Ashleigh Barty signs off from tennis with another inspirational message

Ashleigh Barty signs off from tennis with another inspirational message
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Updated 25 March 2022

Ashleigh Barty signs off from tennis with another inspirational message

Ashleigh Barty signs off from tennis with another inspirational message
  • Rivals marvel at the Australian’s legacy after she retired at 25 as World No.1

For years now, Ashleigh Barty has been a source of inspiration to many of her fellow tennis players.

“She’s the target for everyone,” Spanish world No.6 Paula Badosa said last month, likening Barty to Roger Federer in how easy they make things look on a tennis court.

Two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza said she admired Barty for being a “composed” and “solid” world No.1, while fourth-ranked Barbora Krejcikova said she looked up to the Australian in how she combined her tenacity on court with a warm and generous personality off it.

Last year when Barty defended her Miami Open title, tournament director and former world No.4 James Blake made sure the crowd knew what she was all about.

“For those that don’t know Ash, she’s one of the most humble, gracious, down-to-earth No.1 in the worlds that’s ever been around,” said Blake during the trophy ceremony. He was not wrong.

Since she won her first of three Grand Slam titles in 2019 at the French Open, Barty had gone from strength to strength, separating herself from the pack to become a dominant force on the WTA tour.

The Queenslander constantly topped the ace leaderboard and serving starts each season on the women’s tour, she devastated opponents with her brutal forehand and mystifying backhand slice, and her continuous improvement, both technically and mentally, meant her opponents were always playing catch-up.

Her peers marveled at her versatile game and high tennis IQ and many dedicated specific stretches of time trying to come up with game plans to defeat her.

During her preparation period ahead of this season, Iga Swiatek says she spent two weeks working on ways to counter Barty’s notorious backhand slice and the world No.2 was motivated by the idea of chasing her in the rankings and possibly facing off with her in important clashes.

Given how impactful Barty has been in the world of tennis, it comes as no surprise that even her decision to retire from the sport as the world No.1 at just 25 is being seen as an inspirational moment and an example to learn from.

“I really think she’s brave that she has made this decision because with all the expectations around, I mean, there is not many people who would stop at this point and put their happiness on the first place,” Swiatek told reporters in Miami on Wednesday of Barty’s shock retirement announcement.

“I think that’s an example not only for us tennis players or other athletes, but every person that they should put their own happiness first. If they are satisfied or not satisfied, they should think about their goals, not really what world thinks.

“But that’s really hard when you're a professional athlete. That’s why I really respect that.”

Indeed, Barty’s greatest legacy will be how she marched to the beat of her own drum. When she was overwhelmed by the tour and struggled as a young teen prodigy, she walked away from tennis for two years, swapping her racket for a cricket bat before returning to the WTA circuit in 2016.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, Barty opted out of competition when the tour resumed from its five-month suspension, choosing to stay home in Australia. When she played her first tournament in 11 months at the start of the 2021 season, she won it, just like that.

She made a huge commitment in that 2021 campaign, going on the road from the beginning of March until the end of September — a stretch that saw her fulfil a childhood dream by lifting the Wimbledon trophy in July.

“I know last year was quite tough. She didn’t really go home at all. I think that certainly took a toll. But it was also really inspiring to watch how dedicated she was that entire year,” said four-time major champion Naomi Osaka on Thursday.

“I think she can leave with no regrets. That’s something I feel like she was super amazing for the sport, for me in particular. I just really loved watching her.”

Osaka described Barty’s decision to walk away from tennis at her peak as the “ideal” and “cool” while American star teenager Coco Gauff called it a “savage move.”

Serena Williams took Twitter to say she felt sad to see Barty retiring “but also happy for your new chapter. Always your fan, close up and afar. Sending all my love.”

For Barty, hanging up her racket at this stage in her career was simply her way of staying true to herself. She felt fulfilled by everything she has accomplished and knew she didn’t have it in her anymore to put in the necessary work she would expect of herself in order to keep competing on tour.

Asked what she hopes to be remembered for in the sport, Barty did not mention her results or records. Maintaining her authenticity throughout her career is what mattered to her the most.

“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,” Barty said in a press conference on Thursday.

“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.”

As much as the news came as a shock to many — Stefanos Tsitsipas says he was “in disbelief” as he watched the entire announcement video on Instagram — Barty’s coach Craig Tyzzer saw this decision coming and recalled how she told him, “can I retire now?” after she won her maiden Grand Slam title in Paris in 2019.

