Ash Barty's beautiful act amid heartbreaking scenes at Olympics

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Ash Barty and Kiki Bertens, pictured here in action at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ash Barty paid a wonderful tribute to retiring friend and rival Kiki Bertens. Image: Getty/Twitter

Ash Barty has paid a beautiful tribute to retiring rival and good friend Kiki Bertens, whose tennis career came to an end at the Tokyo Olympics.

The curtain came down on Bertens' career earlier this week following a first-round singles loss, followed by defeat in the second round of the women's doubles.

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The 29-year-old from the Netherlands announced in June that she planned to retire at the end of the 2021 season.

However the former World No.4 confirmed this week that she would call it a day following the Olympics.

Bertens was clearly emotional after her first-round loss in the singles, which came in front of an empty stadium due to Tokyo's ban on spectators.

It was a particularly cruel end to a wonderful career.

But amid her own heartbreak at also being knocked out in the first round, Barty paid a touching and classy tribute to her friend.

"Congratulations on an inspiring career, my friend," Barty tweeted alongside a number of photos of the two playing doubles together and singles against each other.

"I am proud to call you a mate and loved every single one of our battles over the years.

"We’ll miss your smile, your passion and your fight. Enjoy the next chapter, Kiki - you’ve more than earned it.

"One day we’ll cross paths again for a bbq and a beer, whether it’s at your place or mine."

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Barty's tribute was flooded with likes and shares, with fans clearly appreciating the classy touch from the Aussie superstar.

Sad end to Kiki Bertens' wonderful tennis career

Bertens, who will end her career as the 21st-ranked player, told Reuters last week she had no regrets about bringing the curtain down on her career.

She said she made the decision in part due to a lingering Achilles injury for which she underwent surgery last year.

"I think I can be really proud of myself. I would have never dreamed what I've achieved," she said after her match.

"There's so many memories, so many great people I've met over the years. I'm just going away with a happy face and no regrets."

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Bertens reached the semi-finals at the French Open in 2016, losing to Serena Williams.

That marks her best singles result at a grand slam.

She went on to win 10 singles and doubles titles each, and reached as high as World No.4 in May of 2019.

Meanwhile, Barty and John Peers have reached the final four of the mixed doubles, thriving in the deciding match tie-break to beat Greece 6-4 4-6 10-6.

The Australians lifted in the deciding first-to-10 tie-break after a scrappy match from both teams, with World No.4 Stefanos Tsitsipas and No.19 Maria Sakkari ruing costly errors that led to the decisive break of serve in the first set.

Ash Barty and Kiki Bertens, pictured here sharing a practice at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ash Barty and Kiki Bertens shared a practice hit earlier in the week at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Tsitsipas came from 0-30 on serve to close out the second set, but Australia shone in the match tie-break, a reflex volley from doubles specialist Peers the catalyst as they went from 2-2 to an 8-4 lead.

Barty has endured a forgettable Tokyo campaign when she lost her first-round singles match and then a tight women's doubles quarter-final with Storm Sanders on Wednesday.

But it could be third time lucky in her pursuit of Olympic gold, alongside long-time friend and doubles specialist Peers.

They will play Russian duo Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Andrey Rublev for a spot in the gold medal match, while a loss will see them fighting for bronze.

with agencies

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