Serena Williams has joined a chorus of tennis stars in paying tribute to Ash Barty after the Aussie's stunning call to retire at age 25.
Barty left the tennis world in shock on Wednesday when she announced she is hanging up her racquet and walking away from the sport.
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Fans and fellow players around the world have been paying tribute to Barty, with Serena weighing in on Thursday.
The 23-time grand slam champion summed up the mood in the tennis world, tweeting: "I can’t lie I was sad to read your decision but also happy for your new chapter.
"Always your fan close up and afar. Sending all my love."
@ashbarty I can’t lie I was sad to read your decision but also happy for your new chapter. Always your fan close up and afar. Sending all my love
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) March 23, 2022
Iga Swiatek, who will take over as World No.1, admitted she was reduced to tears by the bombshell news.
Swiatek, who is about to find herself as World No.1 at 20 years old, will be Poland's first player to ever reach the top of the men's or women's rankings.
Her tears came partly because she was so sad about Barty calling it a day when she'd looked forward to playing her for years to come, but also at the crazy thought of suddenly being thrust into a new exalted position.
"You already know that I like to cry, so I was crying for a long time," Swiatek explained at the Miami Open.
"There was lot of confusion in me, for sure. But also sadness because when I think of the player that is really complete in terms of physicality, mentality, tennis-wise, I always thought of Ash and I always looked up to her.
"I mean, I still do! It would be really nice also to be able to compete against her for the next few years and actually try to play better and better, to be able to beat her slice. We're going to miss her, for sure.
"I really respect and I really think she's brave that she has made this decision because with all the expectations around.
"That's an example not only for us tennis players or other athletes, but every person that they should put their own happiness first."
Tennis world pays tribute to Ash Barty
Also speaking at the Miami Open, Emma Raducanu said she found Barty an "inspiration" during her short time in the professional ranks.
"I just want to wish Ash all the best because she had a great career," said the 19-year-old.
"She was a great player and brought a lot of variety to the game. I really respected that. I took a lot of inspiration from her, just how she's able to mix things up."
Raducanu, who said she wanted to be in the game until her 30s, said she could understand how Barty's dalliance with cricket during her first retirement must have helped.
"If you get over-saturated with one thing, it's not healthy with anything you do," she said.
"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!"
Naomi Osaka revealed she had learned of the news in the early hours of the morning.
"I feel really happy for her. I know last year was quite tough. She didn't really go home at all (last year)," 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."
Billie Jean King wrote on Twitter: "Australia has a rich history in tennis, and Ash Barty has represented it so well.
"I have no doubt she will continue to inspire and make a positive difference in the world. I wish her all the best in this next chapter of her life."
And Martina Navratilova echoed the sentiments of the tennis world, saying: "Enjoy this chapter of your life after tennis - we will miss you, your smile and your beautiful game."
Ash Barty. Amazing tennis player but even better person. A champion in every sense of the word. Very proud of you mate ❤️
— Dylan Alcott (@DylanAlcott) March 23, 2022
Ash, what can I say, you know I have tears right? My friend, I will miss you on tour. You were different, and special, and we shared some amazing moments. What's next for you? Grand Slam champion in golf?! Be happy and enjoy your life to the max xo Simo@ashbarty pic.twitter.com/WbX7kXnJ1l
— Simona Halep (@Simona_Halep) March 23, 2022
— Karolina Pliskova (@KaPliskova) March 23, 2022
@ashbarty Dear Ash- you are leaving the tennis and sports world quite speechless and full of praise at the same time. Enjoy this chapter of your life after tennis - we will miss you, your smile and your beautiful game. Be happy Champ, the Hall of Fame is waiting:)!!!
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) March 23, 2022
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