Ash Barty shocked the tennis world on Wednesday, announcing her retirement from tennis at age 25.
The world No.1 and three-time Grand Slam champion, who won her most recent major title just two months ago at Australian Open 2022, broke the news on her social media channels.
Barty revealed her decision in an emotional sit-down interview with good friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua.
A career that has inspired the world 💙— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) March 23, 2022
Thank you @ashbarty, for everything. We wish you the best in your retirement, and we’ll always be here cheering you on for the next chapter.
Forever a champion 🏆 pic.twitter.com/eMv9ABhKB8
“There’s not right way, there’s no wrong way, it’s just my way. And this is perfect for me, to share it with you, to talk to you about it, with my team, my loved ones, that I’ll be retiring from tennis,” a tearful Barty told Dellacqua.
“It’s the first time I’ve actually said it out loud, and yeah, it’s hard to say. But I’m so happy, and I’m so ready, and I just know at the moment in my heart, for me as a person, this is right.
“I know I’ve done this before, but in a very different feeling. And I’m so grateful to everything that tennis has given me; it’s given me all of my dreams, plus more.
“But I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams, and yeah, to put the racquets down.”
There have been several stunning retirements from tennis this century, most notably when Belgian legend Justine Henin walked away from the sport in 2008, also when ranked world No.1 and aged 25.
But this was especially shocking, given Barty was on an 11-match winning streak and was the most consistently dominant force in the women’s game.
Her serve and forehand were arguably the strongest on the WTA Tour; her slice backhand, net game and overall versatility indisputably so.
It means her last professional match will be her unforgettable victory in the Australian Open final, making her the first local player to win the Australian singles title in 44 years.
Dellacqua responded to Barty’s declaration by asking the follow-up question everyone wanted answered – why now?
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Barty admitted.
“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. And I’ve been able to share that with so many incredible people.
“But to be able to win Wimbledon, which was my dream – the one true dream that I wanted in tennis -- that really changed my perspective.”
READ MORE: Wimbledon win “most incredible feeling I've experienced on court", says Barty
However, it turns out Barty wasn’t quite done after beating Karolina Pliskova to earn her second major singles title at the All England Club last July.
“I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon… There was just a little part of me that just wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. And then came the challenge of the Australian Open,” Barty explained.
“And 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.”
Barty’s ultimate victory over Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final concluded what will be remembered as an exceptional tennis career, which saw her emerge as a prodigious junior talent more than a decade ago.
Her triumph at Melbourne Park was her third major singles title – coming almost three years after her first, at Roland Garros in 2019 – and meant she had won Slams on clay, grass and hard courts.
The only other active players to win major singles titles on all of the sport’s surfaces are four tennis icons – Serena Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
RELATED: Completing the feat - AO win places Barty in elite company
This result extended her reign atop the rankings to well over 100 weeks.
She has now notched 121 weeks as the women’s world No.1, recently leapfrogging Henin into seventh place on the all-time list.
Barty ends her career with 15 career titles – including the WTA Finals in 2019, and two Miami Opens – and almost US$24 million in prize money, and with wins over 17 of the last 18 top-20 opponents she faced.
She also led Australia to the 2019 Fed Cup final and won a mixed doubles bronze medal for Australia alongside John Peers at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
And she was a star on the doubles court, capturing the 2018 US Open women’s doubles title with Coco Vandeweghe and reaching all four Grand Slam doubles finals alongside Dellacqua.
This marks the second time Barty has walked away from the sport, something she alluded to early in her interview with Dellacqua.
But unlike that first departure – a decision she made as a teenager, which saw her take almost two years off before making a resounding return – this one was coming at a very different point in her life.
“There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results,” Barty explained.
“I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself. And I’ve said it to my team multiple times; I don’t have that in me anymore. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want, and kind of everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. And I think I just know that I’m absolutely spent; I just know physically I have nothing more to give.
“That for me is success – I’ve given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis. And I’m really happy with that.
“I know that people may not understand it, and that’s OK. I’m OK with that. Because I know that for me, Ash Barty the person has so many dreams that 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, it’s where I’ve grown up.
“I’ll never, ever, ever stop loving tennis; it’ll always be a massive part of my life, but now I think it’s important I get to enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete.
“It was hard (to make this decision), but it’s right. And I know that brought me lots of comfort, knowing that this is right for me. But I am very excited.”