Top-ranked tennis player Ash Barty announces her retirement at 25 years old

Australian tennis star Ashleigh Barty, the top-ranked women's player in the world, has announced her retirement from the sport at just 25 years old.

Barty, a three-time Grand Slam champion, made the announcement in an Instagram video that went up late Tuesday night in the United States.

"Today is difficult and filled with emotion for me as I announce my retirement from tennis," Barty wrote in her post.

"I am so thankful for everything this sport has given me and leave feeling proud and fulfilled. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way, I’ll always be grateful for the lifelong memories that we created together."

Barty expanded on her decision to retire in the accompanying video.

"It's hard to say," Barty said of saying she would be retiring but, she added, "I’m so happy and I’m so ready and I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person, this is right.

"... I’m so grateful to everything that tennis has given me. It’s given me all of my dreams plus more, but I know that the time is right now for me to step away and chase other dreams and to put the rackets down.”

Barty said the decision to step away had been building in recent years.

"(Retirement) is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and I’ve had a lot of incredible moments in my career that have been pivotal moments," Barty said.

One of those moments was her Wimbledon victory in 2021.

"Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete when you work so hard your whole life for one goal. And I’ve been able to share that with so many incredible people, but to be able to win Wimbledon, which was my dream – the one, true dream that I wanted in tennis – that really changed my perspective," Barty said. "I just had that gut feeling after Wimbledon, and had spoken to my team quite a lot about it."

She added, though, that even after that win, "there was just a little part of me that wasn’t quite satisfied, wasn’t quite fulfilled."

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Ash Barty waves to the crowd after a win at the 2021 U.S. Open.
Ash Barty waves to the crowd after a win at the 2021 U.S. Open.

What helped solidify her decision to retire, she said, was her victory in her home country at this year's Australian Open.

"I think that for me just feels like the most perfect way – my perfect way – to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been," Barty said. "As a person, this is what I want. I want to chase after some other dreams that I’ve always wanted to do."

Barty won her first major at the French Open in 2019, before adding a Wimbledon title in 2021 and the Australian Open in 2022, in which she became the first Australian to win the event in 44 years. She spent 121 weeks atop the WTA rankings, including the last 114 weeks. Overall, she captured 15 singles titles in her career while posting a 305-102 record in singles. This year, she was a perfect 11-0 with two titles.

But titles were not her driving force anymore, she said.

"There was a perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results. Success for me is knowing that I’ve given absolutely everything I can. I’m fulfilled. I’m happy. I know how much work it takes to bring the best out of yourself. And I’ve said it to my team, multiple times, it’s just … I don’t have that in me anymore," Barty said.

"I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and kind of everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level anymore. I think I just know that I’m absolutely … I am spent. Physically, I have nothing more to give. And that for me is success. I’ve given absolutely everything I can to this beautiful sport of tennis and I’m really happy with that and for me that is my success."

Barty, who stepped away from the sport in 2014 to pursue a professional cricket career before returning two years later, acknowledged that many "may not understand" her decision to walk away at 25 and at the top of her sport.

"That’s OK, I’m OK with that, because I know that for me, Ash Barty the person has so many dreams that she wants to chase after that don’t necessarily involve traveling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home, which is where I’ve always wanted to be," Barty said.

Though she is stepping away from tennis – just the second women's player to hang it up while ranked No. 1 (Justine Henin also did so in 2008) – the game will not be far from Barty's heart.

"I’ll never, ever, ever stop loving tennis," Barty said. "It will always be a massive part of my life but now I think it’s important that I get to enjoy the next phase of my life as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete."

In a statement released by the WTA, CEO Steve Simon called Barty “the ultimate competitor” and said she “has always led by example through the unwavering professionalism and sportsmanship she brought to every match.”

“We will miss her,” Simon wrote.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ash Barty announces retirement from tennis at just 25 years old