Hidden $100 million sting in Ash Barty's retirement

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·Sports Reporter
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Ash Barty's snap retirement could potentially have cost Tennis Australia the opportunity to earn $100m a year in broadcasting rights revenue. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Ash Barty's snap retirement could potentially have cost Tennis Australia the opportunity to earn $100m a year in broadcasting rights revenue. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

The sudden retirement of Ash Barty earlier this year has inadvertently thrust Tennis Australia into an unenviable position as they look to begin negotiations on a new broadcast deal.

Though TA's current deal with Channel 9 for the Australian Open broadcast rights, reportedly worth $60 million over five years, still has several years to run, there had been hope of cashing in on the ratings bonanza that was the 2022 Australian Open.

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The season-opening grand slam was a major win for Tennis Australia, with then-world No.1 Barty becoming the first Australian woman since 1978 to win the event.

Barty's final victory against Danielle Collins attracted spectacular ratings for Channel 9, with it being the most watched women's final since 1999.

A further victory was the doubles emergence of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis, whose swashbuckling run to the men's doubles title also attracted outsized viewership.

Soon after the tournament concluded, The Australian reported that TA was hoping their next deal could command as much as $100 million a year over five years.

A battle was likely looming between Channel 9 and Seven for the rights to the Australian Open, with the latter making their intentions clear back in February.

Seven's highly-publicised dissatisfaction with their cricket rights deal made for a potentially interesting series of negotiations, however Barty's retirement has substantially weakened TA's bargaining position.

With Barty gone, Kyrgios as mercurial as ever and few genuine star Australian tennis prospects on the horizon, TA's hopes of cashing in on Barty's widespread appeal have been dashed.

Add in the slowing careers of fan favourite veterans Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, coupled with the mixed popularity of Novak Djokovic, and tennis is in a delicate position insofar as it's broadcast value in Australia is concerned.

Ash Barty enjoying retirement amid tennis broadcast speculation

While the various machinations of the tennis world have continued in Barty's absence, the three-time grand slam winner has taken to retirement like a duck to water.

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

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.

Ash Barty was a surprise spectator for seven-time world champion Steph Gilmor at Bells Beach for the Ripcurl Pro. (Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League via Getty Images)
Ash Barty was a surprise spectator for seven-time world champion Steph Gilmor at Bells Beach for the Ripcurl Pro. (Photo by Beatriz Ryder/World Surf League via Getty Images)

“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.”

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

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

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