John McEnroe says Ash Barty’s retirement ‘harmed the sport’, Iga Swiatek, Australian Open

US tennis icon John McEnroe says Australia’s Ash Barty’s decision to hang up her racket and walk away while she was world number one “damaged the sport”.

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Barty was on top of the world after winning Wimbledon in 2021 and then the Australian Open in 2022, only to drop the bomb she was calling on her tennis career.

The Australian looked like an unstoppable force and could rule for years to come.

But McEnroe says her decision to retire robbed fans of what could have been an incredible rivalry for the women’s game.

Since the 26-year-old left, Polish star Iga Swiatek has taken over the mantle of the world’s best player.

Swiatek, 21, dominated the tour in 2022 while riding an incredible 37-match winning streak.

The two, however, faced each other across the net only twice, with Barty holding a 2-0 advantage. Both wins came before Swiatek really took off.

“I think it was obviously a shock when Ash Barty retired because here’s a young woman at 25 who’s managed to win Wimbledon, then the Australian Open and you think, ‘Okay she’s going to the US Open next year and it’s just a matter of time,'” he said. McEnroe for Eurosport.

“Obviously, I hope she’s happy, you never want to see someone walk out of it so young because then you think ‘what’s wrong with the women’s game that the No. 1 player walked out of the game at 25’? We also had that problem because my friend and my rival Bjorn Borg left and didn’t play a major after 25. That would have hurt me and my career, I believe.”

Barty went on top. (Photo: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The seven-time Grand Slam winner says Swiatek’s career could be hampered without the rivalry with Barty.

“Just not having that rival, I believe it hurts the sport,” he said.

“There are reasons that we can’t go into, there are many reasons, there is never one reason and there is none for Ash Barty, but we hope that everyone will look at things to make sure that these women on tour are taken care of as much as they can to make them feel as comfortable as possible doing their job.”

The 21-year-old, who has three Grand Slam titles, enters the Australian Open as a hot favorite to add to her already impressive trophy collection.

McEnroe says she’s easily the player to beat, but he cautioned her against overloading her calendar.

“I think she’s by far the best player right now, she’s a fantastic athlete, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a young woman skate in the corners, it reminds me quite a bit of Novak,” he added. .

“That’s why I would be surprised if she didn’t win at least a few more French Opens, and she’s learned to play on hard courts so there’s no doubt that she’s the favorite in every tournament she plays. She’s got to be careful with her schedule, I don’t think she’s going to go on 37-match streaks as much because people are obviously going to rush her more now, but I’ll be very surprised if she does win a bunch more majors.”

Swiatek is poised to dominate again in 2023. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

McEnroe will not be in the ears of Australian fans this season after his employer ESPN did not bring him to Australia.

He was a regular in the commentary booth and conducted interviews on the field, but will not be on Australian screens.

However, two-time Australian Open winner Jim Courier will return.

He will join Todd Woodbridge, Lleyton Hewitt, Jelena Dokić, Dylan Alcott, Casey Dellacqua, Sam Smith, Alicia Molik, Mark Philippoussis, Darren Cahill and Peter Psaltis in the commentary booth.

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