Sports

Ashleigh Barty: Retiring tennis champion says ‘wait and see’ on her plans

World number one Ashleigh Barty has sliced back questions about her next move after retiring from tennis and told people to “wait and see”.

The 25-year-old shocked the sporting world on Wednesday by announcing she will quit the professional circuit.

In her first press briefing since then, she said she had “given everything” to tennis and was ready to retire.

Barty did not rule out trying another sport but said she was more keen to “give back” to the community.

“I have always wanted to have the time to contribute more in other ways and now I have that opportunity,” she told reporters on Thursday.

“That is what lights me up inside.”

She said she was particularly excited to help provide fellow Indigenous Australians with “more opportunity to get into the sport” from a young age.

Asked about reports she could take up golf or Australian Rules football, she said: “I have always been an athlete in terms of trying different things so we’ll see how we go.”

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Barty won three Grand Slam singles events, including this year’s Australian Open in January.

In doing so she became the first home player to win the Australian Open men’s or women’s singles title in 44 years.

On Thursday, Barty said she had first started thinking about retirement after winning Wimbledon last year.

She revealed she last picked up a tennis racquet about 10 days ago, but that an injury after her Australian Open win had taken longer to heal than she had hoped.

Barty said she had been “spoilt” by many messages of support from other players since Wednesday.

She also confirmed she had set a wedding date to marry her fiancé Gary Kissik, but did not give further details.

Her couch Craig Tyzzer also spoke at the press conference, saying the player’s decision was “not a shock for me”.

“Ash does her own thing. I think it is the right time,” he said. “She won the Aussie Open for everyone and I don’t think there’s anything left in the tank for her.”

He said it was at the Olympics in Tokyo – which followed Barty’s Wimbledon win – that “the motivation wasn’t really there”.

A different kind of ambition

Ashleigh Barty

Even in retirement Ash Barty says she’ll still be “hitting tennis balls”, just no longer for the “selfish” reason of progressing her career.

And that’s exciting for the boys and girls who stand to benefit from her coaching and expertise. Many have credited Barty for getting them into the game.

Chatting to young players at the Queensland Tennis Centre after Wednesday’s shock announcement, I was struck by how much they appreciated Barty’s spirit and determination as much as her famed backhand slice.

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Shocked, stunned, proud: Watch for reaction from players at the Brisbane tennis centre where Barty trained
Georgia Campbell – the state’s under-14 clay court champion – excitedly recalled the time she got Barty’s autograph, but says the player had also given her something more important – inspiration to train hard, never give up and have fun.

As a proud Aboriginal woman, Barty is keen to give particular focus to working with young Indigenous Australians, and helping them fulfil their potential on and off the court. Her recent visit to communities in the Northern Territory is something she wants to do “much more of”.

Such community-minded ambition doesn’t make for great headlines, but as “Ash Barty the athlete” morphs into “Ash Barty the person” there are few complaints here.

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Barty’s first singles Grand Slam arrived at the French Open in 2019 and she became world number one in the same year, a position she has held for 114 consecutive weeks since.

Only Steffi Graf, Serena Williams (both 186 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (156) have enjoyed longer streaks as world number one in the women’s game.

Williams is the only other active female player to have won major titles on clay, grass and hard courts, and at the time of her retirement, Barty has collected $23.8m (£17.9m) in prize money.

Barty’s Australian Open win had cemented her reputation as a national hero.

“I’m really proud that I can be a small part of getting more kids into sport and chasing their dreams,” Barty told BBC Sport in January.

Barty took a break from tennis in 2014, citing its intense demands, and played in the inaugural season of cricket’s Women’s Big Bash League.