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Dhaka Tribune

Ashleigh Barty: down-to-earth star of many sporting talents

It is unclear what she will do next, but it would be no surprise if Barty ended up becoming a champion in another sport

Update : 23 Mar 2022, 07:41 PM

Multi-talented Ashleigh Barty excels at so many sports that she has played professional cricket and even won a golf tournament, but it was in tennis where she rose to become the best in the world.

In January she took her place among the giants of Australian sport by winning her home Grand Slam. 

It was fitting that Chris O'Neil, the last home-grown player to win the Australian Open, in 1978, was in the stadium to witness Barty ending a 44-year hoodoo and thrilling a nation glued to their televisions.

Less than two months later, Barty on Wednesday announced her shock retirement from tennis aged just 25.

She leaves the sport having been world number one for more than two years and with three Grand Slam singles titles, having also won the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon last year.

It is unclear what she will do next, but it would be no surprise if Barty ended up becoming a champion in another sport, because few athletes can boast such a varied sporting CV as the down-to-earth Barty.

- Tennis to cricket -

Widely respected as one of the nicest players in women's tennis, Barty began playing the sport as a child in the Queensland state capital Brisbane.

But it was a trip to the Australian Open for a training camp at the age of about 12 that proved to be the spark that drove her to the summit of the sport.

"To see how professional it was and to see everyone going about their business was really eye-opening. My first taste of it was in the juniors and I loved it," she said at the Australian Open in January.

"That kind of lit the flame."

Barty went on to win the junior Wimbledon title as a 15-year-old in 2011.

But the expectations that came with success took their toll and she made a surprise decision three years later to ditch tennis for cricket, signing for Brisbane Heat in the inaugural Women's Big Bash League.

"In short, I think I needed just to find myself," said Barty who, while never shrinking in the limelight, hardly appeared to revel in it.

She said that while cricket gave her "a different perspective about sport", the lure of tennis was never far away. She returned after a season out.

Barty broke through for her maiden Grand Slam triumph at the French Open in 2019, became Australia's first women's world number one since Evonne Goolagong Cawley and finally won a cherished Wimbledon crown last year.

So dominant has she been that she ended 2021 as the top-ranked player for a third consecutive year, joining Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams and Chris Evert as the only women to achieve the feat.

Barty should have returned to Paris to defend her Roland Garros title in 2020, but she pulled out over coronavirus fears and picked up her golf clubs instead.

And on a course designed by Greg Norman near Brisbane, she won the Brookwater Golf Club women's title with a commanding victory.

"Is there anything you can't do?" asked one social media user at the time.

Barty and long-time partner Garry Kissick got engaged in November, sparking a frenzy of congratulations from fellow tennis stars.

She hardly played any competitive tennis in the second half of last year because of the pandemic.

- Dream fulfilled -

Despite that long layoff Barty was imperious in winning the Australian Open. 

There was an air of inevitability about her title victory as she tore through the field before beating American Danielle Collins in the final in straight sets.

That was followed by a wonderful moment for Barty as she received the winner's Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup from seven-time Grand Slam champion and fellow indigenous Australian Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, who won the last of her four Australian Opens in 1977.

Barty said on Wednesday that she had nothing more to give.

In a tearful social media video message with her close friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, Barty said she was "so ready" to call it quits after achieving her life-time ambition to win Wimbledon.

"Success for me is knowing that I've given absolutely everything, everything I can. I'm fulfilled, I'm happy and I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself," Barty said.

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