Why Ashleigh Barty was different to ‘freaks like Serena Williams and Roger Federer’

Ashleigh Barty addresses the media

Ashleigh Barty played tennis for “the enjoyment rather than it being a job”, which is in contrast to the likes of Serena Williams, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, according to Mats Wilander.

Barely two months after winning the Australian Open, her third Grand Slam, world No 1 Barty announced her retirement from tennis with immediate effect.

The 25-year-old had admitted that once she fulfilled her dream of winning Wimbledon last July, she was ready to step away from the sport.

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

Naturally her announcement stunned the tennis world, but seven-time Grand Slam winner Wilander is not too surprised by her decision as he feels Barty always “played tennis for the love of the game”.

“I think for me, Ash Barty represents sports more than she represents tennis. She represents sports,” he explained on Eurosport.

“I think she was introduced to sports at a very young age and she was having fun doing sports, playing sports.

“And I think she played for the enjoyment of the sport rather than it becoming a job. And I think the difference is that a lot of players on tour, they are basically put in the tennis camp by their parents. Then they are doing pretty well and then they are moved to a tennis academy. And the goal is always to be a professional player.

“When I look at Ash Barty, I don’t think there were many goals, in the beginning of her sports career, except it’s really good for your mind and your health and your body to do sports. So I think she played tennis for the love of the game. And when it’s for the love of the game, there is a chance that you lose interest at some point, just like other hobbies in life.”

In comparison, “freaks” like Serena and Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic “never get enough” and will always push themselves to become better.

Wilander added: “We just have to realise that players like Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, these players are kind of freaks.

“They just never, ever get enough. And their priority is always tennis and becoming better. And I think for Ash Barty, her priorities have changed.”