The how and why Ashleigh Barty retirement at 25 — Quotes from Barty’s retirement presser — Must-click women’s tennis links

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, March 29, 2022

Happy Tennis Tuesday, everyone! Remember last week when I said how close Iga Swiatek could get within Ashleigh Barty’s No. 1 ranking with a win in Miami? And then not even 12 hours after last week’s column went out, Barty announced her retirement from tennis at the age of 25? Yeah, same.

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We’re a quarter through 2022 and I can near-guarantee that there have been a few events that weren’t on your Tennis Bingo card this year. However, I’m sure none are near the magnitude of Barty leaving the tour. If you did, please DM me the PowerBall numbers. Top players don’t retire often, let alone when they’re No. 1 or dominating the circuit. Since 2019, Barty captured three Grand Slams in Roland Garros, Wimbledon and finally the Australian Open, plus the WTA Finals and another 8 WTA singles and 3 WTA doubles titles.

Barty has made it crystal clear that she hates being away from her family and between the traveling it takes to get to Australia, as well as their COVID-19 re-entry protocols, it’s a nightmare for someone in Barty’s position. Last year, Barty spent nearly the entire tennis season on the road because of those reasons and I should also note that she was dealing with some injuries, as well.

Barty explained in her initial announcement — via a great chat with dear friend, former WTA player Casey Dellacqua — how throughout 2021, she was in talks with her team about her future plans. It all veered ahead when she fulfilled her dream of capturing Wimbledon on the 50th anniversary of fellow Aborigine Evonne Goolagong Cawley’s win. Then, she dominated the field in Melbourne to win the Australian Open to become the first home winner since 1978, which pretty much sealed her decision to step away. Barty wanted to have a formal goodbye at Australia’s Billie Jean King Cup qualifier, but following Russia and Belarus being taken out of the 2022 competition, Australia received a bye through to the Finals and the qualifier was scrapped.

Barty ends her career on an 11-match winning streak and winning 45 of her last 51 matches. In fact, she retires after winning both her final singles and doubles tournaments (2022 Adelaide).

Over the course of her career, Barty compiled the following:

  • 15 WTA singles titles
  • 12 WTA doubles titles (career-high ranking of No. 3)
  • Another 4 ITF singles and 9 ITF doubles titles
  • 121 weeks at No. 1
  • 305-102 singles record
  • 200-64 doubles record
  • 2020 Olympic Bronze medalist in Mixed Doubles
  • 18-4 Billie Jean King Cup record (2019 finalist)
  • 6 ITF Junior singles titles, including 2011 Wimbledon, and 4 ITF Junior doubles titles (career-high ranking of No. 2)

So, where does this leave the WTA? Well, Barty requested her name to be removed off of the WTA rankings. Therefore, Iga Swiatek will be the No. 1 player in the world, followed by either Barbora Krejcikova or Paula Badosa, pending Miami results. Swiatek is the first player, male or female, from Poland to take pole position (I’m sorry, I had to) on the singles rankings. Previously, Agnieszka Radwanska was the highest ranked player from Poland at No. 2. The day following Barty’s announcement, Swiatek won her Miami Open second round over Viktorija Golubic and was presented with a bouquet of flowers by former World No. 1 Lindsay Davenport and Miami Open Tournament Director James Blake.

The WTA has been wide open and I’ve talked ad nauseam about how exciting that is. However, since the WTA’s restart from the COVID-19 break, Barty and Swiatek have been the only dominant players. Combined, they’ve captured 3/7 of the Grand Slams and 5/11 of the WTA 1000 tournaments. Is Swiatek going to take over where Barty left off? Late last year, we saw Anett Kontaveit end 2021 on a tear and Garbine Muguruza capture the WTA Finals, but 2022 hasn’t been the best year for them. Maria Sakkari is scary consistent, but escaping the semifinal hurdle, or even the finals, has been her Achilles (sorry another joke I couldn’t resist). Could this be a big push for Serena Williams to return and grab Grand Slam No. 24? What about Bianca Andreescu, who seems to be inching closer to a WTA return, as well. If I were a betting man, the No. 1 carousel may soon begin and if Swiatek becomes the new tour de force, expect the Top 10-15 to be a constant rotation.

