BRISBANE, Australia—Ash Barty signaled the end of the photo opportunities at her retirement news conference in her typically low-fuss, matter-of-fact style: “Righto, that’ll do.”
A day after revealing in a video posted on social media that she was quitting the women’s tennis tour after spending the last two years atop the rankings, and winning two of the last three Grand Slam singles titles, the 25-year-old Barty held a news conference Thursday in downtown Brisbane.
Barty’s decision to retire surprised almost everyone involved in the sport, from fans to players and officials, and prompted the obvious question: why now?
In the Instagram video she’d alluded to the dreams and challenges that lay ahead for Ash Barty the person, rather than Ash Barty the player. Those who pressed for a few more details in the official news conference were met with a repeated response: “You’ll have to wait and see. Be patient.”
So no major updates and still plenty of speculation about what’s next for Barty, who has asked to be removed from the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) rankings.
She has a wedding date locked in—she announced her engagement to aspiring golfer Garry Kissick last November—but she’s not making it public yet.
Another future project is spending more time working with Indigenous children, Barty said, because “that’s what lights me up inside.”
Achieving her long-held dream of winning the Wimbledon singles championship last year changed the trajectory of her career, Barty said. It hastened her retirement, but not before “one last crack” at winning the Australian Open and ending a 44-year drought for Aussie players at their home major.
“After Wimbledon, my perspective changed a lot,” she said. “There was this beautiful challenge of trying to play the Australian Open and trying to win an Australian Open, which was always another goal of mine
“To do that as a team, to do that with the people that mean so much to me, was incredible.”
Craig Tyzzer, Barty’s long-time coach, wasn’t surprised.
Tyzzer told a low-key, laid-back outdoor news conference, where both coach and star player wore T-shirts and shorts, he’d been hearing Barty talk of retirement since she won her first major singles title at the French Open in 2019.
And that was after Barty had returned to tennis following an almost two-year sabbatical that started in 2014 and involved a shot at becoming a fulltime professional cricket player.
“It’s not a shock to me. Ash does her own thing,” Tyzzer said. “I think it’s the right time.
“I think she won the Aussie Open for everyone, not just for her. I think that was for everyone else. I doubt there’s anything left in the tank for her.”
But even as Barty hit the winning shot to complete a straight-sets victory over Danielle Collins in the Australian Open final in January, she conceded she wasn’t entirely sure it would be the last of her professional career.
“That moment, I was fully engrossed. It was such an incredible moment to share with so many people in the crowd,” she said. “That crowd, the final of the Australian Open, was like nothing I’ve ever played in front of before.
“It was so much fun to enjoy that moment with them. A really good way to finish.”
In all, Barty won 15 tour-level titles in singles and 12 in doubles. She spent 121 weeks at No. 1 in the rankings, including the last 114 in a row, and finishing off with a record of 25 wins in her last 26 matches.
“My name will be taken off the list in the next ranking cycle,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting time for the WTA Tour with a new No. 1. Now it’s time for me to drop off and pursue other things.”
Image credits: AP