World No. 1 Naomi Osaka has confirmed she’ll begin her search for a new coach after this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, after announcing via Twitter last week that she had parted ways with coach Sascha Bajin.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a great deal of success under the German’s tutelage, winning two Grand Slams and rising to the top of the world rankings.
Since turning pro in 2013, the Japanese superstar has won over $10 million in prize money and has become a favourite amongst tennis fans across the globe.
Osaka’s all round game has improved significantly in the 13 months she spent with Bajin, and she credits her former coach with the crucial development of her mental strength and toughness.
The double Grand Slam winner said her decision to part ways with the 2018 WTA Coach of the Year has been brewing since Melbourne and was quick to squash rumours that the split was financially motivated.
“Everyone thinks it was a money-related issue, but it wasn’t. For me, that’s one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard. I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family. I would never do that to them,” Osaka said, per Sport360.
“I think my reason is, I wouldn’t put success over my happiness. I think everyone knows, in Charleston and stuff, I’ve had moments. I don’t know, that’s my main thing.”
Osaka was, of course, referring to the Volvo Car Open last year in Charleston where she revealed that she was feeling ‘depressed‘ and ‘overwhelmed’ after she was brushed aside in straight sets by Germany’s Julia Gorges.
However, she did pay tribute to Bajin and the work he put in during their partnership.
“I’m not going to say anything bad about him because, of course, I’m really grateful for all the things that he’s done. Yeah, I wouldn’t just come here and say anything bad,” she added.
“I feel like, if anything, you would have to be around him to see or ask him.”
The three reigning Grand Slam champions – Osaka, Simona Halep and Angelique Kerber, have all parted ways with their coaches, for different reasons, since they won their respective majors. For Osaka, she confirmed her decision was not as sudden as it may seem.
“It was kind of brewing in Australia. I think some people could see that if they saw how we interacted,” she explained.
“I would not want to split on really bad terms, I think, because of course he was sort of the one that made me open up more to people. I didn’t want it to be a really hostile situation.”
The 21-year-old will face Kristina Mladenovic in her opening match in Dubai and has revealed she is ‘100% healthy’ after a back injury forced her to pull out of the Qatar Ladies Open in Doha.
Osaka said she will likely begin searching for a new coach after the tournament and that it would ‘not really be ideal’ to appear at next month’s Indian Wells Open, where she won her first WTA title, without a coach.
Masashi Yoshikawa, who is in charge of Osaka at the Japan Tennis Association, will act as her support during the tournament.