At the Miami Open Players React To Ash Barty’s Retirement With Both Shock And Admiration - UBITENNIS
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At the Miami Open Players React To Ash Barty’s Retirement With Both Shock And Admiration

Exiting the sport on her own terms, Barty’s legacy is one which could inspire the next generation.



Ashleigh Barty (AUS) playing against Katerina Siniakova (CZE) in the third round of the Ladies' Singles on Centre Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jed Leicester

Media day at the Miami Open is usually about the upcoming tournament and what lies ahead but there was another prominent topic this year – Ash Barty.

The three-time Grand Slam champion has stunned the tennis world by announcing her retirement at the tender age of 25. Barty’s decision to step away from the sport occurrs at the time when she is the current world No.1, as well as the reigning champion at two Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon and the Australian Open). Explaining her decision, the Australian said in a video interview uploaded to her Instagram account that she wanted to enjoy the next phrase of her life as ‘as Ash Barty the person, not Ash Barty the athlete.’

Inevitably Barty’s retirement will have ramifications for the women’s Tour. Out of nowhere Indian Wells champion Iga Switek now finds herself on the verge of claiming the world No.1 ranking when her rival is officially removed next week. Raising questions about if the Pole is ready to deal with the increased spotlight of being No.1 will have on her.

“She’s even saying that she doesn’t expect people to understand that because it’s a pretty unusual situation,” Swiatek said of Barty’s retirement. “I really respect and I really think she’s brave that she has made this decision because with all the expectations around, I mean, there are not many people who would stop at this point and put their happiness in the first place.
“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. If they are satisfied or not satisfied, they should think about their goals, not really what the world thinks. But that’s really hard when you’re a professional athlete. That’s why I really respect that.”

It is only the second time since the formation of the WTA Tour that a player has announced their retirement whilst at the top of the rankings. The first was Justin Henin, who did so in 2008 before returning two years later.

Barty’s last competitive match was in the final of the Australian Open when she defeated Danielle Collins to become the first home player to win the women’s title since 1978. The American is making a return to the Tour in Miami after missing a month due to illness. Reacting to Barty’s retirement, Collins explained why she believes the situation is a true testament of how tennis ‘empowers women.’

“I think for someone to retire at 25, I think it really speaks to the way our sport empowers women,” she said. “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. All of the hard work, she certainly was all of that, deserves happy retirement, and hopefully she can have a great life off the court.
“I know she probably has many more goals she wants to fulfill. I’m sure that she’s going to be able to do that with all the success that she’s had. Yeah, 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.”

Another player to speak of their admiration for Barty’s decision is Naomi Osaka, who kicked off her Miami Open campaign on Wednesday with a straight sets victory. Osaka, who is just 18 months younger than the Australian, said leaving the sport whilst at the top was an ‘ideal’ way to go.

“That’s something I feel like she was super amazing for the sport, for me in particular. I just really loved watching her. Yeah, I think what she did was ideal. I think it’s cool to, like, leave the game when you’re No. 1. You feel like you have nothing left to prove, you feel like you accomplished everything that you wanted to.” Osaka commented.

Looking ahead Barty is keeping coy about what she will be doing outside of tennis. However, some of her peers believe her legacy could help inspire the next generation of players on the Tour, including US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez.

I’m just happy for everything that she’s accomplished, and the great role model she is to not only the players but also to the next generation,” Fernandez said. “I see how she works. I see how professional she is. I know what is my next step, what I need to do to hopefully achieve what she has done.”

US Open champion Emma Raducanu also took note of Barty’s decision to take breaks throughout her career. The most notable being between 2014-2016 when she briefly embarked upon a career in professional cricket. Those breaks did wonders for Barty’s mentaility and her game. Something Raducanu can relate to.

I think that definitely probably helped,” she said. “If you get oversaturated with one thing, it’s not healthy with anything you do. I feel like that just shows, if you take time off, you come back, you’re hungry, you’re ready. She basically cleaned up when she came back.
“I took 18 months off in 2020. I started in 2021. Because I had that desire to really be out there on the court, I was so hungry, I feel like I had some great results last summer as well. Yeah, it just shows you don’t need to be only tennis, tennis, tennis.”

Barty ends her career with 15 WTA singles titles and a further 12 in the doubles. She has earned more prize money in her career ($23,829,071) than any other Australian player – male or female – in history.

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Khachanov saved four set points in the first set before hitting a forehand return to seal the first set on his fourth set point. 

Khachanov broke serve in the opening game of the second set. The Russian player did not face a break point in the whole match and won 83% of his first serve points. 

Khachanov claimed his first ATP title since Zhuhai last September. 

“Every title is a special one. Every time, you want to win. We play around 22 tournaments per season and at the end of the day, you compete every week. For sure here in Doha here in Doha it is one of the nicest trophies”, said Khachanov. 

Mesnik made a major breakthrough this week beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina and three former Doha champions Andy Murray, Andrey Rublev and Gael Monfils en route to his first tour level final. Mesnik is projected to a career-high number 87 in the ATP Ranking. He is currently in the lead in the ATP Race to Jeddah. 

“For sure this week will be unforgettable for me. From the beginning, I did not even get to the tournament on my own ranking. I had to use the Next Gen spot, so I tried to enjoy every moment on the court. I did not expect that I will go through to the final. I am really happy with my performance”, said Mesnik. 

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Paolini rallied from one break down in each of the second and third sets to clinch he the second WTA Tour title of her career and her first trophy at WTA 1000 level. Paolini has become the third Italian player to win a WTA 1000 title following in the footsteps of Flavia Pennetta in Indian Wells in 2014 and Camila Giorgi in Montreal 2021. 

Kalinskaya earned an early break in the first game of the opening set. Paolini broke back in the fifth and sixth games. 

Kalinskaya broke serve in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead with a passing winner and closed out the first set at 15. 

Kalinskaya broke Paolini with a return winner in the opening game to build up a 6-4 3-1 lead. Paolini slammed a return winner to break back for 3-3. Paolini forced and error on set point with a crosscourt backhand to break serve in the 12th game. 

The third set started with three consecutive breaks. Kalinskaya broke for the second time in the third game and held at 15 with an ace in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead.  Paolini broke back in the 10th game  to draw level to 5-5 when Kalinskaya was serving for the match. 

Paolini earned three championships point at 6-5 after Kalinskaya made a double fault. 

Paolini drew a long error from Kalinskaya on the first match point. 

Paolini wo 60% of her first serve points.

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“It was a really close match, especially in the second set. I was fortunate to save a few set points and hold him off. I was just a bit lucky, and in the tie-break I played really well from the beginning, so I am very happy with the win”, said Ruud. 

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