Sydney (AP) – Ashleigh Barty explained bravely and in remarkable words for just over five minutes why she surprisingly ended her career a month before her 26th birthday and wanted to “chase other dreams” in the future.
At the end of his resignation announcement, number one in the world rankings in tennis had to cry. After talking to her former double partner Casey Dellacqua, she thanks her countryman, remembers the many great moments and hugs her friend with tears. The feelings were then too great for the sport.
From Perth to Sydney, the news spread like wildfire on Instagram shortly after it was announced. The media spoke of the “shocking” announcement, but also celebrated the popular athlete’s “humility and grace” and her courage to retire at the peak of her impressive career. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison spontaneously picked up the phone and personally thanked Barty for her performance.
Triple winner of the Grand Slam tournament Angelique Kerber expressed admiration for Barty’s decision. “You leave tennis like a true champion and on your own terms, just follow your path, as you always have,” Kerber wrote on social media. “Keep chasing your dreams, I know you will,” wrote Kerber, who lost to Barty in straight sets in the Wimbledon semi-final last year.
At the top of the world rankings for 114 weeks
6: 3, 7: 6 (7: 2) at the Australian Open on January 29 against Danielle Collins was Barty’s last appearance as an active player. For the first time since 1978, she had secured a home triumph in Melbourne. She had previously won Wimbledon (“It was my dream. The one big dream in tennis”) and the French Open.
The Ipswich-born right-handed player has also been at the top of the world rankings for 114 weeks – only three players have had a longer streak than her: Steffi Graf (186), Serena Williams (186) and Martina Navratilova (156). In total, she was number one in the world for 121 weeks and won 25 of the last 26 matches. Barty is at her highest and still young. Nevertheless, she breaks up – because she can not and wants no more.
“I do not have that in me anymore. The physical drive, the emotional desire and everything it takes to put yourself in the absolute top. I’m wasted,” Barty said. “I gave everything and it’s a success for me. I’m very happy about that. I know people might not understand it. It’s okay.”
The decision was “tough but right” for her, she stressed, adding: “I will never stop loving tennis.” But other dreams await – it’s not for nothing that Barty does not use a word as often as “dreams” in his message. Leading is her longtime friend, professional golfer Garry Kissick. The couple announced their engagement last year. Barty is considered down to earth, a family man. Her goals today simply no longer include “traveling around the world and being away from my family, from my home,” she said.
“Ash, what can I say, you know I’m in tears, right?” Former Romanian Wimbledon champion Simona Halep spoke to multisport talent Barty: “I will miss you on the tour. You were different and special and we shared incredible moments. What’s next for you? Grand Slam champion in golf ?! Be happy and enjoy your life to the fullest “.
Happiness does not depend on results
As an 18-year-old, Barty had already put his career on hold for almost two years due to pressure and too much travel and played cricket professionally during the break. “I know I’ve done this before, but with a completely different feeling,” she said. “I’m so grateful for everything tennis has given me. It’s fulfilled all my dreams and more.”
Her tennis friend Julia Görges congratulated her on an “incredible” career. “I am incredibly proud of you,” wrote the 33-year-old, who has also resigned. “How you came back after you stopped playing in 2014 is unique,” she said. Barty is a “true master”.
Barty explained that after the break, she no longer defined success in terms of results. “In the second phase of my career, there was this awareness that my happiness does not depend on results. Success for me is knowing that I gave everything,” she said. “It’s important now that I can enjoy this next phase of my life as the person Ash Barty. Not Ash Barty, the athlete.”
Clear words that found great recognition in the initial reactions. WTA chief Steve Simon recognized Barty as “one of the WTA’s great champions”. The Prime Minister of Queensland, where Barty was born, congratulated her on her “fantastic career”. Barty is “a champion on and off the tennis court” and a great role model, according to Annastacia Palaszczuk. “Thank you for inspiring us all to do our best.” Germany’s women’s tennis manager Barbara Rittner tweeted in English: “Oh no … We will miss you and your way of playing.” And from the Australian Open it said: “We will always be here to cheer you on for the next chapter of your life.”
Barty’s compatriot Todd Woodbridge, one of the most successful doubles players in tennis history, meanwhile, says he considers Barty one of the most talented tennis players of the last 20 years. And sports reporter Phil Lutton commented in the Sydney Morning Herald that tennis came so naturally to Barty’s being, “as if she was born with a few strings of tennis strings in her DNA.” Meanwhile, initial demands did not wait to rename Margaret Court Arena in Melbourne, the site of the Australian Open – Ash Barty Arena.
Prime Minister: “You inspired the nation”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison personally thanked Barty for her services. “It was great talking to you today Ash Barty and just saying, ‘Thank you Ash,'” Morrison wrote in a tweet.
“Thank you for inspiring the nation. You are just amazing,” the head of government said. The athlete’s performance would be celebrated forever. “On behalf of all Australians, I wish you and your fiancé Garry all the best in your marriage and in your new life together.”