Ash Barty appearance at Australian Open final sends tennis world into frenzy

The retired Australian Open champ received a huge ovation on Rod Laver Arena.

Ash Barty (pictured left) holding the Australian Open trophy and (pictured right) Barty walking on Rod Laver Arena.
Australian tennis great Ash Barty (pictured left) received a huge ovation for her return on Rod Laver Arena for the women's Australian Open final. (Images: Getty Images/@AustralianOpen)

Ash Barty has been granted a hero's welcome back to Rod Laver Arena after presenting the trophy ahead of the women's final on Saturday night between Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka. Barty stunned the tennis world last March when she retired just two months after her historic Australian Open triumph.

Barty was the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion at the time of her retirement, but the Aussie stepped away from the sport and hasn't looked back. While Barty has denied any chance of making a return to tennis, she has made an appearance in Melbourne during the Australian Open.

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And in a surprise move, Barty lifted the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup at Melbourne Park on Saturday night and symbolically moved it to the next champion's podium. She received a raucous ovation from adoring fans at Rod Laver Arena.

Barty received a huge ovation in front of women's tennis pioneers Billie Jean King and her mentor Evonne Goolagong Cawley. She was widely praised by fans on social media, with her surprise appearance lighting up the tennis world.

Ahead of the Australian Open, Barty announced her next career move, which was forming a partnership with Tennis Australia that will see her mentor players and coaches from the governing body's development pathway. The Aussie tennis champion revealed last month that she's expecting her first child with husband Garry Kissick.

But that doesn't mean she's leaving tennis forever, with Tennis Australia revealing the new partnership with Barty that will see her foster the next wave of local talent. Barty's former coaches Craig Tyzzer and Jason Stoltenberg will also be involved in the program.

Ash Barty (pictured right) made an appearance with Evonne Goolagong Cawley (pictured left) speak to the media.
Ash Barty (pictured right) made an appearance with Evonne Goolagong Cawley (pictured left) during day three of the 2023 Australian Open. (Photo by Kim Landy/Getty Images)

Aryna Sabalenka wins Australian Open title

Sabalenka prevailed 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the final, beating Rybakina to capture her maiden grand slam singles title. The Belarusian player finishes the Australian summer unbeaten in 11 matches after also winning the Adelaide International in the lead-up to the Australian Open. She dropped just one set along the way.

Rybakina had been hoping to emulate Ash Barty's feat of winning Wimbledon and the Australian Open in succession. The retired Aussie champion won Wimbledon in 2021 and the Australian Open in 2022 before walking away from the sport last March.

The Australian Open title is actually Sabalenka's second. The 23-year-old won the women's doubles title in 2021 alongside Elise Mertens.

Sabalanka will move up to World No.2 after her triumph, while Rybakina will finally move into the top 10. The Kazakh star didn't received any rankings points for her win at Wimbledon after the ATP and WTA tours retaliated to the All England Club's decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus.

with AAP

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