Ash Barty is back in business at Roland Garros following her recent injury scare in the Italian Open — and she’s enlisted the highest quality practice partner in preparation for her bid to regain her French Open title in Paris.
- Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka went head-to-head in a two-hour practice session ahead of Roland Garros
Osaka says she won’t subject herself to doubters by doing post-match interviews at the French Open
Barty and Osaka have played four times before, sharing two wins apiece, but they’ve never met on clay
The world number one enjoyed her second session under the roof of Court Philippe Chatrier on Wednesday, hitting with Australian Open champ Naomi Osaka.
Barty, 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 a roof that wasn’t there when she beat Marketa Vondrousova in the final two years ago.
Since then, teenager Iga Swiatek has usurped her title, with Barty deciding to stay at home during pandemic-hit 2020.
But the Australian has again shown herself as the player to beat on the clay, with a 13-3 record and two titles already on the red stuff this year.
On Wednesday, for a handful of viewers, the sight of the world’s top two players enjoying a two-hour practice session proved a tantalising treat.
Two spectators were more interested than anyone, with Barty being watched by her trusty coach Craig Tyzzer and Osaka being mentored by Belgian Wim Fissette.
Barty and Osaka have played four times before, sharing two wins apiece, but they’ve never met in competition on the 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 were to be knocked out before the semi-finals and Osaka went on to win the event, the Japanese would take over as world number one.
Osaka not doing interviews at Roland Garros
Osaka on Thursday said she would not take questions from the press at this year’s French Open, as the nature of news conferences put an undue burden on players’ mental health.
“I’m writing this to say I’m not going to do any press during Roland Garros,” the Japanese wrote on Twitter.
“I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.
“We’re often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before, or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds, and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.”
Osaka added that expecting players to answer questions after losses amounted to “kicking a person while they’re down”.
The world number two said the decision was “nothing personal” against the tournament or a couple of journalists and she hoped the tournaments would reconsider their approach.
She added that she hoped the “considerable amount” that she expected to be fined would go toward a mental health charity.
Osaka later tweeted a video of former Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch famously repeating the line, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined”, at a pre-Super Bowl press conference in 2015.
Osaka has in the past used her platform and considerable press attention to highlight issues of police violence and racial inequality.
French Open qualifiers are underway and the tournament is due to end on June 13.