For sporting fans, there are certain days that are difficult to forget.
And now, March 23 will forever be known as the day Ash Barty announced her retirement from tennis, the sport she’s championed spectacularly since she was a child.
The first woman to win the Australian Open since 1977, Barty shared an emotional video to Instagram that saw the 25-year-old sit down with her close friend and former doubles partner, Casey Dellacqua, to announce the news.
In the caption, the former tennis star wrote: “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.”
The world No.1 in tennis, she just came off of winning both the Wimbledon Tournament in 2021 and our very own Australian Open in 2022, which also left many wondering why she chose to hang up her racket so soon.
Naturally, sports stars from around the country (and Australians in general) were floored by the news, and began sharing their heartfelt tributes to Barty.
Kicking off the tributes, it was only a matter of time before Tennis Australia themselves shared their congratulations to one of the country’s most successful players.
“The tennis community, especially in Australia, will miss you dearly but is all the better for the standard you set as a person and a player. Forever a world No.1 role model,” they wrote.
Soon after, Paralympian tennis player and 2022 Australian of the Year, Dylan Alcott, shared a touching tribute to Barty.
“Amazing tennis player but even better person. A champion in every sense of the word. Very proud of you mate,” he wrote.
Daria Saville, one of Barty’s Australian peers, added to the outpouring of love for the 25-year-old tennis champion. And while Barty is yet to share why she decided to retire and what she plans to do now, Saville hinted at exactly that.
“So much respect for you Ash! Your whole career you’ve done it your way! Always followed your heart and I hope you keep doing this,” she wrote in a tweet, adding, “Enjoy golf, planning wedding, being home, being with family and dogs, having good Aussie coffee every day and so many more things!!!”
Barty is yet to confirm what her post-retirement plans will entail, but given her wide portfolio of athletic skills, it wouldn’t be surprising if she tried her hand at another sport. After all, she’s wowed Tiger Woods with her impressive golf swing and has a history in cricket.
Australian tennis coach and former professional player, Darren Cahill also shared some touching words about Barty and what her influence meant to the sport.
“An incredible role model for so many not only in our sport, and she’s always gone about her career in her own special way,” he wrote. “Well done, Ash. A true Aussie legend.”
And while the tributes flowing in for Barty were endless, with former players, tennis fans and even her competitors wishing her nothing but the best, there has been some chatter around how her legacy should live on in tennis.
Specifically, AFLW coach Bec Goddard called for Tennis Australia to immediately rename Margaret Court Arena and replace it with a tribute to Barty.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that there’s been a public call out for Court’s name to be removed. The former tennis great’s controversial conservative religious views, specifically on denouncing legalising same sex marriage in Australia, has seen her in perpetual hot water.
Not only does she not agree with allowing Australians to marry whoever they love (no matter the gender), but she also claimed that homosexuality was an ungodly “lust for the flesh”, and that those who identify within the LGBTQ+ community were “all the devil”, as per The Sydney Morning Herald.
No matter what plans Tennis Australia has in store to celebrate Barty’s impeccable performances in the sport, her monumental sportsmanship and undeniable talent surely means that Australia will continue to see more of her, how ever she chooses.