Ash Barty, the world number one ranked women’s tennis player, has quit the sport at the age of 25, saying she was “spent” and citing the emotional challenges of being on tour.
“I’ve said it to my team multiple times, I don’t have it in me any more. I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level any more,” the Australian athlete said on Instagram. “I just know that I’m absolutely spent. Physically, I have nothing more to give and that for me is success.”
Barty’s announcement of her retirement comes just two months after she won the Australian Open and follows similar decisions by other leading athletes to step back from their sports because of the mental and physical challenges to their health of competing.
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka, the world’s highest paid female sports star, has openly discussed depression and anxiety and withdrew from the French Open last year.
Barty first quit when she was 18 years old due to depression and exhaustion. She spent a season playing cricket with the Brisbane Heat team in her native state of Queensland before returning to tennis and rapidly achieving success by winning the 2019 French Open, the first of her three Grand Slam titles.
The player said she considered quitting after winning Wimbledon in 2021, when she became the second Aboriginal Australian to win the Grand Slam title after her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
“I’m so happy and I’m so ready and I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person, this is right,” she said.
Barty’s Australian Open victory in January made her the first woman from the country to claim the title since 1978, which she celebrated on court with Goolagong Cawley.
The win provided a euphoric end to a tournament that had been rocked by the detention and deportation of Novak Djokovic, the unvaccinated number one male player and favourite.
Tennis officials, players and coaches responded with support and appreciation but also recognised the bravery of her decision.
Steve Simon, chair of the Women’s Tennis Association, described Barty as one of the sport’s “great champions”.
“We wish Ash only the very best and know that she will continue to be a tremendous ambassador for the sport of tennis as she embarks on this new chapter of her life. We will miss her,” he added.
Alicia Molik, the Australian tennis coach, described the unassuming Barty as a trailblazer and role model. “It’s unusual, retiring at the top. It’s pretty gutsy, it’s pretty noble,” she told the ABC, the Australian state broadcaster.
Barty was known for her consistency, backhand slice shot and the ability to withstand intense pressure from opponents.