grand Slam singles titles on clay, at the 2019 French Open.
Two years later, Barty lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish at Wimbledon, which in retrospect was her ultimate tennis satisfaction. That she still managed to win the Australian Open—under immense national pressure, and while still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic—shows just how high Barty's peak was.
“There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results,” Barty said. “Success for me is knowing that I’ve given absolutely everything I can. I’m fulfilled, I’m happy and I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself.
“And I’ve said it to my team multiple times, it’s just I don’t have it in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want, everything it takes to challenge yourself at the top level anymore. I’m spent. I just know physically I have nothing more to give. That for me is success.”
Barty finishes her career with 15 singles titles—including the 2019 WTA Finals and its tennis-record $4.42 million first prize—305 wins and 102 losses. It all left the tennis world stunned, while at the same time celebrating her indelible impact on the sport.
“Congrats Ash Barty on a fabulous career!” wrote Tracy Austin to TENNIS.com. “Such a joy to watch your elegant, athletic style of play. Happy you are able to walk away fulfilled with all you have accomplished and ready to spend time with those you love! Good luck in the next chapter!”