Ash Barty has said she would “never say never” about returning to professional tennis following her shock retirement.
She would not be drawn on questions about plans to remain in professional sport, and in response to a question about the prospect of a comeback, the Australian said: “Well, you never say never, it’s a long way off”.
Barty also hinted at a role with junior tennis in her home country, saying that “seeing the smiles” of the faces of younger players taking up the sport had reminded her “of why I started playing”.
Asked if that meant she would have a formal position with junior tennis, Barty said she had “no details to share as yet”.
Barty stunned the tennis world on Wednesday when she announced her retirement from the sport at the age of 25 and as the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion. The world No 1 said on Thursday she had no regrets after revealing in a video posted on social media a day earlier that she was "spent" physically and had nothing left to give the sport.
Barty previously took an indefinite break from the game in 2014, during which time she played cricket professionally for Brisbane Heat in the WBBL. The Queenslander is also a keen golfer, but refused to be drawn on whether she might try her hand at the highest level in a third sport.
“I love sport. I’m a sport nut, like a lot of Australians are. I’ll be lured to it,” she said at a press conference in Brisbane. “I have always been an athlete in the sense of trying different things but we’ll see how we go.”
When pressed on any plans she may have to return to sport, she remained tight-lipped.
“You have to wait and see,” she said. “I’m not giving you everything right now. It’s alright. You can be patient. Patience is a virtue.”
The three-times Grand Slam winner, who achieved a childhood dream in winning the All England Championships last year, said tennis would aways hold a special place in her heart, but she was looking forward to a life without the stresses of playing on the women’s tour.
“I’m excited for what’s next,” she said. “For my next chapter as Ash Barty the person and not the athlete. I hit as recently as 10 days ago. So I will forever be connected to tennis. I’ll never stop loving the sport. I’ll never stop hitting tennis balls.
“I just want to be doing it selfishly for me. I can’t wait to get out there with young boys and young girls and contribute in different ways. I’m really excited to have more time to do that, and I can’t wait to get on the court and teach my nieces and nephews and hope it brings them the same love that it brought me.”
Barty, a proud Ngarigo woman who serves as the national Indigenous tennis ambassador for Tennis Australia, said her contributions to the Aboriginal and Indigenous side of the sport would only grow in retirement.
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to give Indigenous youth and Aboriginal youth around our nation more opportunity to get into the sport,” she said.
“That’s something that we’ll work on down the track.”