Winning Wimbledon was a huge milestone for Barty and it got her mindset closer to retirement. She made one last push during this year’s Aussie summer swing, where she became the first home singles champion at the Australian Open in 44 years. She didn’t drop a set as she marched to the title and played with such strength and composure as she etched her name once again in the history books.

“I think the Australian summer was for everyone else and not for her,” admits Tyzzer.

“I think she won the Aussie Open for everyone, not just for her and I don’t think there’s anything left in the tank for her.”

Danielle Collins, who will go down in history as the very last opponent in Barty’s professional career, sees the Queenslander’s retirement at such a young age as something to be celebrated.

“For someone to retire at 25, I think it really speaks to the way our sport empowers women. I think it’s just incredible for her to have achieved what she’s achieved on court, to now be able to enjoy the rest of her life,” said Collins. “I think it’s so cool being able to retire at 25. What other profession would you be able to do that in? There’s not too many. I think it’s incredible for our sport.”

Collins has a point, but Barty’s relatively early exit from the sport has also brought up questions of just how demanding tennis is and how big of a mental toll it can take on the players.

Osaka took a break from the tour last year citing mental health concerns while 21-year-old Bianca Andreescu is currently on hiatus for similar reasons.

Barty assures she feels very different stepping away from tennis now compared to her position back in 2014 when she took her first break from the sport; but she also acknowledges she is mentally and physically spent.

American world No.13 and recent Indian Wells champion Taylor Fritz, who is just one year younger than Barty, says he understands why someone so young can choose to retire from tennis.

“My mom (Kathy May) was a top-10 player. I believe she retired when she was 24 or maybe even 25. This is such a stressful sport. Having to worry about defending your points, your ranking, your sponsor, it’s so stressful, especially if you are someone who expects a lot of yourself, puts a lot of pressure on yourself,” said Fritz.

“It’s definitely very mentally draining and wearing to play the sport. I can definitely understand someone who’s accomplished a lot, done everything they probably wanted to do, being happy to call it.”

Fritz added that Barty’s fans should still hold out hope that she might miss tennis and make a second comeback later down the road.

It is a sentiment shared by many who feel Barty has plenty of time to chase other pursuits before returning to her roots.

Asked if she is closing the door completely on tennis or if she sees herself coming back in the future, Barty said with a smile: “You never say never. But it’s a long way off at this stage.”

A sliver of hope her fans will no doubt hold onto.

World number two Ons Jabeur into Wimbledon semifinals

World number two Ons Jabeur into Wimbledon semifinals
Updated 13 sec ago

World number two Ons Jabeur into Wimbledon semifinals

World number two Ons Jabeur into Wimbledon semifinals
LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur battled back from a set down on Tuesday to beat Marie Bouzkova and set up a Wimbledon semifinal against unseeded Tatjana Maria.
The Tunisian was broken twice as she lost the first set but lost only two games after that to power to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win in a match lasting one hour and 47 minutes.

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kyrgios due in court in Australia

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kyrgios due in court in Australia
Updated 05 July 2022

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kyrgios due in court in Australia

Wimbledon quarterfinalist Kyrgios due in court in Australia
  • Attorney Pierre Johannessen wrote that “the allegations are not considered as fact” by the court
  • The Canberra Times reported that Kyrgios is supposed to appear in court on Aug. 2

WIMBLEDON, England: Wimbledon quarterfinalist Nick Kyrgios is due in court back home in Australia next month.
A lawyer representing him said Tuesday the “precise nature of” the allegations “is neither certain at this moment nor confirmed by either the prosecution or” the 27-year-old professional tennis player.
“While Mr. Kyrgios is committed to addressing any and all allegations once clear, taking the matter seriously does not warrant any misreading of the process Mr. Kyrgios is required to follow,” attorney Pierre Johannessen wrote in a statement emailed to the media.
Johannessen wrote that “the allegations are not considered as fact” by the court, and Kyrgios is not “considered charged” with an offense until a first appearance in court.
The Canberra Times reported that Kyrgios is supposed to appear in court on Aug. 2. The newspaper cited local police as saying that a 27-year-old Australian man is involved in a case about “common assault following an incident in December 2021.”
Canberra police did not immediately respond to an after-hours request for comment emailed by The Associated Press.
Kyrgios is scheduled to play Cristian Garin at Wimbledon on Wednesday. It’s the third Grand Slam quarterfinal of the Australian’s career — he is 0-2 in the others — and first in 7 1/2 years.
An ATP spokesperson said: “The ATP is aware of the Australian case involving Nick Kyrgios but as legal proceedings are ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Christophe Galtier latest coach to try his hand at PSG job that Zidane shunned

Christophe Galtier latest coach to try his hand at PSG job that Zidane shunned
Updated 05 July 2022

Christophe Galtier latest coach to try his hand at PSG job that Zidane shunned

Christophe Galtier latest coach to try his hand at PSG job that Zidane shunned
  • The former Real Madrid coach was most people's first choice to replace Mauricio Pochettino

It’s official, Christophe Galtier is the new PSG coach. The latest man tasked with bringing home the club’s Holy Grail, the Champions League.

