Australia, 9 December 2022 | AAP

Ash Barty’s on-court heroics and off-court humility have been recognised again after she became just the third athlete to win the coveted The Don Award for a second time.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25 – less than two months after winning the Australian Open.

The three-time major winner was the No.1-ranked female player at the time of her shock exit from the sport.

Despite no longer competing, Barty remains one of Australia’s favourite personalities.

She was the most googled Australian figure in 2022, even edging out Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Don Award, named in recognition of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s inaugural inductee Sir Donald Bradman, is considered the highest honour in Australian sport.

It’s awarded to an athlete or a team which has provided the most inspiration to the nation through performance and example in the past year.

Barty (winner of the award in 2019 and now 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012 and 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008 and 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

“I am so honoured to win The Don Award, one of the most special acknowledgements in Australian sport,” said Barty.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open … because it felt free,” Barty said on the Seven Network’s special ‘Sport Australia Hall of Fame: Heroes and Legends’.

“I played without consequence, I played like a little kid.

“In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

For fans wondering if Barty has been getting itchy feet in retirement – don’t hold your breath.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement.

“It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty is also in contention to claim a record fifth Newcombe Medal. She is one of seven nominees for the highest individual honour in Australian tennis, which will be presented at the Australian Tennis Awards on Monday night.

> READ: Australian Tennis Awards 2022 finalists revealed

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