Tennis

London | Barty happy but busy in retirement

It may come as a surprise that former World No 1 and 3-time Grand Slam champion Ash Barty did not watch the Wimbledon finals, content to pursue her retirement from the sport, both at home and with a little travel.

Instead of spending a few hours on the practice court every day, I just get into different routines. And because I knew it was coming for quite a while, there wasn’t much of an adjustment. Ash Barty

Instead of watching the Wimbledon women’s and men’s singles finals Barty honed her golf game before playing the Old Course at St Andrews as part of a celebrity invitation event to mark the 150th Open, that gets under way on Thursday.

Barty, who won the French Open in 2019, Wimbledon in 2021 and the Australian Open in January, told The Guardian that she has no desire to keep up with the latest from the tennis world.

“I didn’t watch this year’s Wimbledon finals,” she told Sean Ingle. “Sorry to disappoint.

“Obviously I was rapt for Ons [Jabeur] and Elena [Rybakina], who are both brilliant girls. And it was obviously awesome to see Nick [Kyrgios], who I’ve known for over a dozen years, get to the final.

“But since retiring, I’ve probably watched as many matches as I did when I was playing, which was slim to none.

“Occasionally we’ll have it on as background noise, but it’s very seldom that I’ll sit down and watch a match from start to end with any interest.

“I hit enough tennis balls in my life. I don’t need to see others hitting them as well.”

Moscow-born Elena Rybakina became the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles title by beating Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final on Saturday, while Novak Djokovic lifted his 7th Wimbledon trophy on Sunday by defeating unseeded Australian Nick Kyrgios.

Barty has no regrets about retiring from tennis in March at the age of 25, and also does not plan to start playing golf professionally, ending speculation that she would now focus her career on that sport.

Ash Barty with her fiancee Garry Kissick on The Old Course at St Andrews at the weekend

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The amiable Aussie sent shockwaves around the tennis world when she unexpectedly announced her retirement at the peak of her game, just 2 months after claiming a 3rd Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

She had added fuel to the speculation she would become a professional golfer in April by signing up for a series of exhibition tournaments featuring 23 other celebrities from the world of sport.

“I’ve no regrets about retiring,” she said. “Not one. I knew it was the right time for me. It was what I wanted to do. And I know that a lot of people may still not understand it.

“But I hope they respect that, in the sense that it was my decision. And yeah, it’s been incredible. It’s been everything that I’ve ever wanted.”

Iga Swiatek replaced Barty as the new World No 1 after the Aussie retired, and has won 6 titles so far this year during her 37-match winning streak before suffering a shock loss to Alizé Cornet in the Wimbledon 3rd-round.

“Iga Swiatek is an incredible talent, an exceptional human and a lovely girl,” Barty told The Guardian. “I love her and her team, and I couldn’t be more proud that she took over the No 1 position, because she plays the sport in the right way, and has so much energy and charisma.

“But the depth in women’s tennis at the moment is great too. We’ve come from having one or two players dominating to there being more unpredictability, and that’s not because the tour is weak.

“In fact, it’s because the tour is so strong. Everyone in that top 40 to 50 bracket is so exceptionally good that, week to week, they could all be top‑10 players.”

Even though Barty has no regrets over retiring from tennis, she admits she is missing some of her former tour colleagues.

“I definitely miss seeing my mates,” Barty said. “We spent so much time together and, all of a sudden, I’m living in a different corner of the globe!”

As for her golf game, Barty remains adamant her interest lies at strictly a recreational level.

“Golf is a hobby, and it always will be,” she said. “I know what it takes to get to the very top of any sport, and I don’t have the desire, or want to do the work required.

“And to be honest, I play golf for a good time and to have a good walk with people who I love. If I shoot a 70 or shoot a 100 it doesn’t matter to me.”

Barty plays off a handicap of four at her golf club in Queensland, and is engaged to a trainee professional, but while she has ruled out making a career change, her interest remains keen, even dropping in at the home of The Open at St Andrews in Scotland.

Ash Barty was named the NAIDOC Person of the Year last week

naidoc.org.au

The Aussie likes to stay out of the spotlight, but is still working hard, and only last week, she was named the NAIDOC 2022 Person of the Year, released the first of four books in her Little Ash series, and was revealed to be part of the mentoring team with her former coaches Craig Tyzzer and Jason Stoltenberg in a new tennis academy.

She was also part of the Rest of the World team at the recent Icons Series golf tournament, and spent this last weekend playing at the iconic St Andrews location, the home of golf.

After sharing a round of golf with former cricket star Kevin Pietersen, lead singer of British band The Vamps Bradley Simpson, and actor Kathryn Newton, she again denied golf was a career path for her in the future.

“I love my golf, it’s a hobby,” she said. “It’s something I love to play socially with my friends on some of the most beautiful courses around the world.

“But certainly not something I want to take too seriously. This is fun. I love it. It’s always been a hobby of mine, so it’s nice to get to experience some really cool things like this today.”

After being named the NAIDOC Person of the Year, Barty was not on hand to collect the award, and her father, Robert, said some words on her behalf.

“Just to give you an insight into what Ash’s heritage means to her — last year, she won Wimbledon, the biggest tennis tournament in the world,” Robert said.

“When they were preparing for Wimbledon, the sponsor, Fila, wanted to honour Evonne’s 50th year of winning Wimbledon and they asked Ash if she would wear an outfit modelled on what Evonne wore 50 years ago.

“Ash contacted Evonne to see if it was okay by Evonne, and Evonne said that she’d be absolutely honoured if Ash did that.

“It was a perfect storm — it was 50 years since Evonne won, it was 10 years since Ash had won Junior Wimbledon, and it was NAIDOC Week, and she ended up winning Wimbledon.

“Fast forward six months and she gets to the Australian Open, and we had an inkling that tennis was not going to be around for a long time for Ash, and she wanted to go out as high as she possibly could.

“For Evonne to surprise Ash to be on hand to award her the trophy was something Ash will never ever forget.

“One of the first photos she’s got after she’s won the championship was her, Evonne and Cathy Freeman, and she just thinks that is one of the best photos she’s got in her album.”

NAIDOC Week is an Australian observance lasting from the first Sunday in July until the following Sunday.

The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee, and has its roots in the 1938 Day of Mourning, becoming a week-long event in 1975.

Through her great-grandmother, Barty is a member of the Ngarigo people, the Aboriginal people of southern New South Wales and north-eastern Victoria.

 

The first of 5 Little Ash books will be released in the UK on 10 November / Amazon.co.uk

Barty wants to inspire the next generation with her new Little Ash series and the new coaching venture she iss entering into alongside her former coaches, Tyzzer and Stoltenberg, in their new academy to help foster the next generation of Aussie stars.

“Growing up, I felt like we had this amazing culture, and this history of champions, who could compete at the very top level,“ Barty told CODE Sports “I think what we are able to offer is seriously unique.

“We are all on the same wavelength, we all have the same drive and passion, and I think that is pretty unique.

“We have great experiences together, and we have learned some really tough lessons along the way.

“Deep down, it is something we have always wanted to do together, and now we have the time to do it.

“We have got this next generation of girls and boys in Aussie tennis who, hopefully, want to go along for the ride with us, and learn and develop together.”

Retirement for Barty has been a really seamless transition.

“Instead of spending a few hours on the practice court every day, I just get into different routines,” she said. “And because I knew it was coming for quite a while, there wasn’t much of an adjustment.”

Ash Barty: An honour and a privilege to experience St Andrews and play the Old Course today.

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