Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon discusses Naomi Osaka’s decision to part ways with her coach.
Naomi Osaka is back on the market looking for a new coach to join her team.
A week ago, we had a deep look at the latest horrifying details of Petra Kvitova’s nightmare—a worthy news item, sure, but also one that dated from December 2016. It was, as they say, a slow news week.
Not so much this week!
On Monday of Valentine’s Day week, the current best player in the world and all-around wonderful person surprised every single one of us and ended her partnership with current coach of the year Sascha Bajin. Perhaps most telling, she gave absolutely no explanation other than the tweet below, and neither did Bajin in a response to Osaka.
Hey everyone, I will no longer be working together with Sascha. I thank him for his work and wish him all the best in the future.
— NaomiOsaka????? (@Naomi_Osaka_) February 11, 2019
Thank you Naomi ?? I wish you nothing but the best as well. What a ride that was. Thank you for letting me be part of this.
— sascha Bajin (@BigSascha) February 11, 2019
You’ll be forgiven for not understanding just wtf is going on here. This partnership had been excessively successful, as Bajin had become the WTA coach of the year for the 2018 season all the while Osaka had captured the Indian Wells, US Open and now Australian Open titles not to mention the No. 1 ranking in the world. She had, in effect, become the single most destructing force on the WTA, much to the chagrin of every Serena Williams fan.
All in all, this is definitely a weird timing for Osaka to make such a decision, and because there are so few details as to the reasoning behind this decision, there are just about as many ways to interpret it as there are people speculating on it.
Here’s our try at it.
On the one hand, this decision could be indicative of the Japanese’s grand designs for her playing career, that sure she has had an unbelievable 2018 season but that what came before was rather uneven. That, as they say, complacency is the enemy of excellence—we just made that one up, thank you—and that the 21-year-old is after excellence and timelessness and couldn’t be bothered with mere greatness. That maybe she sees the teeniest of tiniest cracks in the armour, one that might be nothing and wouldn’t be of consequence for a while, and she’s felt compelled to act on it and patching things up.
That’s one side.
The other would be the glass half-empty view. Proponents of these tinted glasses would look at Osaka having changed coaches a good number of times already in her short career as evidence, not of a young player taking charge and doing what’s best for her, but one who keeps spinning the coaching wheel and can’t commit to an answer for too long. It’s probably not that, not from the, again, current best player in the world, but who knows for real for real since Osaka herself won’t say?
Let’s go rapid fire through a few other possibilities. Could it be a situation where there were just too many chefs in the proverbial tennis court kitchen, and not enough cooks? Meh. Unless it’s something entirely else? We’re not saying we believe anything and find any credence behind these silly rumours, but you’ll find anything you want to search for in this godforsaken internet; just look long enough at this subreddit thread, or this gossipy Twitter account, and you’ll see the nonsense you might be looking for.
Then again, maybe this is an entirely silly exercise and that maybe one day we’ll learn the real reason from Osaka herself, or even Bajin will be the one breaking his silence… or we won’t, and we’ll be stuck in the same place still.
Either way, it shouldn’t matter.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG