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Ashleigh Barty battled depression after ‘early retirement’ from tennis

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Ashleigh Barty
Ashleigh Barty. Photo/Indian Express

She is a tennis star in her own right and has proven so in the past. What you don’t know is that Ashleigh Barty developed her love for tennis when she was just four years old.

As a youngster, Barty spent hours banging balls against the garage wall with an old squash racket she found. Her father Robert Barty made contact with West Brisbane Tennis Centre’s Jim Joyce, a local tennis teacher.

But, Jim would only accept Barty in the academy when she was eight, Robert recalls. However, this did not stop young Barty from doing her thing.

When she set foot in the academy, Jim tossed her a ball, and she swung it over his head. She kept doing it until he said, ‘you can come back next week’.

This is the only thing that made her stop hitting the ball. By then, it was written all over her face that tennis was her thing.

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty is among tennis stars named for the WTA player of the year award. Photo/Essentially Sports

Where Was Ashleigh Barty Born?

The world No.1 was born in Springfield in the southwest of Brisbane. Springfield is a privately built city in Australia with the country’s highest number of master-planned communities.

Barty grew up in an orderly, middle-class neighbourhood, surrounded by the unkempt Australian bush, under the warm winter sun. The tennis golden girl, still lives in this city, just five minutes away from her parents’ house.

Robert, a government employee loves sports and worked as an amateur golfer back in the 80s. Barty’s mother Josie, is a radiographer. Sporting was always at the heart of the family.

Ashleigh Barty Tennis Career

Barty recalls she whacked the ball on the wall exterior to their living room every day after school, for hours on end. Six-year-old boys were preparing to compete against her at the tender age of nine.

Barty began her professional career in April 2010. That was after she turned 14 at an International Tennis Federation (ITF) $25K event in Ipswich.

As a 12-year-old girl, she was playing against adults in tournaments. She played under-12 national finals in Melbourne where she met her coach, Alicia Molik, for the first time.

The, coach Scott Draper came on board. Thereafter, Jason Stoltenberg, a former top-20 player, took over as her primary coach when she was 15 years old.

Due to her junior schedule, Barty spent most of the year away from her Australian family in Europe. During the year in which she turned 17, she was only able to spend a total of 27 days with her family.

In 2013, Barty began playing primarily at the WTA Tour level. She only played in eight singles main draws in total after losing in qualifying at five tournaments.

In the 2013 Australian Open singles main draw, Ashleigh Barty was awarded another wild card. However, she lost her opening match.

Towards the end of February, she won her first two WTA Tour-level matches at the Malaysian Open against Chanel Simmonds and Zarina Diyas before her run ended in the quarterfinals.

In 2020, Barty started her season in her hometown, at Brisbane International. She however picked up a disappointing second-round loss against qualifier Jennifer Brady.

What Made Ashleigh Barty Almost Give Up in Tennis?

Like many other athletes was hugely affected by a streak of losses and walked away.

According to her sisters, Barty had always been a person who would withdraw inside herself. However, no one was more surprised than her father when the once-promising tennis prodigy announced her retirement.

And before long Bartry was battling manic depression, something Robert e had experienced. He was worried that he might have passed it on to his daughter. For two years, Barty was on antidepressants and saw a therapist to learn how to communicate more openly.

Why Did Ashleigh Barty Turn to Cricket?

Andy Richards, the Brisbane Heat’s cricket coach, overheard her joking about taking up the sport and gave her a call while she was away.

They would later have a cup of coffee and went to play some golf. Brisbane told New York Daily News that Barty was frustrated with many mistimings. But it was during Barty’s 18-month stint with the Brisbane Heat that she found healing, normalcy, and growth.

She was able to reclaim some of her teen years that she had previously missed. A beer with the females was something she had never done before, so she decided to join them.

She discovered what it was like to have friends and teammates, Richards recalls of her experience.

Ashleigh Barty.

Ashleigh Barty Australian Open Finals. Photo/Action Network

Ashleigh Barty Returns to Tennis

Barty and Joyce would then train tennis students in their leisure time, and Barty would make vague references to creating her own tennis school. All this time, she was off the court living her life after ‘retirement’.

Her father says he never thought she would go back to tennis until one day when she surprised them all in 2016. They returned home to find four boxes of tennis balls waiting for them.

Barty won the French Open in straight sets only three years after quitting tennis, becoming the second-highest-ranked woman in the world, 48 years after her tennis hero Goolagong did the same.

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