MELBOURNE: Former world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty's decision last month to retire from professional tennis at the peak of her career has reportedly cost Tennis Australia (TA) millions of dollars in telecast money, which it was planning to earn riding on the popularity of the three-time Grand Slam winner.
Barty had the tennis world and her legion of fans in a state of shock last month after the Australian announced her retirement one month shy of her 26th birthday.
Barty won the French Open in 2019, the Wimbledon in 2021 and Australian Open earlier this year, and her reign of 114 consecutive weeks at No.1 is the fourth-longest streak in the history of the WTA Tour, behind Germany's Steffi Graf (186 weeks), American stalwart Serena Williams (186) and Czechoslovakian-American great Martina Navratilova (156). Barty's 121 total weeks as the top ranked player are No.7 in the all-time list.
A report in foxsports.com.au on Saturday claimed that that TA was planning to cash in on Barty's popularity, "potentially looking at an unprecedented TV rights deal worth up to AUD500 million over five years for the Aussie summer of tennis".
The report said that Channel 9's ratings had soared on the back of Barty winning the 2022 Australian Open title and Spanish stalwart Rafael Nadal clinching his 21st major to break the tie with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.
Barty's Australian Open final against Danielle Collins of the US was reportedly the most watched women's final since the current TV ratings system began, according to the report. TA were reportedly looking at a financial bonanza, what with Channel 7 too "interested" in winning back the rights from Channel 9.
The report said that currently the Australian Open rights are worth AUD60m annually (AUD300m across five years), but 'The Australian' had reported in February that figure would go upward when the next deal commences from 2025 because of the high ratings in 2022 and Barty's exploits on the tennis courts.
But this may not be the case now with Barty calling it a day, the report stated.