After announcing her retirement in 2014 and returning in 2016, Women's Tennis Association (WTA) world number one Ashleigh Barty stunned the tennis world Wednesday by announcing her early retirement from the sport at the age of 25. The reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion dropped the news via her social media handle weeks after becoming the first home-grown champion of the Australian Open in 44 years.
The Australian won three Grand Slam singles events on three different surfaces, including this year's Australian Open in January. Her first singles Grand Slam arrived at the French Open in 2019, and became world number that same year, a position she has held for 114 consecutive weeks since. She also adds the 2021 Wimbledon to her accolades list.
Only Steffi Graf, Serena Williams (both 186 weeks) and Martina Navratilova (156) have enjoyed longer streaks as world number one in the women's game.
Williams is the only other active female player to have won major titles on clay, grass and hard courts, and at the time of her retirement, Barty has collected $23.8m (£17.9m) in prize money.
Barty had previously retired from tennis in 2014 and the following year made the switch to playing cricket, batting for Brisbane Heat in the Women's Big Bash League, before returning to tennis in 2016. She also plays golf off a handicap of four.
The 25-year-old is retirng full time now as she said she wanted to enjoy the next phase of her life as Ash Barty the person, rather than Ash Barty the athlete.
According to World No. 1, “Today is difficult and filled with emotion for me as I announce my retirement from tennis.
There's no right way, there's no wrong way, it's just my way, and this is perfect for me to share it with you, to talk to you about it, with my team and my loved ones, that I'll be retiring from tennis. It's the first time I've actually said it out loud and it's hard to say, but I'm so happy and so ready, and I just know at the moment in my heart that for me, as a person, this is right.
"I've done this before, but with a very different feeling and I'm so grateful to everything tennis has given me. It's given me all of my dreams plus more, but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams, and to put the rackets down.
"It's something I've been thinking about for a long time and I've had a lot of incredible moments in my career that has been pivotal moments. Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete when you work so hard your whole life for one goal and I've been able to share that with so many incredible people.
"But to win Wimbledon was my dream, the one, a true dream that I wanted in tennis. That really changed my perspective and I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it, and there was just a little part of me which wasn't quite satisfied and fulfilled.
"Then came the challenge of the Australian Open and that felt like the perfect way - my perfect way - to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been. I want to chase after some other dreams I've always wanted to do and always had that really healthy balance, but I'm really excited.
"There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn't dependant on results and success for me is knowing I've given absolutely everything I can. I'm fulfilled, I'm happy and I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself.
"I've said it to my team multiple times, I don't have it in me anymore. I don't have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top level anymore. I just know I am spent, I know physically I have nothing more to give and that for me is success. I've given everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis and I'm really happy with that - and, for me, that is my success.
"I know people may not understand it and I'm okay with that because I know Ash Barty the person has so many dreams she wants to chase after which don't involve travelling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, where I've always wanted to be.
"I'll never stop loving tennis, it will always be a massive part of my life, but now I think it's important that I get to enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete.
In reponse to her shocking retiremnt, the WTA thanked her for her service to the sport. “Thank you for being an incredible ambassador for this sport and for women around the world,” the Women’s Tennis Association tweeted. “We will miss you so much, Ash.”
WTA head Steve Simon said Barty was "one of the great champions".
"Ashleigh Barty with her signature slice backhand, complemented by being the ultimate competitor, has always led by example through the unwavering professionalism and sportsmanship she brought to every match," he said in a statement.
Romanian former world number one Simona Halep added: "What's next for you? Grand Slam champion in golf?!"
Great Britain's Andy Murray reacted to the news by saying he was "gutted for tennis" but happy for Barty.