LONDON — Much of Wimbledon is synonymous with tradition. There are the usual sounds of popping champagne corks, dress codes, sunburned customers, strawberries and cream, and excessive amounts of Pimm’s No. 1 being consumed.
Then there are other traditions: The defending men’s champion opens the game on Center Court on Monday, while the reigning women’s champion does the same on Tuesday.
Last year’s women’s champion, Ashleigh Barty, will not play on Tuesday.
Instead of absorbing the adulation of the center court of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, he will play golf in New Jersey alongside Michael Phelps, Brian Lara and Harry Kane. It was in March that Ash Barty, then 25, made the decision to switch sports from retiring from tennis as he entered his 114th consecutive week as World No. 1.
So instead of Barty, it will be Iga Swiatek who opens the play on Center Court on Tuesday. Although he still loves the sport, Barty is unlikely to attend the tournament this year, according to sources, as he continues to explore and enjoy life after tennis.
THERE WAS ONLY 50 days between Barty winning the Australian Open and his retirement announcement, but the decision had been brewing for a while. He had first seriously talked to his close confidants about retiring after winning the 2019 French Open, but he still had this lifelong dream of succeeding at Wimbledon that kept her going.
After reaching that goal in July 2021, those closest to her knew that her interest in the sport had waned. Trainer Craig Tyzzer said she knew she was fighting a losing battle to keep the star motivated while they were in Tokyo for the Olympics. She there won the doubles, but crashed out in the first round of singles against then-World No.48 Sara Sorribes Tormo, with Tyzzer saying at her departure press conference that she was a “difficult job to keep.” [Barty] involved… there wasn’t much left in her, [the] the motivation was not there.
But she braced herself for one last chance to win the Australian Open in front of her family and hometown support in January 2022. The Melbourne crowd 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 he did not lose a single set and only got broken once.
As she stood at Rod Laver Arena after beating Danielle Collins 6-3, 7-6(2) in the final, she knew in herself that nothing would match that feeling: It was her “full circle moment,” as she put it
While those closest to her knew it was probably the end, publicly she was still taking aim at events. She spoke in March of wanting to play in the Billie Jean King Cup in April, though she pulled out of Indian Wells and Miami to get “her body right” as she didn’t recover from the Australian Open.
And then, on March 22, came the six-minute interview on her Instagram channel with her longtime friend and former stunt partner Casey Dellacqua, where she announced her retirement. Barty said the time was right to “pursue other dreams”, with the double win of Wimbledon and Melbourne cementing that desire to try something new.
“I know how much work it takes to get the best out of yourself 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, the emotional desire and everything else it takes to challenge yourself at the top of the level. I just know that I am exhausted, I just know that physically I have nothing more to give. And that for me is success. I have given absolutely everything I could to this beautiful sport of tennis.”
In the days after his announcement, he held a 20-minute press conference in Brisbane and was asked about his plans. She replied, “You have to wait and see… I’m not giving you everything right now… It’s okay… You can be patient… Patience is a virtue.”
He said he was an “open book” with no secrets, but revealed some plans at the press conference, but frequently mentioned looking forward to the next chapter as “Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the jock.”
THE WTA TOUR it’s brutal: a grueling 44-week experience in which you barely set foot home. Although she said at her departure press conference that she had never been a “prisoner” of the sport, she had long been ruled by the calendar.
In 2011, at the age of 15, he won the Wimbledon junior championship. Just three years later, he turned away from the sport exhausted and played professional cricket for two years. Tennis drew her back, but after her great success, she had had enough.
In the midst of her departure interview, there were glimpses of what she has been missing by being the best tennis player in the world. She missed her family, she wanted to see her nieces grow up and she wanted to be around her dogs. She has a fiancée, professional golfer Garry Kissick with the two engaged last November, and they have built a house next to the Brookwater golf course, outside Brisbane.
So, Barty’s future would be on her terms: away from the public eye, letting in the world only when she wanted. And she had plans.
In late February, Barty visited Uluru in her role as Tennis Australia First Nations Ambassador. She took her Australian Open trophy there, connecting with her roots and looking to use her influence to grow the sport.
Barty is proud of her Australian Aboriginal ancestry.
“I love my heritage, I love celebrating my heritage.”
“I love my heritage, I love celebrating my heritage. It’s what connects me to all of you here today. It’s what connects me to the land,” he said after winning early in Melbourne.
Giving indigenous youth more opportunities to participate in sport is central to their plans. “I’ve always wanted to have time to contribute in other ways. I’m ready to really give back, that’s what lights me up inside,” she said at her retirement news conference.
The impact of that trip in February has already been felt in the Northern Territories. “There has been a huge uptake at the tennis club since her visit,” Beth Caird, manager of inclusion and diversity at Tennis NT, told news.com.au. “People were really inspired by a world number 1 coming to the NT right after winning the Australian Open. She was seen as an indigenous leader.
Barty will also publish a series of six children’s books in July, titled “Young Ash,” which he hopes will inspire “new readers.” The books are partially inspired by Lucy, Barty’s 5-year-old niece.
It all goes back to what Barty said at his retirement press conference, about the importance of being present with those closest to him and feeling part of his country again. So it’s unlikely we’ll see her embark on another big tour in another sport.
Since retiring, some have wondered if he would return to cricket, given the success of his first foray. Meg Lanning, the captain of the Australian women, said on April 6: “If you want to come and play cricket again [we] I would certainly be interested in talking to her. she was pretty good at [it] last time you played.
Golf remains one of his great passions. On April 2, Barty collected another trophy at the Brookwater Golf and Country Club women’s event. First place earned him $20; her tennis career earnings came to $23.8 million. At the time, Barty said she had “laughed a lot” over speculation that she was headed to golf professionally. This despite the fact that she got the ultimate stamp of approval in 2019 when Tiger Woods saw her play in a pro-am and said “she’s got a great swing, are you kidding me?”
WHEN THE SECOND As the round begins at Wimbledon, Barty will be at the Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey playing in the ICONS golf series event. He will be in the world team captained by Ernie Els and will play alongside Brian Lara in cricket, Canelo Alvarez in boxing and Harry Kane and Pep Guardiola in football, among others, and will face the America team captained by Fred Couples and with Michael Phelps, Michael Strahan, and Ben Roethlisberger. .
“I hope that through my participation in the series we can encourage more women and girls to get involved in golf around the world,” said Barty. She will be in St. Andrews for the Open in July as a guest of the R&A. But expect those sightings to be fleeting for the time being, rather than becoming the norm.
As for a sign of where he’s been happiest, look at what he said on April 10. While talking about the release of her new books, she was asked if she had any regrets about retiring. “I’m so happy,” said Barty. “I have spent so much time with my beautiful family and my nieces and nephew and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face these last few weeks.”
His short- and long-term plans include developing his charitable approach and ways he can contribute to youth sport in Australia, sources told ESPN.
In November, he will publish a memoir that has been tentatively titled “My Dream Team: A Memoir of Tennis and Teamwork.” It will shed more light on the decision to retire and what lies ahead. There’s still that competitive spirit in Barty, but as she wrote in a recent column, while the fire of tennis will always burn, don’t expect to see her back on Center Court anytime soon. She’s too busy enjoying being “just” Ash Barty.
“Is it forever? The door to my career is closed right now, and firmly… But I have the key to the lock and who knows what the future holds,” Barty wrote in his CodeSports column.
She continued: “But before someone rushes out to buy tickets to the 2023 Australian Open in the hope that I can defend my title again, hold your horses. I’m sure my future lies elsewhere.”