Let’s be honest, when Australians put their heads on the pillow on Tuesday night, nobody outside Ash Barty’s inner circle could have guessed she was going to announce her retirement less than 24 hours later.
The three-time grand slam champion shocked the world by quitting at just 25 and tennis fans around the globe will be asking themselves: “What signs did we miss?”
In all likelihood it was impossible to tell Barty was inching towards the exit but looking back, perhaps there were some clues the end was coming sooner than we thought.
In a video posted to social media on Wednesday revealing she was retiring, where Barty spoke to former doubles partner and best mate Casey Dellacqua, the world No. 1 revealed winning Wimbledon last year and then the Australian Open in January knocked off the two achievements she craved most in tennis.
“To be able to win Wimbledon, which was my dream — the one, true dream I wanted in tennis — that really changed my perspective. I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it,” Barty said.
“There was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. And then came the challenge of the Australian Open.
“That for me just feels like the perfect way — my perfect way — to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.”
Barty is known for being a cool, calm assassin on court. But her Wimbledon victory opened our eyes to an emotional outpouring rarely seen from the classy Queenslander.
First, she hopped into the stands and fell into fiancé Garry Kissick’s arms in an emotional moment that made fans melt.
After receiving her winner’s plate and mixing with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Barty looked to have recovered from the shock of achieving a childhood dream, but she soon broke down again as TV cameras caught her sobbing in the corridors of Wimbledon.
The Aussie champion again buried her head in Kissick’s chest and wept, as he held his better half close. It was the behind-the-scenes moment that said it all about what Barty cherished most.
Barty hinted talk of retirement emerged after her historic victory at the All England club. The emotional release suggested she had conquered her Everest — and really, what’s left to do after climbing the highest mountain?
That was the question going through Barty’s head but the allure of becoming the first local woman to win the Australian Open in 44 years was strong enough to keep her in the game for a final tilt at Melbourne Park.
“There was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled. And then came the challenge of the Australian Open,” she said.
After match point in the decider against Danielle Collins, Barty let out an almighty roar. Again, just like Wimbledon, it was an emotion we’ve hardly ever seen from the superstar.
She admitted herself she wasn’t sure where the guttural scream came from, acknowledging it was unusual and out of character. But clearly, a grand slam title on home soil — won in front of her icon Evonne Goolagong Cawley — is enough to make people act in ways they would never expect.
Was it a sign that everything Barty ever wanted to achieve in tennis had been ticked off? The ecstasy of a job complete?
In her retirement announcement, Barty said she wants to “chase after some other dreams that I’ve always wanted to do”. It was a similar sentiment to what she spoke about after winning the Australian Open.
Although Barty’s retirement is obviously a huge shock, she never struck you as a player in the Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal mould, who would continue until at least their mid-to-late late 30s.
She’d already walked away from tennis once after falling out of love with the sport, opting to play professional cricket instead. But a friendly hit with Dellacqua one day convinced her to come back and have another crack.
“Now I think it’s important that I get to enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty the person and not Ash Barty the athlete.
“It was hard but it’s right and I know that brought me lots of comfort knowing that this is right for me.”
Article by James Matthey for News.com.au©
Source: Ash Barty retirement: Clues Australian tennis star was going to quit | news.com.au — Australia’s leading news site