After reflecting some over the past week, I’m not surprised that Barty is leaving the WTA. First, let’s remember that in 2014, she took a sabbatical because of burnout from the constant pressure and traveling the sport brought her. She pursued professional cricket back home and eventually came back on the circuit in 2016. Many people around me expect her to make another return to the game, which is certainly possible, but I just don’t see it. She’s accomplished what she wanted to and more, so why not enjoy her recent engagement and spend time with her family? As for future plans, Barty mentioned giving back to the Australian tennis community, specifically with juniors. I hope and expect her to be involved in the sport, but not around the WTA calendar as a coach or commentator. I would love to see her open her own tennis academy or create something to benefit the Aborigine tennis community.

If for any reason Ashleigh Barty sees this, thank you for being such a great representative for women’s tennis. You were as much of an incredible ambassador for the WTA as much as you were fantastic on court. Players, press and fans adored you and the reaction to your news speaks volumes to your character. Best of luck in this next phase of your career!

Now, onto links!

This Week in Women’s Tennis

Another throwback to last week’s TT where I had Simona Halep capturing the Miami Open, right? Well, the Romanian withdrew before her opener due to injury, so that kickstarted what was going to be my inevitable poor batting average with predictions.

Yesterday began Round of 16 action in Miami and this is where we stand:

Aliaksandra Sasnovich vs. (22) Belinda Bencic
(WC) Daria Saville vs. (LL) Lucia Bronzetti
Alison Riske vs. Naomi Osaka
(9) Danielle Collins vs. (8) Ons Jabeur
(5) Paula Badosa vs. (WC) Linda Fruhvirtova
(16) Jessica Pegula vs. Anhelina Kalnina
(25) Petra Kvitova vs. (21) Veronika Kudermetova
(14) Coco Gauff vs. (2) Iga Swiatek

I said I hoped for 60% of the Round of 16 and we got…..6 of 16 right. The tennis has been pretty exciting, but boy, is Iga Swiatek just playing like the No. 1 player she’s about to become. It’s certainly her title to lose at this rate. Going off of the current draw, I expect Osaka and Swiatek to battle it out. Stay tuned!

(Trigger warning: sexual assault) This week’s must-read comes from The New York Times’ Matthew Futterman, who profiled former top American junior Kylie McKenzie’s sexual assault complaint against the USTA.

Venus and Serena Williams attended the Academy Awards last night as King Richard was nominated for numerous awards, including Best Picture. The duo actually kicked off the telecast to introduce Beyonce’s performance of the movie’s song, Be Alive. The performance was a highlight of mine, but unfortunately any positive takeaways from their night was overshadowed by King Richard star and producer Will Smith, who eventually won for Best Actor, slapping Chris Rock on stage. We all know what happened, but between this and the SAG Awards, you can only feel for the Williams family. King Richard is an incredible film with an incredible story. The Williams’ refer the film as a love letter to their father, so if anything, make that your final takeaway from this awards season and if you haven’t seen it yet, run, don’t walk.

Ukraine continues to be on the mind of Elina Svitolina, who’s admitted that it’s hard to keep focus on the court with so much uncertainty back home. The conflict has been equally taxing on Belarussian Victoria Azarenka, who retired from the pressure and anxiety during her Miami Open third rounder.

Tumaini Carayol spoke about the ever-so-complicated carousel of coaching on the professional tennis circuit for The Guardian.

Five at The IX alum Katie Haas, who was recently promoted to CEO of the Western & Southern Open, was the center of this piece by the Sports Business Journal.

Last week‘s ITF World Tour results:

  • $60,000 Canberra, Australia:
    • Moyuka Uchijima def. Olivia Gadecki, 6-2, 6-2
    • Na-Lae Han/Sujeong Jang def. Yuki Naito/Moyuka Uchijima, 3-6, 6-2, [10-5]
  • $25,000 Medellin, Colombia:
    • (12) Suzan Lamens def. (2) Ylena In-Albon, 6-4, 6-2
    • (4) Conny Perrin/Daniela Seguel def. (2) Maria Lourdes Carle/Laura Pigossi, 6-2, 5-7, [10-8]
  • $25,000 Le Havre, France:
    • (3) Tamara Korpatsch def. (2) Anna Blinkova, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2
    • (1) Cristina Bucsa/Georgina Garcia-Perez def. (4) Diana Marcinkevica/Chiara Scholl. 6-4, 6-3
  • $15,000 Antayla, Turkey:
    • (5) Lisa Pigato def. Ilay Yoruk, 6-2, 3-6, 3-1, retired
    • (2) Ksenia Laskutova/Amarissa Kiara Toth def. (4) Sapko Sakellaridi/Anastasia Zolotareva, 7-6(4), 1-6, [10-7]
  • $15,000 Palmanova, Spain:
    • (2) Jessica Bouzas Maneiro def. (1) Yvonne Cavalle-Reimers, 6-4, 6-1
    • (1) Angelica Moratelli/Aurora Zantedeschi def. Bianca Elena Babulescu/Briana Szabo, 7-5, 6-2
  • $15,000 Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt:
    • Mariia Tkacheva def. (2) Fangzhou Liu, 6-4, 6-2
    • (1) Dasha Ivanova/Stephanie Judith Visscher def. BoYoung Jeong/Eunhye Lee, 6-7(8), 7-6(6), [10-7]
  • $15,000 Monastir, Tunisia:
    • (1) Sakura Hosogi def. Emily Welker, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1
    • (2) Andre Lukosiute/Eliz Maloney def. (4) Jing-Jing Liu/Meiling Wang, walkover
  • $15,000 Marrakech, Morocco:
    • (1) Carlota Martinez Cirez def. (Q) Chantal Sauvant, 6-2, 6-0
    • (2) Naima Karamoko/Ines Murta def. (1) Melania Delai/Pia Lovric, 6-2, 6-4

Last week’s Universal Tennis Pro Tennis Tour results:

  • $25,000 Cornella De Llobregat, Spain:
    • 1st place playoff: Darja Semenistaja def. Elitsa Kostova, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
    • 2nd place playoff: Melissa Boyden def. Maja Radenkovic, 6-3, 6-1
    • 3rd place playoff: Berta Miret Avante def. Jenifer Anger, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4
    • 4th place playoff: Lucia Aranda Arcas def. Anita Wagner, 6-1, 6-2
    • 5th place playoff: Valeria Koussenkova def. Daria Krasnova, 7-5, 6-4
  • $25,000 Newport Beach, California:
    • 1st place playoff: Jessica Hinojosa def. Brandy Walker, 6-3, 0-6, 6-1
    • 2nd place playoff: Elena Mireles def. Tomi Main, 6-2, 6-2
    • 3rd place playoff: Yimei Zhao def. Jane Dunyon, 6-3, 6-2
    • 4th place playoff: Kaia Wolfe def. Ellie Gyuro, 6-1, 6-1
    • 5th place playoff: Not played

Danielle Collins is eager to prove her run to the Australian Open final and the Top 10 isn’t a fluke and has her eyes set next on the Top 5.

Madison Keys continued her tour of handing out medals from her Kindness Wins foundation, with James Blake being the latest recipient.

Last week’s college tennis rankings have the following teams and players at the top:

  • Division I
    • Team: University of North Carolina
    • Singles: Daria Drayman (Princeton)
    • Doubles: Fiona Crawley/Elizabeth Scotty (University of North Carolina)
  • Division II
    • Team: Nova Southeastern University
    • Singles: Deniz Khazan (Barry University)
    • Doubles: Daniela Farfan/Kim Moosbacher (Barry University)
  • Division III:
    • Team: University of Chicago

Get to know Linda Fruhvirtova, who is making her presence well-known this week in Miami with a run to the fourth round.

