A physically and emotionally “spent” Ash Barty has revealed she’s been wrestling with retirement ever since winning Wimbledon last year.
Aged just 25, the world No.1 delivered the bombshell announcement on Wednesday that she was walking away from tennis just two months after her hoodoo-busting Australian Open triumph.
The three-time grand slam champion – who hasn’t played since breaking the 44-year local title drought at Melbourne Park in January – posted the news on social media.
“Today is difficult and filled with emotion for me as I announce my retirement from tennis,” Barty posted on Instagram.
“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.”
Barty’s farewell ranks as Australian sport’s most unexpected retirement since Mark Ella – also then 25 – quit rugby union after captaining the Wallabies on their famous grand slam-winning tour of the UK in 1984.
The stunning revelation marks the second time Barty has walked away from tennis, following the Queenslander’s 16-month sabbatical after a demoralising first-round loss at the 2014 US Open.
But, unlike then when she was a homesick teenager, this time Barty says she’s finished for good.
“I will be retiring from tennis. It’s the first time I’ve said it out loud and it’s hard to say but I’m so happy and so ready,” she said.
“I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person this is right.
“I’ve done this before but it’s a very different feeling.”
Last time she stopped playing, Barty played professional cricket for the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL.
Bookmakers were quick to react to her latest retirement, framing a market on what’s next for the sporting super talent with cricket again the favourite.
“I want to chase after some other dreams that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m really excited,” Barty told former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua in a video interview.
“There was a perspective shift in me in the second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results and 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.
“I said it to my team multiple times I don’t have it in me any more. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the top level any more, and I know that I’m spent.
“I know people may not understand that … but Ash Barty the person has so many dreams she wants to chase after that don’t necessarily involve travelling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home.”
Whatever she pursues, Barty’s tennis legacy is secure.
Two weeks after winning the 2019 French Open, Barty became the first Australian woman to reach world No.1 since her mentor and Indigenous idol Evonne Goolagong 43 years earlier.
She followed that up with victory at the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen, in doing so pocketing $US6.4 million ($A8.6m) – the biggest cheque in tennis history.
Her crowning glory came last year at Wimbledon before Barty defied intense pressure and expectation from home fans to win the Australian Open.
“(Retirement) is something I’ve been thinking about for along time and I’ve had a lot of incredible moments in my career that have been pivotal moments,” Barty said.
“Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete.
“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 was my dream.
“The one true dream that I really wanted in tennis. That really changed my perspective and I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team about it.”
But after a semi-final and two quarter-final defeats at Melbourne Park, Barty had one more piece of unfinished business to tend to.
“There was a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled and then came the challenge of the Australian Open and that for me feels like the most perfect way, my perfect way to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.”
She would have been chasing a career grand slam at this year’s US Open in September.
Instead Barty leaves the sport having held the top ranking for 114 weeks, the eighth-longest tenure in history behind only all-time greats Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert, Martina Hingis, Monica Selesand Justine Henin.
CAREER SNAPSHOT OF RETIRED AUSTRALIAN TENNIS STAR ASH BARTY
Born: Ipswich, Queensland
Lives: Brisbane, Australia
Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)
Career prize money: $US23,829,071 ($A31,919,040)
Career titles: 15
Career win-loss record: 305-102
2022 win-loss record: 11-0
Grand slam titles: 3 (French Open 2019; Wimbledon 2021; Australian Open 2022)
Grand slam win-loss record: 57-24
Australian Open win-loss record: 24-8
French Open win-loss record: 10-6
Wimbledon win-loss record: 12-4
US Open win-loss record: 11-6
Coach: Craig Tyzzer
(Australian Associated Press)