Uncomfortable truth about Ash Barty that tennis fans must face

Ash Barty, pictured here after winning the 2022 Australian Open.
Ash Barty shows off the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup after winning the 2022 Australian Open. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)

Mark Ella was the same age as Ash Barty when he stunned the rugby world by announcing his retirement at 25.

Ella had just led the Wallabies to a historic Grand Slam victory in 1984 and was at the peak of his powers.

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Both rugby codes wanted him. And we're talking telephone numbers in rugby league's case.

But Ella had simple reasons for wanting to give it all away.

"When I retired, I was able to dictate what I wanted to do rather than the sport dictate it to me," he once explained.

"I wanted to be able to spend weekends the way I wanted to.

"I never wanted to play rugby forever. It was purely amateur in those days, and I had other things I wanted to do."

Barty will reveal more about the reasons behind her shock retirement when she fronts a press conference on Thursday, but it will be years before we know whether she will regret calling time on her career while literally on top of the world.

Ella never did.

"I am a much better player nowadays in people’s minds than I was when I retired," he laughed.

"In a rugby sense, I went out pretty much on top and that’s what people tend to remember."

Mark Ella, pictured here in action for the Wallabies in 1984.
Mark Ella in action for the Wallabies in 1984. (Photo by Getty Images)

Why Ash Barty won't be back in professional tennis

Alan Mantle is a leading sports psychologist who has worked with some of the country's elite athletes.

He believes, like Ella, there is nothing more complicated about Barty's decision than a desire to live a simple, less closeted life than that of a professional athlete.

"I think she is very content with what she's done," Mantle told Yahoo Sport Australia.

"What more is there to achieve? She is going out on top.

"If she's achieved everything that she wanted to achieve – and that seems to be the case – the internal motivation is just not there.

Ash Barty, pictured here with the trophy after winning Wimbledon in 2021.
Ash Barty holds the trophy after winning Wimbledon in 2021. (Photo by Simon Bruty/Anychance/Getty Images)

"It doesn't matter if you're 25, 35, 45 – once the desire is gone, it's gone.

"She won’t regret it. She's probably the most level-headed sportsperson we've had in a long time."

In Mantle's experience, it's the fans who mourn the loss of a retired player more than the athlete.

"The question will all ask is 'why'. Because she's still young and can play at the top level, we want to know why she's leaving," he said.

"The fans tend to hang onto it longer than the player. Most are very comfortable once they make the decision.

"She won’t be back."

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