The former Nice coach will arrive in the French capital for around $10m, meaning the club has made loss of $20m euros on their managerial change after Mauricio Pochettino’s $10m compensation.

Galtier has been a thorn in PSG’s side in the last two years. In 2021, the 55-year-old took away the Ligue 1 title from the Parisians after a spectacular season with Lille.

This year, PSG were eliminated by Nice in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France, in addition to drawing in Ligue 1 at Parc des Princes and losing 1-0 in the return match played at Allianz Rivera.

The former Lille manager has gone five straight games without conceding a goal against PSG in what is a record since Qatar took over the team's management in 2011.

Paris Saint-Germain is not an easy club to coach, arguably the toughest in the world considering the expectations. Just winning the French title is not enough and failure in the Champions League almost certainly gets you fired.

Just look at Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentinian was able to win a Coupe de France title and a Ligue 1 title, but was still sacked despite still having a year on his contract.

Before Galtier became the latest chosen one, one man’s shadow was ineveitably cast over proceedings; Zinedine Zidane

And despite Nasser Al-Khelaifi having told “Le Parisien” newspaper several weeks ago that “we never spoke to him, either directly or indirectly”, Zidane was the primary choice from the start to replace Pochettino. The former Real Madrid coach, however, doesn't see the Paris Saint-Germain bench as an ideal place to work and develop his methods, having witnessed the fate other coaches who came before him.

They needn’t have bothered talking to him. They already knew the answer.

Zidane is very clear about where he wants to be, where he can feel fulfilled, free and happy. And right now, that is not PSG.

With a star-filled squad that includes Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Neymar at his disposal, it would have been easy for Zidane to accept the job. But the financial riches  - both for himself and to spend on the team - is no longer the sweet deal it was. As Pochettino found out, you often seem to be managing an unmotivated group of players who only have eyes for the Champions League.

Winning Ligue 1 at canter does not guarantee a club that is united and committed, that tactical discipline. Pochettino is another one who will leave with a feeling of failure that is arguably not his fault. It is yet another case of a coach overcome by the power that the players have, and especially the team’s biggest stars.

This project is not, for now, the right one for Zidane. Several coaches passed through the club, some of them his friends, and all have left unsatisfied, unfulfilled and very often unloved.

The list is long. Laurent Blanc, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Thomas Tuchel, and now Pochettino. All arrived with the illusion and ambition of building a solid and lasting project and left disenchanted.

Zidane's profile - calm, charismatic and French - fits the criteria  for the management of PSG perfectly. It’s PSG's profile that doesn’t fit.

Unlike Christophe Galtier, Zidane has urgent desire to be European champion. He remains the coach who won three consecutive Champions Leagues, and in very recent memory.

Any new coach at PSG knew he would be surrounded by by Messi, Neymar, Mbappé, Sergio Ramos, Marco Verratti and many others. All very good players, but many of them worn out, and Zidane hardly needs the headache of managing the decline of some of those stars.

Zidane knows all of this, so it's really not the time for him to try his hand at football’s poisoned chalice. Not yet at least.

For now, the burden is all Galtier's.


Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test

Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test
Updated 05 July 2022

Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test

Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test
  • The Bharat Army said "many" of its members at the Edgbaston ground had been targeted by "a very small minority" in Monday's fourth day of play
  • Inquiries are being made to identify an alleged offender whose image was circulated on social media

