Australian tennis star Ash Barty reveals her heartbreaking struggle with body image during WTA tour

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Ash Barty reveals her heartbreaking struggle with body image and mental health during gruelling world of tennis touring: ‘I’m not built like the other girls’

Australian tennis champion Ash Barty is widely hailed as one of the best athletes the country has produced, but now the retired star has revealed the mental anguish that came with her gifts.

The 26-year-old retired at the peak of her powers this year after claiming three Grand Slam titles including a memorable Australian Open victory to cap off her incredible career.

Barty also had a stint in cricket, playing for the Brisbane Heat in the WBBL and had all of the tools to carve a successful career in that sport, while there was also widespread speculation she could take her golfing talents professional as well.

Serena Williams of The United States is congratulated on victory by Ashleigh Barty of Australia following their ladies singles second round match at the 2018 French Open at Roland Garros

Barty's memoir My Dream Time

With two-time Wimbledon winner Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 2011

Barty’s memoir My Dream Time and with two-time Wimbledon winner Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 2011

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But it hasn’t all been dizzying highs for Barty, who revealed to News Corp in excerpts from her memoir My Dream Time that she was riddled with insecurity and anxiety in her formative years.

Barty was distressed by seeing ‘aesthetically beautiful goddesses from South America and Eastern Europe’ in the changerooms, to the point where she would change alone in a cubicle. 

‘I had massive insecurities about my body, which developed, as they often do for girls, when I was around 13, maybe even younger. It was definitely daunting as a young girl,’ Barty wrote.

Barty proved herself as one of the greatest Australian tennis players of all time in a career that saw her win three Grand Slams - including the Australian Open - before retiring at just 25

Barty proved herself as one of the greatest Australian tennis players of all time in a career that saw her win three Grand Slams – including the Australian Open – before retiring at just 25

‘I went through that like a lot of people do and a big part of my passion now is to encourage girls and boys to be comfortable in themselves.

‘It helped me realise that imperfections are part of all of us and they are OK. By sharing some of my insecurities hopefully it can help them realise a lot of people go through it. This is a very common issue.

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 ‘I had enough issues just being a girl in the world,’ Barty wrote.

Barty’s issues with her body extended beyond tennis as well. While she was comparing herself to athletes from around the world in the tennis environment, outside of it she was comparing herself to other young girls her age.

‘I’m not built like other girls – I’m built like an athlete. I hated the way the training showed,’ she wrote.

‘I couldn’t celebrate being unique because I was too worried about being seen to be different – not just by the public but by those around me. When I was 15 and won that wildcard entry into the Australian Open, I remember talking to people about the thrill of it all, but I never mentioned the terror.

Ash Barty plays her tee shot during her Singles Match on Day Two of the ICON Series at Liberty National Golf Club

Ash Barty plays her tee shot during her Singles Match on Day Two of the ICON Series at Liberty National Golf Club

‘I didn’t tell anyone what I felt like sharing a locker room with women who had trained their entire lives to be lean and long and strong – athletically gifted and aesthetically beautiful goddesses from South America and Eastern Europe.

‘I didn’t tell anyone about how they would walk around without a towel on and I wouldn’t know where to look, only that I didn’t want anyone seeing me so exposed. I got changed in a shower cubicle each day.

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‘By the time 2014 rolled around and I was 17 years old, none of that discomfort or unease or modesty or confusion had been shaken. I was still a girl, still trying to figure out what I wanted, still unwilling to jump in with both feet.’

Barty of the Heat hits the ball during the Women's Big Bash League match between the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars at Junction Oval on December 5, 2015

Barty of the Heat hits the ball during the Women’s Big Bash League match between the Brisbane Heat and the Melbourne Stars at Junction Oval on December 5, 2015

Eventually, Barty was able to turn those insecurities into a ‘weapon’, finetuning her body into the giant-slaying machine that took her to No.1 in the world.

‘I ended up changing my thinking and in the last three years of my career I trained in a way that made my body a weapon,’ she wrote.

‘When I played my best I knew girls could not get the ball past me.

‘I may not look like everyone else but it was really invigorating to know I had trained my body to do exactly what it needs to do.’

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