Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka has rocked the tennis world by announcing she has split from her coach just over a fortnight after winning the grand slam at Melbourne Park.
On Tuesday Osaka tweeted she would be parting ways with Sascha Bajin, which sent shockwaves around the sport.
Bajin replied to Osaka’s announcement on Twitter, thanking her for their time together.
Osaka surged to No. 1 in the world rankings after her Australian Open triumph, becoming the first Japanese player — male or female — to achieve the feat, and now holds two major titles after her dramatic win over Serena Williams at last year’s US Open.
The Australian Open win over Petra Kvitova saw the 21-year-old become the first woman to win successive majors since Williams in 2015 and the youngest to do so since Martina Hingis in 1998.
Osaka’s recent success makes her coaching split that much more surprising — a sentiment expressed by American tennis legend Lindsay Davenport.
“It’s a shocker. She just has won two grand slams. They started working together in December of 2017 and it’s just been nothing but improvement for Osaka,” Davenport told The Tennis Channel.
“That is really surprising, especially given Osaka’s results.”
Tennis writer Chris Oddo called the separation “shocking” on Twitter while New York Times tennis expert Ben Rothenberg was also taken aback, especially considering Bajin was recognised as the best coach on the WTA tour last year.
“Well this is very surprising news from the WTA #1 and winner of the last two grand slam events,” Rothenberg wrote. “Sascha Bajin was named WTA Coach of the year in 2018.”
Fellow tennis reporter Carole Bouchard tweeted: “WOAH. Despite winning the last two grand slams and reaching World No. 1.”
Portuguese writer Jose Morgado was as confused as everyone else. “Well … what?” he tweeted.
Commentator and podcaster David Law suggested the shock split had to be for more than just tennis reasons.
“They were together a year and she won two grand slams in a row, Indian Wells and became No. 1 in the world. That doesn’t add up to a tennis decision,” Law tweeted.
Unfortunately Osaka won’t get a chance to continue her dream run of form after pulling out of the Qatar Open with an unspecified back injury.
“I am sorry to have withdraw from Doha this year as I was looking forward to playing and seeing my fans there,” she said in a statement.
“I wish everyone a great week and hope to see everyone next year.”
Simona Halep, the Romanian who Osaka replaced as No. 1, Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber head up the field in Doha.
OSAKA HUNGRY FOR MORE
After claiming her first Australian Open title, Osaka said she was hungry for more slam success.
“The way the tennis world is, there’s always the next tournament, the next slam, and we all just want to keep training hard and winning more,” she said.
“So, I’m not really sure if I’m satisfied.”
Osaka was unfazed by the attention she was receiving, saying she was in the spotlight even when her ranking was languishing in the 70s 12 months ago. She said it was misleading to view her rise as an overnight success.
“I guess looking from the outside, from your guys’ view, it does,” Osaka said. “For me, every practice and every match that I’ve played, it feels like the year is short and long at the same time.
“I’m aware of all the work that I put in. I know all the sacrifices that every player does to stay at this level.
“In my opinion, it didn’t feel fast. It felt kind of long.”