LONDON – Much of Wimbledon is synonymous with tradition. There’s the usual sounds of popping champagne corks, dress codes, sunburnt guests, strawberries and cream, and copious amounts of Pimm’s No. 1 that are consumed.
Then there are other traditions: the defending men’s champion opens play on Center Court on Monday, while the reigning champion does the same on Tuesday.
Last year’s women’s champion Ashleigh Barty will not play on Tuesday.
Instead of enjoying the admiration of center court at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, she will play golf in New Jersey alongside Michael Phelps, Brian Lara and Harry Kane. It was in March that then-25-year-old Ash Barty made the sporting decision to retire from tennis as she entered her 114th straight week as world No. 1.
Instead of Barty, Iga Swiatek will open the game on Center Court on Tuesday. While she still loves the sport, Barty is unlikely to compete in the tournament this year – according to sources – as she continues to explore and enjoy her life after tennis.
IT WAS ONLY 50 days between Barty’s Australian Open win and her retirement announcement, but the decision had been brewing for a while. After her victory at the French Open in 2019, she had initially spoken seriously to close confidants about retiring, but there was still this lifelong dream of triumphing at Wimbledon that kept her going.
After she achieved that goal in July 2021, those closest to her knew her interest in the sport had waned. Coach Craig Tyzzer said he knew he was at a loss to keep the star motivated while they were in Tokyo for the Olympics. There she won doubles but fell out in the first round of singles against then world No. 48 Sara Sorribes Tormo and Tyzzer said at her departure press conference it was a “tough drudgery”. [Barty] involved … there was not much left in her, [the] The motivation wasn’t there.”
But she rose in front of her home support and family in one last attempt to win the Australian Open in January 2022. Melbourne crowds had been waiting 44 years for a women’s singles champion and on January 29 she ended that drought after an incredible tournament in which she didn’t lose a single set and was broken on serve only once.
Standing in Rod Laver Arena after beating Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6 (2) in the finals, she knew inside herself that nothing would ever quite match that feeling – it was her “moment, which comes full circle,” when she said it.
While those closest knew it was probably the end, she was still targeting events publicly. She spoke in March of wanting to play in April’s Billie Jean King Cup, despite withdrawing from Indian Wells and Miami to “fix her body” after failing to recover from the Australian Open.
And then on March 22 came the six-minute interview on her Instagram channel with longtime friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, in which she announced her retirement. Barty said it was the right time to “chase other dreams” as the double triumph of Wimbledon and Melbourne cemented the itch to try something new.
“I know how much work it takes to be the best you can be and I’ve told my team several times, it’s just that I don’t have that in me anymore,” Barty said. “I no longer have the physical drive, emotional desire and everything it takes to challenge myself at the very top. All I know is that I’m exhausted – all I know is that physically I have nothing left to give. And that is success for me. I’ve given this beautiful sport of tennis absolutely everything I can.”
In the days following her announcement, she held a 20-minute press conference in Brisbane and was asked about her plans. She replied, “You’ll have to wait and see…I’m not giving you everything now….It’s all right….You can be patient….Patience is a virtue.”
She said she’s an “open book” with no secrets – but revealed few plans at the press conference – but frequently mentioned how she looks forward to the next chapter as “Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete”. .
THE WTA TOUR is brutal – a grueling 44-week experience that will leave you barely setting foot home. Although she said in her farewell press conference that she had never been a “prisoner” of the sport, she had been ruled by the schedule for so long.
In 2011, at the age of 15, she won the Wimbledon junior championship. She left the sport with burnout just three years later and played professional cricket for two years. She retired from tennis, but after her great success she had had enough.
Nestled in the middle of her farewell interview were glimpses of what she missed out on when she was the best tennis player in the world. She missed her family, she wanted to see her nieces grow up and she wanted to be with her dogs. She has a fiancé – professional golfer Garry Kissick, to whom she got engaged last November – and they have built a house next to Brookwater golf course just outside Brisbane.
So Barty’s future would be on her terms – away from the public eye and only letting the world in when she wanted it. And she had plans.
In late February, Barty visited Uluru in her role as Tennis Australia’s First Nations Ambassador. There she took her Australian Open trophy with her – she reconnected with her roots and wanted to use her influence to help the sport grow.
Barty is proud of her Australian ancestry.
“I love my heritage, I love celebrating my heritage.”
“I love my heritage, I love celebrating my heritage. It is what connects me to all of you here today. It’s what connects me to the country,” she said after winning early in Melbourne.
Giving indigenous youth more opportunities to get into sport is at the heart of their plans. “I’ve always wanted to have the time to contribute in other ways – I’m willing to really give back, that’s what enlightens me inside,” she said at her retirement press conference.
The effects of that February trip were already being felt in the Northern Territories. “Club tennis has come a long way since her visit,” Beth Caird, inclusion and diversity manager at Tennis NT, told news.com.au. “People have been really inspired by a world No. 1 coming to the NT straight after winning the Australian Open. She was viewed as an indigenous leader.
Barty will also be releasing a series of six children’s books called Young Ash in July, which she hopes will inspire “new readers”. The books are partially inspired by Barty’s 5-year-old niece, Lucy.
It all comes back to what Barty said in her retirement press conference about the importance of being present with those closest to her and feeling a part of her country again. So it’s unlikely that we’ll see her on another big tour in any other sport.
Since she retired, some wondered if she would return to cricket given the success of her first foray. Australia women’s captain Meg Lanning said on April 6: ‘If she wants to come and play cricket again [we] would definitely be interested in talking to her. She was pretty good at that [it] Last time she played.
Golf remains one of her great passions. On April 2, Barty scooped another trophy at the Brookwater Golf and Country Club’s women’s event. First place netted her $20 – her tennis career earnings totaled $23.8 million. At the time, Barty said she had a “good laugh” at the speculation that she was going to play golf professionally. That’s despite getting the final seal of approval in 2019 when Tiger Woods saw her play at a Pro-Am and said, “She’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?”
IF THE SECOND Round begins at Wimbledon, Barty will play at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey in the ICONS Golf Series event. She will be on the world team, managed by Ernie Els, playing alongside cricketer Brian Lara, boxer’s Canelo Alvarez and soccer’s Harry Kane and Pep Guardiola, among others, and against the American team managed by Fred Couples Michael Phelps, Michael Strahan and Ben Roethlisberger compete.
“I hope that by participating in the series we can encourage more women and girls to participate in golf around the world,” said Barty. She will be a guest of the R&A at the St Andrews Open in July. However, expect these sightings to be fleeting for now and not becoming the norm.
For a sign of where she was happiest, look at what she said on April 10th. Speaking about the release of her new books, she was asked if she had any regrets about retiring. “I’m just so happy,” Barty said. “I’ve spent so much time with my wonderful family and my nieces and nephew and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the past few weeks.”
Her short- to long-term plans include expanding her charitable focus and ways she can contribute to youth sport in Australia, sources told ESPN.
In November, she will publish a paper tentatively titled My Dream Team: A Paper on Tennis and Teamwork. It will shed more light on the retirement decision and the future. There’s still that competitive spirit in Barty, but as she wrote in a recent column, while the tennis fire will always burn, don’t expect to see her back on center court any time soon. She’s too busy enjoying being “just” Ash Barty.
“Is it forever? The door to my career is closed and solid at the moment. … But I have the key to the padlock and who knows what the future holds,” Barty wrote in her CodeSports column.
She continued: “But before anyone rushes to buy tickets for the 2023 Australian Open in the hopes that I might be back to defend my title, hold on to your horses. I’m sure my future lies elsewhere.”
https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/34136194/wimbledon-2022-where-tennis-world-ash-barty Wimbledon 2022 – Where in the world is Ash Barty?