Naomi Osaka makes shock split from coach Sascha Bajin despite rising to world No1 ranking

Paul Newman
The Independent

Players on the Women’s Tennis Association tour can seem to change coaches as often as they switch rackets but few could have predicted Naomi Osaka’s split with Sascha Bajin, which was the talk of the Qatar Total Open here on Tuesday.

Osaka, who pulled out of this week’s tournament here because of a back injury, has parted company with Bajin barely two weeks after winning her second successive Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. She had been working with him for just 13 months, during which time she jumped from No 72 in the world rankings to No 1. Bajin was named the WTA’s coach of the year in 2018.

In announcing the split on Twitter neither party revealed the reason for it. Osaka used to be coached by her father, but it is understood that the Japanese national coach will help the world No 1 in her next scheduled tournament in Dubai next week.

The parting of the ways between Osaka and Bajin followed a hectic close season in which several top players replaced their coaches. Among the most significant moves, Angelique Kerber appointed Rainer Schuttler to replace Wim Fissette, who reunited with Victoria Azarenka, Johanna Konta brought in Dmitry Zavioloff to replace Michael Joyce, who switched to Eugenie Bouchard, and Elina Svitolina made Andrew Bettles her main coach.

Simona Halep, who lost the world No 1 ranking to Osaka last month, is also working with a new coach after Darren Cahill announced that he wanted to spend more time with his family. She has just spent a first week working with Thierry Van Cleemput, who coached David Goffin until last month.

Halep, one of many late arrivals here from Fed Cup duty, could not shed light on Osaka’s decision but stressed: “I think it’s tough to find someone who understands you and who you get along well with. The coach is the most important person in your team, because he has to deal with all the problems with you.

“I think there has to be compatibility between these two people and it’s not easy to find the right person. I don’t have an explanation why we change coaches so much, but I hope I won’t change that much.”

Halep said she had worked with Van Cleemput for a week in Bucharest following the Australian Open.“He’s a good person and I hope things will go OK and we will get on well together,” she said.“I always admired David Goffin because I liked his game.”

Sascha Bajin had been working with Osaka for 13 months (Getty Images)
Sascha Bajin had been working with Osaka for 13 months (Getty Images)

Caroline Wozniacki became the latest player to withdraw from this week’s tournament here when she pulled out on Tuesday because of a viral illness. The former world No 1 had accepted a wild card into the event and had arrived early to acclimatise.

Among the late arrivals here was Caroline Garcia, who joined the growing list of withdrawals after struggling with a leg injury when she practised shortly before her first-round match was due to start. She had arrived from Fed Cup duty in Belgium late the previous evening.

“I was not feeling comfortable with my leg and it was getting worse through the practice, so I think the best decision for me was to withdraw,” Garcia said.

Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, having pulled out of the tournament 24 hours earlier, revealed that she has also withdrawn from next week’s event in Dubai.

Barty, who was Australia’s key figure in the country’s Fed Cup victory over the United States at the weekend, said in a statement: “Unfortunately I have withdrawn from Doha and Dubai with a minor hip injury. After consulting with the WTA doctors, I have taken their advice to have a few weeks’ rest.”

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