Comment: Ashleigh Barty’s retirement exposes a gaping void in the women’s game

Ashleigh Barty with the Wimbledon trophy

What next for women’s tennis after the shock retirement of Ashleigh Barty?

It’s a question that will linger for weeks, months and possibly years to come because this announcement will send shockwaves through tennis that will continue for weeks, months and years to come.

Barty’s reign as the world’s top player may only have spanned 119 weeks in total, but her story ensured that she became a household name who became famous beyond the tennis court long ago.

An Indigenous Australian who walked away from the game in 2014 and had a brief flirtation with professional cricket served up a stunning comeback in recent years as she rose to the top of the game despite a modest stature that ensured she tended to be competing against rivals that had some physical advantages over her.

Her charming personality, that cheeky smile and a reputation in the game that confirmed she was as delightful off the court as he tennis was to watch on it completed a Barty picture that enchanted so many.

With Serena Williams all-but retired from tennis and her sister Venus also nearing the end of her remarkable sporting adventure, the loss of Barty to the women’s game leaves a gaping void that will be hard to fill.

Ask anyone who is not an avid tennis fan to name three women tennis players and it is safe to assume that the Williams sisters, Barty and US Open champion Emma Raducanu may be the names they offer up.

Well, three of those four are no longer active participants in the game and this is why Barty’s exit is such a hammer blow for the game.

Iga Swiantek, Maria Sakkari, Garbine Muguruza, Naomi Osaka and Camila Giorgi all boast big followings on the WTA Tour, but the A-list stars who reach out beyond tennis are in short supply in the modern game with Barty no-longer part of the cast list.

Barty would have been a regular on Wimbledon’s Centre Court order of play this summer and was in line to open proceedings on the first Tuesday of the Championships, as is tradition for the women’s champion.

Yet Barty has walked away from that honour and the chance to become so much more than a fleeting great at the top of the game.

If her heart is no longer in tennis, she has made the right decision to quit, even at the tender age of 25.

What she leaves behind is a women’s game lacking the star quality it needs to compete for media attention at a time when the men’s game continues to offer up compelling storylines.