WATCH: Tennis Channel Live discusses Ashleigh Barty's victory in the 2022 Australian Open women’s final.

When Ashleigh Barty began working with her first tennis coach, Jim Joyce, he said he wanted her to prioritize four things in her game: (1) To be a good person, (2) to show respect for others, (3) to have fun, and (4) to be happy. You’ll notice that winning, as an end in itself, was not among them.

Not every talented and competitive young athlete could have kept those priorities unchanged as she climbed the professional ranks. But not every athlete is Ash Barty. Those guidelines fit perfectly with her upbeat, down to earth, exceptionally level-headed personality. For her, doing what she needs to do to be happy has always come first.

If that meant leaving the sport for three years, just when her career was taking off, and playing cricket instead, that’s what she did. If that meant going against the cut-throat tradition of the pro tour and making friends with other players from other countries, that’s what she did. If that means retiring at 25, when she’s No. 1 in the world and coming off perhaps her most satisfying win, before her home fans at the Australian Open, that’s what she’s going to do.

“I’m so happy, and I’m so ready,” Barty said in an Instagram video released on Wednesday. “I just know at the moment, in my heart, for me as a person, this is right.

“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. I am spent.”

When we think of players retiring at 25, the names that come to mind are Bjorn Borg and Justine Henin. The Swede and the Belgian each cited burnout after too many years of intense dedication, and each eventually returned to the tour—one more successfully than the other. Barty’s “I am spent” quote sounds similar to what Borg and Henin said when they called it quits the first time.

But there are a couple of differences. Borg retired after losing his Wimbledon title and top ranking to John McEnroe; Henin retired in the middle of a protracted losing streak. Barty, by contrast, goes out as an undisputed No. 1. More importantly, the Australian’s choice is in line with the way she has lived her life up to now.


World No. 1 Barty announced her retirement on Wednesday.

World No. 1 Barty announced her retirement on Wednesday.

Family—her parents, Rob and Josie, and her sisters, Ali and Sarah—has always been paramount for Barty, even more so than tennis. And that family will soon include a husband; last November, she announced her engagement to Garry Kissick. These days we’re used to players prolonging their careers into their mid-30s and even their 40s. Because of that we can forget how much of a grind the 11-month tour can be, and how much sacrifice it can require from players and their families. Barty has never pretended that she loved that grind, or that being away from home for so long wasn’t difficult.

So instead of accepting that the tour needs to be a lonely and impersonal place, Barty did her best to make it feel like a global family. Many pros like to say they’re “not here to make friends”; Barty wasn’t one of them. Many others form cliques with their countrymen and women; that wasn’t Barty’s style, either. Whether it was on the doubles court or in the locker room, cross-border camaraderie came naturally to her.

Barty is a longtime friend and former doubles partner of Germany’s Julia Goerges. “You’ve been there for me since I was a little tacker running around, annoying everyone,” she told Goerges after they played a final in 2019. She texts and keeps up with Petra Kvitova, Simona Halep, and Kristina Mladenovic. She has been tight with CoCo Vandeweghe, and partnered with her to win the US Open doubles title in 2018. In 2021 in Australia, Barty spent quality time with another American doubles partner of hers, Jennifer Brady. “She’s such a brilliant person off the court, and then on the court she’s a superstar,” Barty said about Brady.

“She’s always encouraging to everybody around her,” Shelby Rogers said of Barty after beating her for the first time, at last year’s US Open. “She brings up the energy wherever she goes. I can’t say how much respect I have for her and what a great representative she is for women’s tennis.”


There will be a lot to miss about Barty, who was entering her prime as a player. Her smooth service motion and throwback-crisp volleys. Her ability, which was virtually unique, to alternate between one-handed slice and two handed drive backhands. Her love of doubles. Her old-fashioned Aussie way of competing. Like the country’s legends of old, Barty did everything she could to win, but accepted her defeats as part of the game and part of the job. She didn’t take losses personally or let them undermine her sense of self-worth; anyone who has played sports knows that takes an immense amount of inner strength.

Sometimes, I admit, I wanted to see Barty show more frustration in defeat. I wanted her to reveal to us how much winning and losing meant to her. That’s what we demand from athletes, but what Barty showed instead is that this demand isn’t fair. She showed that what matters most is what makes the athlete happiest, not the fan.

Now, of course, I hope she eventually decides to make a comeback. I keep asking, “Can she really not want to play Wimbledon again, ever?” And then I keep answering, “She’ll do it if she thinks it will make her happy to do it.”

Whether Barty comes back or not, I hope her attitude toward her work and life continue to influence the players around her, and those younger than her. At a time when the mental health of athletes and young people is more precarious than ever, Barty offered a roadmap not only for how to play the game well on court, but how to treat yourself well off it.