MIKE DICKSON: Ashleigh Barty’s shock retirement from tennis is a huge blow for the game after establishing herself as the one truly outstanding player of the women’s division
Ash Barty’s sudden retirement comes as a shock, but if anyone was likely to drop this kind of bombshell it was always likely to be the 25-year-old Queenslander.
The popular Australian has never had a problem putting her tennis career in context, to the point where she could sometimes even seem slightly detached from it.
This is someone who rose to world No 1 – the point at which she bows out – having spent a season playing in the women’s Big Bash cricket while on sabbatical in her late teens.
Ashleigh Barty announced her shock retirement from tennis, bowing out while in her prime
An extraordinary natural talent, she is also an excellent golfer who enjoys time on the course, just as she has been seen swilling a beer while sitting in the crowd watching Australian Rules football. She, along with her fiancé Gary Kissick, is also a keen Liverpool fan.
Barty is a reflective sort, too, a person who has spoken about sometimes suffering from anxiety and depression. She never looked destined for a career in the restrictive and acutely demanding world of elite tennis that would run into her thirties.
As she said in her announcement, she now wishes to ‘chase other dreams’, bringing down the curtain while in her prime.
Her departure is a huge blow to tennis in general and the women’s game in particular, especially at a time in the game’s history when the Williams sisters look all but finished (not to mention Roger Federer).
The Australian gave her nation a homegrown champion of its own Grand Slam in January
She established herself as a truly outstanding player in women’s tennis by winning Wimbledon
By winning Wimbledon, and giving her nation a longed-for homegrown champion of its own Grand Slam in January, she had established herself as the one truly outstanding player of the women’s division at present.
Her cultured style featured the magical use of the sliced backhand, while her serve was fantastically accurate and effective for one of her stature. She could move effortlessly around the court and adapt herself to clay, grass or hard court.
A broad outlook on life and a feeling of already having fulfilled herself in tennis are behind this abrupt ending, which was hinted at when she simply said she was not ready to play the current tournaments in America.
She could move effortlessly around the court and adapt herself to clay, grass or hard court
It also comes after a 2021 season that was especially gruelling in its own way. Due to Covid travel restrictions and Australian entry requirements she spent six months continually on the road, either side of winning Wimbledon.
Quite a lot of that was spent in the UK, where she has relatives in the Nottingham area. After the US Open she passed the time doing a golf tour of the North West. She was never any ordinary tennis champion.
Barty leaves behind a women’s game which is now even more open, and which has Poland’s Iga Swiatek promoted to being its top-ranked player.
The 25-year-old now leaves behind a women’s game which is even more open
Has the Australian acted in haste? Possibly, and she would not the be the first in tennis to decide that she went too soon and come back at a later date. At 25 there is still plenty of time for that.
Yet a ready-made list of hobbies and other interests suggest that will not be the case. She has been a wonderful player who only failed to win the US Open, having been upset last year in the round before she was due to meet Emma Raducanu.
She mastered all three of the main surfaces with a superb all round game – and then before you knew it she was gone.