Having thrilled in Ash Barty’s Grand Slam success and been charmed by her sportsmanship, Australia bids a bittersweet farewell to a down-to-earth champion who delivered plenty in a career that promised so much more.
The player herself has no regrets, saying she has nothing left to prove and nothing left to give.
Barty had wiped away tears in a video interview with friend Casey Dellacqua when she broke the news of her retirement to the world on social media.
But speaking to reporters in Brisbane on Thursday, she was dry-eyed and frank, focused firmly on the future and barely looking back.
As the woman who ended her country’s 44-year wait for a home champion at the Australian Open, Barty’s final media conference as world No 1 might have been expected to be an event, complete with fawning officials and glowing speeches.
Instead, it was remarkably low key, standing in front of reporters outside a Brisbane hotel with her coach Craig Tyzzer.
“I think the Australian public allowed me to be myself,” said Barty.
“They allowed me to make mistakes, they allowed me to be imperfect.”
It seemed an odd comment coming from an unimpeachable sportswoman, who never threw a tantrum let alone a racquet, won with class and lost with grace, and had kind words for all opponents.
But she may have been referring to her unique tennis journey and the challenge to stay motivated despite her talents, the big winners’ cheques and trappings of celebrity.
Few in Australia could begrudge her the time off to recharge the batteries at home in southern Queensland with family and friends.