Ash Barty's surprise appearance after new career move revealed

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·Sports Editor
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Ash Barty, pictured here chatting with Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore at the Rip Curl Pro.
Ash Barty chats with Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore at the Rip Curl Pro. (Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Ash Barty just can't get enough of her sport.

The retired tennis star made a surprise appearance at Bells Beach on Tuesday to watch the Rip Curl Pro surfing event.

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The 25-year-old is good friends with Steph Gilmore and Mick Fanning and rocked up to show her support on Tuesday.

Barty could be seen chatting and sharing a laugh with the surfing legends before they hit the water at the iconic beach in Victoria.

“I was actually a little bit nervous when I saw you here,” Gilmore told Barty after her heat.

“I thought ‘I’m going to have to put on a good show’.”

Seven-time world champion Gilmore said she was “stoked” to see Barty at Bells Beach following her shock retirement announcement.

“To retire from your sport and just want to go to watch other sports is really special,” Gilmore said.

Barty admitted she doesn't know a whole lot about surfing but wanted to support her mates.

“But that’s all right. This is unreal, the first time for me coming down here, a beautiful part of the world, and get to watch a few mates do their thing - it’s pretty cool,” she said.

“It’s nice to be here and watch the pros do their thing, and I get to enjoy it as a fan.”

Steph Gilmore and Ash Barty, pictured here at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
Steph Gilmore and Ash Barty chat at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach. (Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Barty said Gilmore was the “best (surfing) teacher in the world”.

“One day she might get me out there,” Barty said.

Speculation has been rife that Barty will switch sports after her decision to quit tennis, with golf the favoured option among fans.

The former World No.1 and three-time major champion revealed last week that she's producing a series of children’s books, titled 'Little Ash', in her first major project since hanging up the racquet.

According to The Courier Mail, the six-book series will be based on Barty's real-life experiences both on an off the court.

Gilmore and Fanning stay afloat at Rip Curl Pro

Gilmore, who missed the season opener with Covid-19, was 14th after three events, while fellow Australian Sally Fitzgibbons was in 17th.

Only the top 10 will continue beyond the next event at Margaret River in the WSL's new format, with Tyler Wright (seventh) and India Robinson (eighth) the only two Australian women currently above the cut line.

"It'd be special (to win here) and Bells is as close to Wimbledon as we have," Gilmore said in reference to Barty.

"But I've had a pretty bad start to the year, so I've got some work to do just to make the cut."

Stephanie Gilmore, pictured here in action at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.
Stephanie Gilmore in action at the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach. (Photo by Ed Sloane/World Surf League via Getty Images)

Fanning (11.90 points) was also relieved to recover from his first-round flop.

Scoring just 6.73 on Monday, the three-time world champion looked sharper in beating Seth Moniz (8.90) to join compatriot Morgan Cibilic (14.84) in progressing from their eliminator heat.

Connor O'Leary also progressed, leaving 10 Australian men standing in the round of 32.

"(Yesterday) was the first time I've come in mad after a surf for a really long time," Fanning said.

"Everything on my behalf was just bad, so I'll just keep a little bit of that madness maybe (for the third round)."

with AAP

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