Even in retirement tennis superstar Ash Barty is making sporting history, now becoming the third athlete ever to win the prestigious Don Award more than once.
The Don Award is seen as the highest honour in Australian sport and is given to the athlete or team who has proven to be an inspiration for the country both in and out of their sporting field over the past year.
Although she hasn’t stepped foot on a tennis court since announcing her retirement in March this year, it was her historic win at the Australian Open in January that secured her the award on Thursday, December 8.
Congratulations to @ashbarty who has been awarded the 2022 The Don Award following her inspiring triumph at the 2022 @AustralianOpen in January. This is Ash’s second The Don Award, following her win in 2019.
— Sport Australia Hall of Fame (@sportaushof) December 8, 2022
“I am so honoured to win The Don Award, one of the most special acknowledgements in Australian sport,” Barty said.
“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open … because it felt free.
“I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.
“In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”
Though Barty has previously stated she wished she could battle it out on the court against tennis great Serena Williams “one last time”, upon accepting her award she reiterated that she would not be coming out of retirement any time soon.
“In my mind, there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement.
“It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.
“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”
This is the second time Barty has been honoured with the prestigious award, having first received the accolade back in 2019. She now joins fellow recipients, Olympic gold medalist Sally Pearson and Olympic champion Steve Hook, who have also won the award twice.
The Don Award isn’t the only prestigious award Barty is in the running for, as she is currently going head-to-head with fellow Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios to win tennis’ highest honour, the coveted Newcombe Medal.
Barty and Kyrgios also join Alex de Minaur, Matt Ebden, Storm Hunte, Max Purcell and Ajla Tomljanovic who are all vying for the medal at the 2022 Australian Tennis Awards.
The winner of the medal will be announced on Monday, December 12 by 26-time Grand Slam champion John Newcombe at the Palladium Crown.