Barty, Osaka turn practice partners ahead of RG

World's top two enjoyed a two-hour session on Court Philippe-Chatrier on Wednesday

Ashleigh Barty, Roland Garros 2021, practice with Naomi Osaka© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The top two women in the world rankings, Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka, are accustomed to sharing a court together as they've already faced off four times on tour, splitting those meetings evenly.

On Wednesday however, they stepped on Court Philippe-Chatrier, not as rivals, but as practice partners, as they enjoyed a two-hour hitting session just a few days before the kick-off of Roland-Garros.

Barty, the champion in Paris in 2019, was joined by her coach Craig Tyzzer on court, while Osaka practised under the watchful eye of her Belgian mentor Wim Fissette.

In competition mode, Barty and Osaka are fierce opponents and are slowly developing a rivalry that could become centre stage on tour for many years to come. Their contrasting styles and unique personalities make for an exciting match-up, and off the court, they share a mutual respect that is inspiring to see.

Barty is at Roland-Garros for the first time since she lifted her maiden Grand Slam title on Court Philippe-Chatrier two years ago, while Osaka also missed the action in Paris last autumn, opting out of the trip to France after she captured the US Open crown in New York a few weeks earlier.

The Japanese superstar has a chance of dethroning Barty at the top of the rankings this upcoming fortnight but she must at least reach the Roland-Garros final and hope that the Australian does not make it to the last-four stage.

Osaka joked earlier in the year that she wouldn't want to face Barty in a final and later explained why.

"When I say I wouldn’t like to play her, I just know it’s going to be hard,” said the 23-year-old. “It would be fun. I know there are people that I want to play that I know is going to be hard.

"Like I’d love to play [Bianca] Andreescu in a final. I think regardless of what I feel, I feel like the audience would have a lot of fun with that. I would love to play Iga [Swiatek].

“For me, it would be fun to play Barty, but it would stress me out. I think I would feel stressed out the day before.”

Naomi Osaka, Roland Garros 2021, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

The four-time Grand Slam champion has never made it past the third round in the French capital and is hoping she can transfer her success from the hard courts to the natural surfaces in years to come.

Osaka has won just one match on clay (from four contested) since her 2019 Roland-Garros third-round exit but she is not too concerned about her lack of match-play on the surface coming into Paris.

"In a weird way I'm kind of glad I'm not winning," she told reporters in Rome earlier this month.

"I know that sounds a bit off, but I feel like I'm learning a lot. It kind of gives me a lot of drive to practice harder and to learn from all my practices. Yeah, I don't take it in a bad way that I haven't played a lot of matches."

Ashleigh Barty , Roland Garros 2021, practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Barty on the other hand has had the perfect preparation for Roland-Garros. The Queenslander has amassed a 13-3 win-loss record on the surface in 2021, including a title run in Stuttgart and a runner-up showing in Madrid.

She also reached the quarter-finals in Charleston and Rome.

Naomi Osaka Roland Garros 2021 practice© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT