While on the surface Ash Barty's retirement came as a complete shock, those in the know weren't the least bit surprised.
Barty made the bombshell decision to announce her retirement on Wednesday, going out at the top of her game at age 25.
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The announcement came just two months after the Aussie star won her third grand slam title at the Australian Open and with her sitting atop the world rankings at No.1.
While fans reacted with complete shock to the news, leading tennis writer Jon Wertheim has revealed there were rumours swirling for weeks that Barty wanted to call it quits.
Writing for Sports Illustrated, Wertheim revealed that a number of rivals in the locker room had suspected since last summer that Barty would walk away.
“Here’s the truth: While the Australian media has already described this as a ‘shock announcement’, it is anything but,” Wertheim wrote.
“Even as Barty was dominating the Australian Open in January, rumours whipped through the players’ lounge that she might gather the trophy and mic-drop retire.
“If you were scripting endings, what would be more climactic than a prototype fair dinkum Aussie winning her country’s major - the first homegrown champ in more than 40 years to do so - and exiting gracefully?”
Fellow American writer Ben Rothenberg also revealed that speculation about Barty's future was rife when she announced she wouldn't be playing this month's WTA 1000 events at Indian Wells and Miami.
Barty said her body hadn't fully recovered after winning the Australian Open, when in actual fact she had already decided she was retiring.
“It didn’t quite ring totally correct, her statement about why she was pulling out, saying she hadn’t physically recovered from the Australian Open,” Rothenberg said on his No Challenges Remaining podcast, saying it "didn't add up".
“Because she won it so breezily. She didn’t drop a set, she didn’t have any obvious or any clear injury issues.
“We maybe interpreted it as if she just hadn’t gotten in the gym and just hadn’t been recalibrating, or wasn’t ready to travel and wanted to cut down on her travel. We were reading things into that.
“That was a sign that something was up.
“We did have conversations, a couple of people at Indian Wells … speculating what might be going on with Barty.
“Not to say there was no tea leaf reading because that’s not true, but certainly I think the abruptness of this retirement on the eve of the Miami tournament she was defending, so soon after winning the Australian Open … it’s still jarring and it will take some processing.”
Did the pandemic affect Ash Barty's decision?
Aussie tennis great Rennae Stubbs speculated on Thursday that the Covid-19 pandemic took more of a toll on Barty than anyone thought and made her realise what was important in life.
Barty stayed in Australia for the entirety of the 2020 season before spending months away from her family and friends while overseas in 2021.
“She really struggled through the pandemic as well, having to stay away from Australia so much and not see her family,” Stubbs said on Channel 7.
“That really weighed on her as well.”
Speaking at the Miami Open, Naomi Osaka echoed Stubbs' sentiments.
"I feel really happy for her. I know last year was quite tough. She didn't really go home at all," Osaka said.
"I think that certainly took a toll. But it was also really inspiring to watch how dedicated she was that entire year.
"I think she can leave with no regrets."
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