Ash Barty has revealed her tennis retirement plans were set before having “one last crack” and marching to a dominant Australian Open title.
The world No.1 and three-time major champion sensationally announced her retirement at age 25 on Wednesday.
Speaking alongside coach Craig Tizer on Thursday, Barty revealed a wedding date with fiance Garry Kissick had been set but remained coy on her next professional move.
Winning an Australian Open wasn’t essential though, Barty explaining she had “never been a prisoner” to the profession she had already walked away from once as a prodigious teenager.
“The Australian public allowed me to be myself. They allowed me to make mistakes. They allowed me to be imperfect,” she said.
“It really did make that Australian Open so much more enjoyable for all of us to be able to go ‘you know what, this is one last crack, let’s see what we can do’.
“It was really cool.”
Tizer admitted he wasn’t surprised by Barty’s decision, given she had cheekily asked if she could retire after her 2019 French Open victory and that her limp Olympic singles campaign last year had been telling.
“Ash probably still remembers, but after her first grand slam, the French, I’d actually prepared this speech about how profound this Ash Barty explains shock retirement decision was gonna be, and what it meant to her,” Tizer said.
“And the first thing she said to me was, ‘Can I retire now?’. I sort of went, ‘Hang on, I’m not ready for that’.”
Then came last year’s Olympics where – just weeks after triumphing at Wimbledon – Barty lost in the first round to unheralded Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo.
“The motivation wasn’t there, except when she played doubles with Storm [Sanders] and mixed with John Peers, her singles really went by the wayside,” Tizer said.
“She wasn’t fussed.
“I felt that she had climbed where she needed to get to and it was going to be a hard slog to keep her involved.”
Barty’s emotional victory in Melbourne just two months ago – where she became the first Australian to win the tournament since Chris O’Neil in 1978 – appears even more significant considering her motivation struggles.
“It was really difficult to do the pre-season for the lead-up for the Aussie summer circuit, and she just put her head down and went super hard,” Tizer said.
“The hardest thing was trying to motivate her to get a spark to go, ‘Hey, you need to be out there’.
“Because her tennis and her mindset, she was so relaxed and so easygoing with it all.
“It was almost like she didn’t care whether she won or lost, but she obviously did.
On Thursday, Barty said she had “no regrets” – and “no secrets”.
“I’ve said exactly what I wanted to say,” she said.
“I’m an open book. I’m not hiding anything, I’ve got no secrets. I am just so proud of all of the work that I have done with my team.
“We have done this together right from the start, have enjoyed every single minute and we have no regrets. We have achieved so much together and it’s been fun on the way.
“I just knew for me the time was right. I’d given absolutely everything that I could to this sport, and I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to my team and the people that have invested so much time and energy into my life to not be 100 per cent commit for them.
“It’s been a hell of a journey. I wouldn’t change a thing and I certainly have no regrets.”