Tennis world erupts over photo of Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka

Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka, pictured here on the practice court together ahead of the French Open.
Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka hit the practice court together ahead of the French Open. Image: Twitter/Getty

Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka have sent tennis fans into a frenzy after sharing a practice session together ahead of the French Open.

A handful of viewers at Roland Garros on Wednesday were treated to the rare sight of the world's top two players enjoying a two-hour practice session together.

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Two men were more interested than anyone, with Barty being closely watched by coach Craig Tyzzer and Osaka being mentored by Belgian Wim Fissette.

Barty and Osaka - the World No.1 and 2 respectively - are among the leading contenders to lift the French Open crown, although Polish teenager and defending champ Iga Swiatek is the betting favourite.

Barty won at Roland Garros in 2019 before skipping the 2020 edition because of COVID-19 concerns.

Barty and Osaka have played four times before, sharing two wins apiece, but they've never met on clay before.

Potentially great rivals for the future, both of them gave Paris a miss last year with Osaka also opting not to travel to Europe after her victory in the preceding US Open.

If Barty was to be knocked out before the semi-finals and Osaka went on to win the event, the Japanese would take over as World No.1.

"Nice to see. I wonder when the top two WTA players last hit together," leading tennis writer Tumaini Carayol tweeted.

"This is truly the pleasant, introvert era of women's tennis. Sharapova's retirement was the end of an era."

Rome withdrawal a blessing in disguise for Barty?

Barty, who prompted widespread concern by retiring in her quarter-final at the Italian Open because of an arm problem, enjoyed her second session under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier on Wednesday.

The Aussie star, who insisted after the Rome withdrawal that she was only doing so as a precaution since she'd had trouble with that particular problem before, initially went through her paces in the 'indoor' Chatrier on Monday evening.

It was her first visit to the scene of her sole grand slam triumph back in 2019 and will have been a bit of a culture shock to practice under the roof that wasn't there when she beat Marketa Vondrousova in the final two years ago.

Swiatek has since usurped her title, but Barty has shown herself as the player to beat with a 13-3 record and two titles on the red clay this year.

Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty, pictured here together on Court Philippe-Chatrier.
Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty enjoyed a practice session together on Court Philippe-Chatrier. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) (Corbis via Getty Images)

And according to former French Open finalist Sam Stosur, Barty's withdrawal In Rome could actually work in her favour.

Stosur says the extra break, after a heavy load of 17 matches in 24 days in three countries, could be a blessing for Barty.

"I wouldn't be too concerned about her injury," said Stosur, who is a four-time French Open semi-finalist and a beaten finalist in 2010.

"That's just part and parcel with playing so much. There's bound to be little niggles.

"It's a sensible decision to not push too hard in the week or two before Roland Garros.

"That's something that she struggles with on and off throughout the year, depending on the conditions.

"I'm sure she's rested up and has had had some good days off, some good practice, and I'm sure she's going to be 100 per cent going into her first match."

with AAP

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