Tennis world erupts over Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka twist at Aus Open

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Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, pictured here at Melbourne Park ahead of the Australian Open.
Ash Barty could face Naomi Osaka in the fourth round of the Australian Open. Image: Getty

Tennis fans are frothing over the prospect of seeing Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka do battle at the Australian Open, however it might happen much sooner than many would expect.

Barty could face defending champion Osaka in the fourth round at Melbourne Park after they were both placed in the same quarter of Thursday's draw.

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Barty and Osaka wouldn't normally meet before the finals at a grand slam, but because of the latter's hiatus from tennis she has slipped down the rankings.

The Aussie star will play a yet-to-be-known qualifier in the first round when the season's first grand slam finally gets underway on Monday.

If she wins her opener, Barty will play another qualifier or Russia's World No.79 Varvara Gracheva and is slated to face Italy's 30th seed Camila Georgi in the third round.

Should the World No.1 reach the second week in Melbourne for the fourth-straight year, she could run into Osaka in the round of 16.

However there are concerns about Osaka's match fitness after stepping away from tennis for her mental health after the US Open back in September.

The four-time grand slam champion has dropped to 14th in the rankings after a turbulent second half of 2021 in which she sat out the French Open and Wimbledon and was an early-round casualty at the US Open and Tokyo Olympics.

Nevertheless, fans and commentators were excited by the prospect of a Barty-Osaka matchup when the draw was released on Thursday.

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Barty has reached the quarter-finals or better in her past three Australian Open appearances and the Queenslander's projected last-eight opponent is Greek fifth seed Maria Sakkari.

Barty is seeded to face either French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova or Spaniard Paula Badosa in the semi-finals and Aryna Sabalenka or WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza in the championship decider.

Meanwhile, Australian men's No.1 Alex de Minaur, seeded 32nd, will open his tournament against Italian World No.60 Lorenzo Musetti.

Ash Barty, pictured here with coach Craig Tyzzer during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open.
Ash Barty with coach Craig Tyzzer (L) during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open. (Photo by MIKE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)

Former quarter-finalist Nick Kyrgios plays a qualifier almost certainly for the right to take on second-seeded US Open champion Daniil Medvedev.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic was included atop the men's draw as the Serb continues to await the Australian government's decision over whether or not to cancel his visa.

Despite winning a court case against the Australian Border Force in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday, Djokovic still faces the prospect of deportation.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has the jurisdiction to overrule the court ruling and revoke the nine-times champion's visa over an allegedly illegal entry to Australia.

Djokovic drew fellow Serb and World No.78 Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.

Who the Aussies play in the first round:

1-Ash Barty v qualifier

Ajla Tomljanovic v 8-Paula Badosa (ESP)

Astra Sharma v Clara Tauson (DEN)

2-Storm Sanders v Aryna Sabalenka (BLR)

Maddison Inglis v Leyla 23-Fernandez (CAN)

Priscilla Hon v 31-Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)

Samantha Stosur v Robin Anderson (USA)

Daria Saville v Rebecca Peterson (SWE)

32-Alex de Minaur v Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)

James Duckworth v Adrian Mannarino (FRA)

Alexei Popyrin v Arthur Rinderknech (FRA)

Jordan Thompson v Steve Johnson (USA)

John Millman v Feliciano Lopez (ESP)

Nick Kyrgios v qualifier

Alex Bolt v Alejandro Davidovich Fokina (ESP)

Thanasi Kokkinakis v qualifier

Aleksandar Vukic v 30-Lloyd Harris (RSA)

Chris O'Connell v Hugo Gaston (FRA)

with AAP

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