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Police have launched an investigation after India fans claimed they were racially abused during England’s fifth Test victory in Birmingham.
The Bharat Army, the official India supporters’ club, said “many” of its members at the Edgbaston ground had been targeted by “a very small minority” in Monday’s fourth day of play.
A post on the group’s Twitter account read: “Sad to say many of our members experienced racist abuse from a very small minority of individuals. We will work with @Edgbaston to share all your feedback.
“Thank you to those England fans who stood by us.”
West Midlands Police on Tuesday said they were liaising with officials at Edgbaston to understand what happened.
Inquiries are being made to identify an alleged offender whose image was circulated on social media.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “We are very concerned to hear reports of racist abuse at today’s Test match. We are in contact with colleagues at Edgbaston, who will investigate. There is no place for racism in cricket.”
Stuart Cain, chief executive at Edgbaston, added: “I’m gutted by these reports as we’re working hard to make Edgbaston a safe, welcoming environment for all.
“Having seen the initial tweets, I’ve spoken personally to the gentleman who raised them and we’re now speaking to the stewards in this area to establish what happened.
“Nobody should be subject to any form of abuse at Edgbaston. So, once we’ve got all the facts, we will make sure this issue is addressed swiftly.”
Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq retweeted a thread detailing some of the alleged incidents along with the comment: “Disappointing to read.”
His evidence to a parliamentary select committee last year sparked an investigation into his claims of institutional racism at Yorkshire which resulted in ECB charges and major reforms.
England won the fifth Test on Tuesday’s final day after centuries from Yorkshire pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.

Al-Ittihad name Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach

Al-Ittihad name Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach
Updated 05 July 2022

Al-Ittihad name Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach

Al-Ittihad name Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach
  • Portuguese tactician has reputation for producing teams that are hard to beat
  • Familiar faces from English Premier League likely heading to the Red Sea port

LONDON: Al-Ittihad appointed Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach on Monday, with the former Valencia, Porto and Tottenham Hotspur boss replacing Cosmin Contra at the eight-time champions of Saudi Arabia.

The Portuguese tactician, who spent four years in charge of Wolverhampton Wanderers before heading to North London in the summer of 2021, has been available since being dismissed by Spurs in November after just four months in charge. He has been handed a two-year contract by the Jeddah giants with his main task to deliver a first title since 2009.

After spells with Valencia and Porto, the former goalkeeper took over at Wolves in 2017. After securing promotion into the English Premier League, he then established the West Midlands club as a force in the top tier. That record took him to Tottenham but after three wins in the first three games of last season, it all started to go wrong at White Hart Lane with just nine goals scored in the first 10 league games. After damaging defeats at the hands of Arsenal and Manchester United, he received his marching orders.

Unlike at Tottenham, however, when Nuno arrived after a number of other coaches had turned the job down or were unavailable, he has been Al-Ittihad’s number one target after the decision was made not to offer Contra a new deal.

The club announced the departure of the Romanian, whose contract ended last week, earlier in the day and wasted no time in announcing their new man.

Contra had talked openly of his desire to stay at the club and of his plans for next season. After his appointment last August, the former Dinamo Bucharest coach took Al-Ittihad clear at the top of the table to the extent that, in February, they were 16 points clear of Al-Hilal. It all went wrong as the Tigers dropped 13 points from the final eight games of the season, a ruin that allowed Al-Hilal to take the title on the final day.

“I would like to apologize that we let you down at the last minute, and although we did our best, we did not live up to the aspirations of our fans,” Contra said on social media. He highlighted that great champions bounce back from big disappointments by learning from their mistakes. “Al-Ittihad will return next season stronger to achieve the title that we have been waiting for a long time,” he added.

They will do so without him. The way the team threw away the title has led management to believe that a firmer pair of hands was needed at the helm. There was particular disquiet at the hugely damaging twin defeats against Al-Hilal in the run-in and the way Ittihad threw away a 3-1 lead against Al-Feiha to draw 4-4 on May 6. That the latter result came just three days after Al-Hilal had surprisingly been defeated by Al-Fateh, giving Al-Ittihad an opportunity to take a huge step toward the title, was painful and a sign, so those in charge believe, of a problem with the team’s mentality especially in pressure situations.

Nuno’s reputation for producing pragmatic teams that are hard to beat has earned him plus points within the Jeddah hierarchy. His goal is clear: To deliver a first league title to this corner of Jeddah since 2009, a dry run that has gone on too long for all involved with the two-time Asian champions.

He has, according to those behind the scenes at the club, already made it clear as to which players he wants to bring in, and there should be some familiar faces from the English Premier League heading to the Red Sea port. There will already be talent waiting. The club are keen to keep Brazilian attacking duo Romarinho, who scored 20 goals last season, and Igor Coronado. Moroccan striker Abderrazak Hamdallah is also wanted though there is interest from elsewhere in the region as well as Europe. Egyptian center-back Ahmed Hegazi is also likely to stay.

With Nuno Santo’s arrival at Al-Ittihad coming just days after Rudi Garcia took charge of Al-Nassr, who finished third last season and Al-Hilal’s announcement that they have renewed the contract of head coach Ramon Diaz, next season is already shaping up to be exciting. Al-Ittihad have got their man and have their sights set upon going one better in 2023.