Good morning and happy thursday, hoddlers.
After I finished Wednesday’s hoddle, I went to bed feeling pretty good about myself. Then, as one does these days, I went through my evening ritual of doomscrolling when I saw something unbelievable: Ahleigh Barty announced her retirement from tennis.
I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. Nearly 24 hours later, I still do not believe it.
Barty has been (or was, I guess) a dominant force on the WTA tour since she returned to the sport in 2016 after taking some time off. Since returning she won three Grand Slam titles, a bronze medal at the 2020 Olympics in mixed doubles and reached Number One in the world.
And she was a dominant World No. 1, something the sport hasn’t seen in a long time. She was the calm, cool player who wasn’t exactly flashy, but she blew her opponents off the court.
Take a look at this year’s Australian Open, for example. She lost just 30 games en route to winning the tournament (9 of them were in the final, a 6-3 7-6 win over Danielle Collins). That’s an average of losing just 4.3 game per match.
She did it with some crafty play, too. She had a surprising killer serve considering her height, a wicked slice backhand to open up the court and a powerful forehand to finish off points.
Barty was a rare all-court female tennis player, too, which could be credited to her success in doubles. Whereas so many players today live life on the baseline playing flat balls, Barty was able to craft points using the entirety of the court. It was that sort of creativity that allowed her to dominate the sport for close to three years.
It’s a shocking retirement.
“I don’t have the physical drive, the emotional want and everything it takes to challenge yourself at the very top of the level any more. I am spent,” she said in announcing her retirement.
It’s almost possible to understand this, considering the amount of time she took off the past few years to focus on recovery and remaining in Australia. But still, players who are statistically the best in the world don’t just retire.
The last, and only, player to retire while World No. 1 was Justine Henin in 2008 (who would come back two years later). She was another fantastic player with one of the best backhands in tennis history.
But here’s the difference: Barty just won the Australian Open. This isn’t Flavia Pennetta, who called it a career at age 33 when she won the US Open in 2015. Barty should be just entering her peak.
Still, no one knows Barty’s situation better than Barty herself, and I guess we will have to respect that. The sport will miss her terribly, and will not be as competitive without her. There’s a clear vacuum at the top now, and not a single player in the Top 10 looks poised to seize the opportunity.
The Barty Party was fun while it lasted.
Fitzie’s track of the day: Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers), by Funkadelic
And now for your links:
The Athletic ($$): Dejan Kulusevski on his relationship with Antonio Conte and a ‘frustrating’ Juventus
Alasdair Gold: Daniel Levy sends letter to Haringey Council’s blasting ‘unforgivable’ proposal
Paul Pogba says he experienced depression under former Man United manager Jose Mourinho
Transfer news: Declan Rice reportedly prefers transfer to Chelsea over Man United
Russia warned by Uefa it could face more sanctions if it bids for 2028 Euros
Megan Rapinoe says male footballers won’t come out because the environment is not ‘safe’