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Fresh retirement claim as Barty wins top gong

Retired tennis champion Ash Barty has won the prestigious Don Award for a second time despite hanging up her racquet back in March.

The honor comes in the same week that Google revealed Barty was the most searched Australian figure in 2022.

The coveted Don Award, named after cricket legend Sir Donald Bradman, is for the athlete or team which has provided the most inspiration for Australia over the past year, through performance and example, with Barty’s Australian Open win and then the grace with which she bowed out of her sport the catalysts for her to be bestowed with the honor for the second time. She also won the award in 2019, the year she won her first grand slam title and first rose to the No.1 singles ranking.

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Barty made history in January as the first local to win the Australian Open singles crown since 1978 women’s champion Chris O’Neil, before shocking the nation and the tennis world when she retired at the age of 25, while holding the No.1 ranking and in the prime of her career.

The beloved Queenslander won three grand slam titles – the 2019 French Open, 2021 Wimbledon and 2022 Australian Open title – before making her bombshell announcement on March 23.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open … because it felt free,” Barty said on the Seven’s ‘Sport Australia Hall of Fame: Heroes and Legends’.

“I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.

“In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport. “

Barty also once again shot down any notion that she might one day come out of retirement for a second time and return to professional tennis.

While Barty’s retirement continues to confound many of her fans and tennis lovers around the world, despite her well-reasoned explanations, another Australian tennis legend, Pat Cash, told Wide World of Sports he was “unsurprised” when the announcement was made.

Aussie tennis star Ash Barty announces shock retirement

“I was unsurprised. Well, I guess I was a little bit surprised, but when she didn’t turn up after the Australian Open, she pulled out the week after saying she was tired or something like that, immediately I said ‘I think she’s gone, I think she’s done. She’s going to retire or take a long break.’ She said she was tired and I was like ‘hang on, she won every match in straight sets’. You don’t get tired after that, you can recover in two days,” Cash said.

“So she was mentally tired and when you’re mentally tired it just takes a while. You can sit on the beach but it takes a while to recover. The adrenaline and the nervous system and everything just needs to recover. It just takes a while to recover.

“And it’s really important to do that, so I was actually really proud of her, for doing what she did, and said it. Everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, she could have won so much more’. Who cares? Who cares? If you’re not happy but you’re winning, well, what’s the point?”

Cash added that those who were convinced Barty would have continued to win majhor titles had she stayed on the tour were discounting the extraordinary physical and mental commitment it took to stay at the top of the court.

Asked specifically how many grand slams Barty left on the table when she retired, Cash responded simply: “None.”

The Aussies to step up in Barty’s absence

“I think if you’re not mentally focused, and sure Ash could have come out at the French Open and Wimbledon and done well if she really wanted to, but I take my hat off to her,” Cash said.

“I always say, good for her. I know what it’s like to be grinding it out on the circuit. She’s quiet and likes to keep to herself and after a while… She won doubles [US Open in 2018] with my player Coco Vandeweghe, I was coaching Coco, and we literally had to grab Ash and say, ‘Ash you are coming out to have dinner with us tonight’ and she was like ‘Yes, I will tonight’, she never went out to dinner. Never went out to dinner. Because we’d won the US Open she said, ‘OK, I’ll come out tonight’.

“She just liked to be by herself and now she’s married and all that, so good on her. It’s not a great life to grind it out on the tennis circuit, it’s part of life but it’s not life.

“So full respect to her for doing that, just as Bjorn Borg did (all-time great who retired at 26) and Pete Sampras won the US Open and said ‘that’s it, I’m done’ (he was 32), and fair enough, that’s great.

“And if you’re not mentally focused you’re not going to do well. She’d had enough mentally and what a great career.”

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