Ashleigh Barty, the World No 1, has announced her engagement to long-time partner Garry Kissick on social media, shared a post on Instagram with the caption ‘Future husband’, along with a picture of the smiling couple embracing with her engagement ring in full view.
It was then that I truly wanted to be the No 1. It was the realisation of my determination, the competitive drive that was burning. I thought, ‘You know what? Someone is going to have to be really, really good to take this off me’. Ash Barty
Barty met 30-year old Kissick, who is a PGA trainee professional golfer, at Brooklands Golf Club in Queensland in 2016, when she was playing a round of golf, and the pair instantly clicked, and have been quietly dating ever since.
Friends say the unassuming and ruggedly handsome golfer, who Barty calls her ‘cheeky and caring handsome boy’, is a big part of her success because, together, they have created a home filled with love.
Kissick shared two photos on his Instagram page with the date November 15 and the caption, ‘I love you @ashbarty’.
A host of sporting organisations, fellow tennis professionals and athletes were quick to congratulate Barty and Kissick via social media after their happy news was made public, including Tennis Australia, the Australian Open, the WTA, Richmond AFL club, Samantha Stosur and Barty’s former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua, who wrote ‘Best news EVER beautiful couple’.
Barty last competed at the US Open in September before returning home to Australia, and can expect the strong support of fans in Melbourne Park at January’s Australian Open.
The announcement came soon after Barty joined Serena Williams, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert as the only players to finish year-end No 1 for 3 straight years.
The 25-year old won 5 WTA singles titles in 2021, including a maiden Wimbledon crown, but opted not to play the WTA finals in Mexico after returning home to prepare for next year’s Australian Open.
The amiable Aussie admitted to being ‘a little rattled’ when her position as World No 1 was questioned after she decided to remain at home in Australia because of travel concerns and quarantine regulations.
Naomi Osaka won the US Open in 2020 and the Australian Open in February this year, which led to speculation that the Japanese was more deserving of the top spot.
“When we arrived in Miami in late March, I felt people were questioning whether I was the rightful No 1 given Naomi Osaka had won a couple of Grand Slams in succession,” Barty told CodeSports. “It was probably the first time I felt a little rattled, and I really wanted to make a statement on the court.
“Getting through that tournament, and playing so well at the end of it to defend my crown from 2019, felt like a pivotal moment, particularly after overcoming a match point in my first round match against qualifier Kristina Kucova.
“It was then that I truly wanted to be the No 1. It was the realisation of my determination, the competitive drive that was burning.
“I thought, ‘You know what? Someone is going to have to be really, really good to take this off me’.”
Barty went on to win titles in Madrid and Stuttgart before struggling with injury at the Italian Open and the French Open, but she managed to be fit in time for Wimbledon in July, and won on Centre Court, claiming her second Grand Slam title.
“I felt in a really good position but it all went out of my mind when, a couple of days before the tournament [French Open], I injured my hip,” explained Barty.
“It was shattering, but I just wanted to do everything I could to try to be ready for Wimbledon.
“Somehow we pulled it off and, after winning Wimbledon, I did a quick reassessment and made finishing No 1 the ultimate goal for the rest of the year.”
As a child prodigy who learned to play at the age of 4, and won Junior Wimbledon at 15, Barty knows all about pressure and, at 16, she shocked the tennis world by hanging up her racket.
She hated the stress involved in trying to win matches, and the desperate loneliness of the tour, plus she wanted to experience normal life for a while so she played professional cricket for fun instead.
“It’s a part of my life I needed to deal with and I feel like it was the best decision I ever made,” she said after her historic Wimbledon win. “It was an even better one coming back!”
Barty turned her ambition to the Olympics when she flew out to Tokyo for the Games, where she won the bronze medal in the mixed doubles with John Peers, but this put her goals of wanting to stay No 1 in jeopardy as the sheer amount of match play was taking its toll.
“We tried to refresh down in Tampa but I remember really struggling when I arrived in Cincinnati, Jo Konta thrashed me in practice, I was distracted and tired,” Barty said.
“I remember being a little teary in a conversation on the couch in the hotel lobby with Tyzz [coach Craig Tyzzer]. He asked me what I wanted from the rest of the year, and that was to be No 1.
“Somehow we made it through Cincinnati, and managed to win there – it was while we were in hotel quarantine back at home that we got the confirmation I was almost certain to finish the year at No 1.”
They decided to end her season early after returning to Australia, opting out of Billie Jean King Cup duties and the WTA Finals in Mexico, so she could start her preparations ahead of the Australian Open in January.
“For me, the pain starts again now, I’ve had a good break and feel refreshed,” she said at the weekend.
“On Monday I enter what we called the hurt locker, the pre-season is never easy and I am going to hate the next few weeks.
“But, at the same time, I also love it as it ignites my competitive instinct – I know that I will be feeling on top of the world at the end of it, and raring to go for the Australian summer.”
Barty happily admits if it had not been for two-time Wimbledon champion Evonne Goolagong Cawley, she might never have picked up a racket, let alone achieved greatness following in her footsteps.
“Evonne has inspired me on and off the court since I was a young girl,” Barty said. “Evonne’s outstanding achievements and her passion for helping the Indigenous community are two things I admire.”
It was Cawley who encouraged Barty to take a break from the tennis circuit after she felt burnt out as a teenager, and it was she who also encouraged her comeback.
Now Barty and Kissick, who became engaged on 15 November, have confirmed their plans on Tuesday night in sweet Instagram posts celebrating their love for each other, and sharing photos of them hugging and smiling, a diamond engagement ring on her finger.