Eurosport’s Alize Lim said that Ash Barty was brave, and that a love of “being at home” may have contributed to her decision to retire.
The world No. 1 announced her retirement from tennis aged only 25 on Wednesday, stunning the tennis world.
She said that was “absolutely spent” and had “nothing more to give” physically in an emotional interview with fellow Australian Casey Dellacqua posted on social media.
Lim told Eurosport that the “hard-headed” and “brave” winner of the 2022 Australian Open knows what makes her happy.
“My first thought was how brave!” Lim said. “Because she is at the top of her form, she is at the top of the ranking, she is at the top of her success, she has just won a Grand Slam at home.
“And at the same time she knows that she is not going to be happy continuing and she has the courage to say ‘stop’.
“She knows what she wants; that’s what makes her feel good. She is really hard-headed and it’s what makes her happy.”
Lim explained that Australian players leave home for tournaments as early as April, stay abroad until after the US Open in August and only return home in September.
Barty has made no secret of her love for her home country, and said there ‘were tears’ whenever she had to leave Australia for the long tennis season.
“She has always said that she loves being home, that she has a hard time leaving for long,” says Lim. “She never hid it. So, in that sense it’s not so surprising that she wants to [be at home].
“The tours are extremely long, much longer than for Americans or Europeans, because it’s so far for them to go home. So I think that’s a factor.”
Lim said that all players tend to fall into an obsession with results and that Barty had stopped being interested by that side of the game when she first stepped away from the sport in 2014 to focus on cricket.
“She had fallen into the trap of looking at the results of everyone, that trap that all players fall into at some point, of being eaten up by the pressure of points, of results, of the race, of the competition with the other players and of looking at what was happening elsewhere.
“I think this whole part of professional tennis doesn’t interest her, of defending [her] points, of having a ten-year career where [she’s] going to have ups and downs.
“We know how complicated it is to stay at the top and win all the Grand Slams for ten years, it’s almost impossible – I don’t think it fits her personality in the end.”
Barty had played doubles with Lim in 2013, at the Innisbrook ITF tournament in America.
“It was a great experience,” Lim said. “I was under a lot of pressure, but she has this thing of being so friendly and so detached from the result.
“She completely took all that pressure off of me. She was always telling me what to do, even though she was much younger than me. It was amazing. I felt like I was her child: “What do I do now? Where do I stand?”
“She was a teacher, she was a coach. She was young and she already had this ease to express herself.”
The pair also went head to head a number of times, where Lim was able to experience the relentless game that made Barty a three-time Grand Slam champion.
“When I played her in singles, what struck me was that I spent more time watching her play than playing myself,” said Lim.
“I felt like she knew where I was going to play before I even played there. So it was a real headache for me.
“There is this will to use the court, with all the angles and all kinds of effects. It is really the love of the game that you feel. Not getting rid of the ball but really playing with each other like a chess game.”