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Ashleigh Barty, a life beyond tennis

At the pinnacle of women’s tennis and only 25 years old, Ashleigh Barty announced to everyone’s surprise on Wednesday that she was retiring to “pursue other dreams”, perhaps on the grounds of cricket and golf, sports where the ‘Australian also excels.

Read on this topic: Tennis world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty retires at just 25

“I am so grateful for all that tennis has given me, it has given me all my dreams and more,” explained in a video message the world number one who won the Open last January. Australia, his third Grand Slam title. “But I know the time has come for me to step away, pursue other dreams and put down the rackets,” insisted the player who has won 15 WTA Tour titles.

To read again: Ashleigh Barty, the champion tennis has been waiting for

One of the most popular players on the circuit, “Ash” is also an atypical profile, far from certain relentless winning machines, some of which, like the Japanese Naomi Osaka, began to derail under the pressure. At 17, she had already put her career on hold for seventeen months to become a professional cricketer. In 2020, she chose not to return to competition after the first wave of Covid-19 and stayed six months in Australia, taking the opportunity to win a golf tournament.

Born on April 24, 1996 in Ipswich, Ashleigh Barty started playing tennis at the age of five in the nearby big city, Brisbane. But it was during an internship in Melbourne on the sidelines of the Australian Open, when she was “11 or 12 years old”, that the spark occurred. “Seeing how professional everything was and how dedicated everyone was to their task opened my eyes. I tasted it for the first time as a junior and I loved it! It made me want to know what I was capable of,” she said at the last Australian Open.

She quickly saw, since in 2011 she won Wimbledon in juniors at 15 years old.

pro in cricket

But instead of continuing, she suddenly changed direction three years later, signing a professional contract with the Brisbane Heat team for the inaugural Women’s Championship cricket season. “To make it short, I needed to find myself. I was a little lost during the first part of my career,” she explained in January.

Cricket did open up “a different perspective on the sport” to him, but it didn’t extinguish the appeal of tennis. And the memory of Wimbledon finally convinced her to return to the little yellow ball. And it was in 2019 that one of the smallest players on the circuit (1.66 m) took on another stature.

She, who had never yet reached the second week of a Grand Slam tournament, became that year the only player to have reached at least the round of 16 in the four most prestigious tournaments on the calendar.

Better, she offered her first major trophy, at Roland-Garros.

Like Graf and Williams

That year, she was the player with the most victories (56) with titles on all surfaces: on hard courts in Miami, on clay in Paris, on grass in Birmingham and indoors at the Masters.

Becoming world number one in September 2021, she was the first Australian to accede to the throne of world tennis since Evonne Goolagong in 1976. The 2020 season had been almost white since after her elimination in the semi-finals in Melbourne, she had again played the Doha tournament before the covid pandemic wreaked havoc.

The Australian then preferred to stay on her island-continent rather than travel from health bubble to health bubble. Absent from March 2020 to February 2021, she had therefore not defended her title at Roland-Garros. During this period, she had taken out the golf clubs and won a tournament on a course near Brisbane designed by the great Australian champion Greg Norman.

She didn’t feel “up to it”

With the WTA freezing the rankings during the pandemic months, Barty held on to the top spot in the world until this week. In 2021, she had completed her third consecutive year at the highest place in the world. Along with the much-desired title: the “real” Wimbledon.

To read again: Ashleigh Barty, history live at Wimbledon

Only before her Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Steffi Graf and Serena Williams had finished three years in a row at the top. “I feel a lot of humility. In fact, I don’t really feel at the same level as these champions. I’m still in an intensive learning phase,” said the Australian humbly after her victory in Melbourne.

Barty never failed to associate his successes with those close to him and his team, in particular his coach Craig Tyzzer. She got engaged last year to her longtime boyfriend, Garry Kissick, who was always in the stands when she played. After spending 119 weeks at the top of world tennis, a new page in his life is opening. Of his sports career too?

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