Analysis: It’s not hard to fathom Ash Barty’s retirement

At first glance, it might be difficult to fathom Ash Barty’s retirement from tennis.

After all, she’s still only 25. And she’s recently been thriving with a racket in her hands: No. 1 in the WTA rankings for 114 weeks in a row (a streak surpassed only by Steffi Graf, Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova), the last three Grand Slam tournaments. Champion in two of them, an 11-0 record this season.

So, for some, it seems natural to ask: Why stop now?

Ah, but Barty made it clear in his announcement via social media Wednesday and in other things he said and done over time that he learned to measure success and fulfillment in unusual ways — and certainly little with numbers. Have to do with his name or how many trophies remain in his house.

For example, listen to what the Aussie said during an interview with The Associated Press in March 2019, spending a day cracking the top 10 before she won her trio of major singles championships , and she was ready to stop for good three years before telling the world.

“I know that if I keep doing things the right way and doing things the right way, enjoying the process and the journey, those results will come. If they don’t, it’s not the end of the world,” she said then, with a seriousness in her voice and, as is often the case, a smile on her face. “And if they do, I can sit back, I can celebrate and enjoy them.”

Then it was reliable. Her latest news is credible now, even if of course people are wondering if it will last. Tom Brady is just the most recent example of a top athlete who couldn’t stay away, a long list that includes tennis players like Justin Henin (the only other woman to retire at No. 1) and Kim Clijsters.

Plus, there’s this: Barty took a break for years before returning, but she says the feeling is different this time around.

The key to remember is that Barty works in her own way, on her own timetable, and for her own reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with that, as fans of tennis — and other pros, some of whom were shocked, too — Would like to see him continue to compete.

“I can’t lie,” wrote Williams in a tweet addressed to Barty, “I was sad to read your decision but also happy for your new chapter. Always your fan close up and away. Sending all my love .

Barty’s style of play was unique and varied, relying on a mix of backhand slices and large serves and forehands. In an era when many players would speak frankly about not worrying about what was happening on the other side of the net, Barty was a master at analyzing, dissecting, and dismantling any opponent’s play.

Yet Barty is so self-aware, so focused on what’s best for her, that it makes perfect sense that she’d proceed to exit at the height of her powers, rather than in any state of decline. .

“I really respect, and I really think he’s brave, that he’s made this decision, because with all the anticipation, I mean, there aren’t many people who will stop at this point and live their own happiness.” (first),” said Iga Swiatek, who is at No. 2, “I think this is an example, not only for us tennis players or (other) athletes, but for every person.”

Barty was a prodigious genius — if you haven’t seen that photo of him as a kid, proudly holding an award in his left hand, do yourself a favor and Google “Barty trophy photo” — who turned 15. Age won the Wimbledon Junior title in 2011, left the tour for almost two years in 2014 due to burnout and the burden of expectations, played pro cricket, and later discussed how that gap made him a better player and person. .

She’s always wanted to win Wimbledon, and last year did. She always wanted to win the Australian Open, and did in January.

Other on-court victories, millions of dollars in prize money and advertising, and at-home icon status, were something she achieved in 44 years before becoming the first player from the host nation to win a singles trophy at Melbourne Park.

“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional urge and everything it takes to challenge myself at the top level. I’m spending Physically I have nothing else to give. That is success for me. I have given my all to this beautiful game of tennis and I am really happy with it,” Barty said on Wednesday.

“For me, that’s my success. I know people can’t figure it out, and I’m okay with that,” she said. “Because I know that for me, the Ash Barty person has so many dreams that She wants to follow him, not necessarily travel the world, away from my family, away from my home.”

Makes perfect sense.

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Howard Fendrich covers tennis for The Associated Press. Write to him at hfendrich@ap.org or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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