From Simona Halep to Paula Badosa to Sania Mirza, the Miami Open Unites initiative brought plenty of WTA stars to lend their hands to support the local Miami-Dade community

Tweet of the Week

Next week’s No. 1 shouting out the outgoing No. 1

Five at The IX: Ashleigh Barty’s Retirement Presser

Q. Ash, as you do look forward into not the abyss, but can you share with us what are you chasing and what are these things that have pulled you away from us?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Yeah, it’s exciting because there are so many things that Ash Barty as the person wants to achieve and dreams that I want to chase after.

I think my purpose won’t change. I just get to contribute in a different way. I get to contribute more on the tennis side with the younger girls, younger boys, throughout the communities, which is really exciting for me, to be able to have more time to do the stuff that I do love, see the smiles on the kids’ faces, bringing them the opportunity to play tennis. It reminds me of how it felt for me learning how to play this sport. That’s going to be a beautiful way for me to be able to contribute. I’m really excited about that.

Obviously I get to spend a little bit more time with my family, as well, my sisters, my nieces and nephew. It’s going to be a really exciting period and I can’t wait.

Q. Ash, Casey said something in the video that you’ve always done things your own way, made the choices that were right for you. That’s been a huge part of your success. There’s a lot of machinery of tennis that can be hard to buck the trend, to get off the treadmill that never stops in tennis. Where do you get the strength, the courage to be able to do that, to say I can do this and put yourself first in those ways? Is it always simple to go against the current?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Yeah, I mean, I’ve never been someone who’s wanted to go with the current. I think, if anything, my decisions have most of the time been against the grain from the norm. In a sense, they’ve been right for us, for our team. That’s all that matters to me, is that the people around me, the people that love me and know me as a person know the decisions are made for the right reason. This one is no different.

It may have come as a shock to lot of people. But to the people that know me the most, the people closest to me and have spent the most time with me, they know exactly how I was feeling, what we went through together.

I think that was an important part of that, knowing that I’ve been so fortunate to have their love and support throughout, particularly the second phase of my career. Our team essentially has not changed, which is rare on the tour as well. I’m very proud of that, that we’ve done this together. We’ve gone through the ups and downs and stuck fat together.

I think it’s been an incredible ride. I’ve got absolutely no regrets and nothing but really fun memories to look back on.

Q. Was there a specific moment where you realized this was the right decision, a decision you had to make now? Did you talk it through with your team or your family and friends, or was it something you felt strongly about on your own?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: Yeah, I never felt like it was a decision that I had to make. It was a decision that I got to make and I had the opportunity to make it on my terms, which is great.

My team, we’re so close-knit. We definitely are chatting to each other about it. Everyone was on the same page, which is really good. We’ve been through so much together. I think just knowing we’re all on the same page now is really nice and exciting.

The team that we have professionally has become my family. I know that our relationship will never change whether we’re hitting tennis balls or not. I think the thing is we’ve built that relationship over time and built that love and respect. That certainly won’t change for us.

Q. Not just today but in general, in many of the press conferences with other women on tour, you come up a lot as someone who they’re trying to chase down, emulate, admire. For you personally, how would you like to be remembered? What do you hope your legacy will be in the sport?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: I just hope that everyone knows what they saw is who I am and what they got. I’ve never tried to be anyone that I’m not. Every time I was on the court, I gave it my all. I was fair. I competed well. No matter the result, the relationship never changed off the court.

I think that was something that my parents instilled in me when I was quite young, is having that respect and having the courage to be brave and just play. No matter what happens, that doesn’t change anything off the court.

I think as much as I’ve had the opportunity to have success in tournaments, in rankings, that’s never what was important to me. It was the experiences and the memories along the way.

Q. You took time away from the sport because of the pressures. We’ve seen a lot of young athletes talking more about mental health issues. Is there any advice you would give to the women who are on the tennis tour now or athletes in general in terms of handling the pressure, social media, et cetera?

ASHLEIGH BARTY: It’s a different world I think. It keeps evolving. I think it’s really hard for me to comment on anyone else’s career. Obviously their experiences are different to mine.

I just know I was fortunate enough to have so much support and put the right people around me that were able to help me through some really tough moments and learn how to continue to be myself in some of the toughest moments.

I think, if anything, that’s what you want to do, is stay true to yourself and continue to be yourself regardless of what situation you are in.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon