Wednesday 23rd March 2022 will be a day to remember for so many, Ash Barty being one of them. The Tennis Champion, ranked number 1 in the World announced her retirement from the sport. This was a huge shock for so many, but to Barty, and her coach Craig Tyzzer, it never was a shock.
“there is no perfect way, there is no perfect timing, but this was our perfect way.”
Barty certainly left on a high retiring at the height of competition having just won the Australian Open 2022 and finishing number 1 in the world. Who is this 25 year old who has scaled the heights of professional tennis? And what will the future hold for her?
Birth of a champion
Born and raised in Ipswich Queensland, both of Ash’s parents represented Queensland in golf. Through her Great-grandmother’s side, Barty is of Ngaragu decent, the indigenous people group from southern New South Wales and Northern Victoria. She has two older sisters, and grew up played a mix of both netball and tennis.
Her launch into tennis came like most other youngest siblings, trying to keep up with her two older sisters, and at the age of just four started lessons with her longtime junior coach Jim Joyce. He remarked her wouldn’t usually coach someone so young, however with her focused determination and incredible hand-eye coordination made an exception. Barty spent hours hitting balls against the (exterior) wall of her family home, honing the skills that have taken her to world number one.
Early Professional Games
Barty played in her first professional career at the age of 14 at a tournament in Ipswich. Whilst she lost the opening round, this was only the start of her successful and career. By the end of the year she was the youngest player to compete in the play-offs for wildcard entry into the Australian Open and won with a clean sweep to progress to the Australian Open.
Rising through the rankings Barty made an impact as both a singles and doubles player. With tennis partner Casey Dellacqua, Barty made history as one of the youngest players to make the finals of the Australian Open at just 16. The pair also made waves defeating top seeds in doubles at the US Open, and winning top prize at the Birmingham Classic.
This rise to fame was a lot to take in as a teen, and at the age of 18 Barty stepped away from the sport stating
“...it was too much too quickly for me as I've been traveling from quite a young age”.
The impacts of the sport are huge given athletes must travel an enormous portion of their year. On top of this the mental load of constantly having to turn around for the next competition.
There is only one winner in each tournament, so the reality of losing is a huge probability than coming out on top each tournament. Whilst surrounded by a team during this time, tennis is also quiet solo. Barty stepped away from the sport for a time and applied her skills to cricket.
Not having played any competitive cricket before, Barty was drawn to cricket after meeting the Australian Women’s team in 2015. Being apart of a team environment was one of the draw cards. Coach of the Brisbane Heat, Andy Richards, was impressed with her batting skills as she didn’t miss a ball once during her first session and was able to learn.
Barty was impressive in her short rise to National Level Cricket during this time and played for the Brisbane Heat in the Twenty20 National League, however the break from tennis was short-lived and she announced her entry back onto the circuit in 2016.
From 2016 to 2022 Barty worked hard under coach Craig Tyzzer to become the world number 1. Several ups and downs throughout the tennis circuit saw Barty’s confidence rise as she made her comeback and still ‘had it’ to play against the top seeds even with time out from the circuit.
Barty continued to play both doubles and singles at tournaments and won 3 out of the 4 majors in tennis tournaments: Australian Open (2022), Wimbledon (2021), and French Open (2019). Whilst winning 6 titles with fellow doubles player Casey Dellacqua across all 4 majors (Australian, US, French Opens and Wimbledon).
For Barty to step down at the peak of her career seems surprising and is a counter-cultural move. Her coach said it wasn’t surprising as he saw a shift in her mindset after the US Open. In an open interview with her doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, Barty announced the decision to retire.
“After Wimbledon, my perspective changed a lot. And 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, and to do that as a team and to do that with the people that meant so much to me was incredible.”
There is no doubt that Ash Barty’s influence will live on in the sporting world, having been named the Young Australian of the Year in 2020, alongside a host of other honours including Sports Australia Hall of Fame, AIS Sports Performance Awards, National Dreamtime Awards (indigenous) and more.
The question for so many is ‘now what’? what will the 25 year old pursue now in the face of a large void that Tennis filled. Many speculations have arisen, including pregnancy (to her fiancé Gary Kissick), or an elite sport change back to cricket or AFLW.
For now Ash Barty deserves to be remembered as the player she is; humble, gracious, and a champion at the top of her game.
Kelly Thompson is the newest member of the Sports journalist team. Kelly currently plays AFL for Casey Demons in the VFLW, and practices what she preaches as a HOPE (Health, Outdoor, and Physical Education) Teacher in Melbourne’s southeast.