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  1. Tennis

Grand Slam - Tennis: Barty calls time on career

World number one Ashleigh Barty has left a huge void to fill at the top of the women's game after announcing she will retire from tennis at the age of just 25.

Barty goes out on top

The Australian superstar moved to world number one spot after winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2019 and has been ever-present at the top, spending 114 weeks in that position.

In fact, only Steffi Graf, Serena Williams and Martina Navratilova have enjoyed longer spells as the women's world number one, and it was believed Barty could dominate the sport for many years to come.

The Queensland native went on to win three Grand Slam singles titles, scooping top prize at Wimbledon in 2021 before taking silverware in front of a passionate home crowd at this year's Australian Open in January.

In mastering her field in Melbourne, Barty became the first home player to win the Australian Open men's or women's singles title in 44 years.

The 25-year-old has been absent from competition since landing the Australian Open spoils, but retires having lost only two of her last 27 competitive matches.

Barty was a 15-time winner on the WTA Tour - she was also a six-time runner-up - and had collected £17.9m in prize money.

The Aussie has taken a break from the sport before, where she spent her time playing cricket professionally in WBBL for Brisbane Heat, although this time it is feared she will be hanging up her racket for good.

Swiatek set to star in Barty's absence

With Barty out of the limelight, there is room for a new star to dominate the game and the obvious place to start would be Polish sensation Iga Swiatek.

The 20-year-old is the current world number two and is already a Grand Slam champion, having won the French Open as a teenager two years ago.

Although at her most powerful on clay, Swiatek is versatile as last week's victory at Indian Wells proved, with that success coming off the back of another title triumph in Qatar.

Despite her tender years, the Warsaw woman is already a five-time winner on the WTA Tour and has racked up over £5m in prize money.

Much like Barty, Swiatek has the game to go far and it shouldn't be long until she stamps her authority on the division.

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Sabalenka has the weapons to be a force

Inconsistencies are an issue but Aryna Sabalenka still very much has time on her side and on her day there are few players more dangerous.

The Belarusian is extremely powerful, modelling a similar game to Serena Williams, and is world number five so evidently must be doing something right despite her recent dip in form.

The 23-year-old is a ten-time winner on the WTA Tour and last season made the semi-final of two Grand Slams - Wimbledon and the US Open - so isn't far from piecing it all together in a major tournament.

Badosa still has time to show she is the real deal

A successful 12 months has seen Paula Badosa replace the classy Garbine Muguruza as Spanish number one and she has since risen to sixth in the world rankings.

Badosa has yet to go beyond the quarter-final of a Grand Slam but it is early days in her career and title successes at Indian Wells in 2021 and Sydney this year show she is capable of mixing it with the elite.

There are only two players younger than Badosa in the current top ten and she is becoming more consistent, something she struggled with in the early days of her fledgling career.

Raducanu spearheads a talented teenage trio

If a young star is going to come out of the pack and rise to the top over the next 18 months, then teenagers Emma Raducanu, Coco Gauff and Leylah Fernandez look likely candidates.

Raducanu defeated Fernandez to land the US Open in September and both players are still only 19, so it would be unruly to write them off just because they have struggled to repeat those heroics since.

Gauff has also been on the radar for a long time but the American is worth persisting with. The 18-year-old, who is the world number 17, has won two titles on the WTA Tour and is a
former Grand Slam quarter-finalist.

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