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Ash Barty makes a ‘really emotional’ final return to the courts where she fell in love with tennis

Ash Barty returns ‘really emotional’ to the court she first fell in love with tennis as a child – knowing she’ll NEVER be able to come back

  • Barty retired from tennis this year after winning three majors and reigning number 1
  • Her journey began at the West Brisbane Tennis Center with coach Jim Joyce
  • The center has been sold, so Barty and Joyce had one last afternoon on the field
  • They said the memories forged there would mean the most in the end

There were tears and beers at the West Brisbane Tennis Center this week as retired tennis champion Ash Barty and her longtime coach bid farewell to the venue where her journey to Grand Slam glory began.

The Ipswich-born legend recently retired after reigning as the world’s No. 1 and winning the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

Her journey started at the West Brisbane Tennis Club in Archerfield and this week she closed the chapter on her days at the club.

Barty and her coach Jim Joyce promised to have one last beer on the pitch where it all started for the retired Australian Open and Wimbledon champion

Barty and her coach Jim Joyce promised to have one last beer on the pitch where it all started for the retired Australian Open and Wimbledon champion

After nearly 70 years, the Joyce family—including Barty’s longtime coach and friend Jim Joyce—has sold the center, which will no longer be used for tennis.

Before the gates were locked for good, Barty and Joyce spent time with the local juniors before having a private hit-out on the courts.

Joyce has been awash with pride with every achievement Barty has achieved, but said having that last afternoon at the club with his child prodigy would make the more lasting memories.

Barty attended the final junior final night at the West Brisbane Tennis Center before it closed

Barty attended the final junior final night at the West Brisbane Tennis Center before it closed

“That afternoon will mean as much to me as many of her big wins,” Joyce told the courier post

“It was just damn awesome. There were no seats there as it was all gone. We just stood and talked about her life and mine, had a bit of a hug and there she went and I pushed the locks over the gate.

“For everything she’s done in the past year, sometimes it still feels like she’s still that little kid I coached. I get emotional just talking about it.’

The feelings are mutual for Barty, with the club being an important part of her DNA.

“It was a really complete moment and very emotional to sit with Jim and think about how far we’ve come in 21 years. It was pretty amazing. Think of all the kids Jim and his family have coached over the past 50 years who have received positive reinforcement,” she said.

“All those courts have a special memory for me. I hit my first tennis balls on courts four and five.

“Two and three were where I played my first matches and men’s matches. So many funny moments. The kids were recently playing handball where we played 20 years ago. This beautiful, beautiful place has not changed.’

Barty won her first trophy when she was just six years old and showed prodigious talent after hitting her first ball at the West Brisbane Tennis Center

Barty won her first trophy when she was just six years old and showed prodigious talent after hitting her first ball at the West Brisbane Tennis Center

Barty’s rise all started when she stepped into the West Brisbane Tennis Center as an eager six-year-old.

At the time, Joyce was wary of her age and small stature, so he decided to take her to a separate court to see if she could handle herself.

Joyce gently lobbed a ball over the net and Barty knocked it back in his direction with such fierceness that he immediately knew he had a natural on his hands.

Barty’s rise did not come quickly, however. Just six years ago, you could book tennis lessons with her for just $16.50 in a school vacation program she ran with Joyce.

Barty claimed a memorable Australian Open victory this year before shocking the tennis world by retiring from the sport at the height of her ability

Barty claimed a memorable Australian Open victory this year before shocking the tennis world by retiring from the sport at the height of her ability

It was one of her first forays into tennis after a brief hiatus from playing cricket with the Brisbane Heat.

Joyce knew that Barty had to find her own way back to the sport she loved and couldn’t be pushed. In the end, he was glad she had found her passion again.

“It would have been the biggest tragedy in tennis in Australia, if not the sport, if she hadn’t come back to play and just never played again,” he said.

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