MELBOURNE: Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked tennis player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.
Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.
Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.
The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”
Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.
Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.
“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview Thursday. “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 said she has no plans to return to tennis.
“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.
“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”
Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also plays golf frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.