Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka has opened up about her unexpected split with coach Sascha Bajin, which came soon after her 2019 Australian Open win, saying she was not prepared to “sacrifice” her happiness.
Last month, the 21-year old grabbed her second Grand Slam title in a row by defeating Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic in the final at Melbourne.
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Following Osaka’s success, Bajin was honored with the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year Award 2018 for his contribution to the youngster’s impressive run to the top of the world rankings.
Banjin, who has formerly worked as a hitting partner with US great Serena Williams, had helped the Japanese talent to climb from 68th position to a career-high number one following her sensational victories at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Australian Open.
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Despite the sensational fruits of their cooperation, Osaka decided to part ways with the German, and has now stressed that the issue was not connected with money, but rather her personal happiness.
“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,” the world number one told reporters on Sunday.
“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. I wouldn’t come here and say anything bad.
“The biggest thing is I don’t want myself to think to be successful I have to put success over happiness, because if I’m not happy being around certain people I’m not going to torture myself,” she added.
“If I’m not waking up every day happy to practice and happy to be around the people I’m around, this is my life.
“I’m not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around. I have to be happy with where I am at my life. I feel like I worked really hard – maybe not for 21 years, but for 17 years – to be No.1 and to win Grand Slams.”
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Despite not revealing specific reasons behind the alleged conflict with the former coach, Osaka hinted that she had taken issue with some of Bajin’s comments.
“[The most important thing for me is] just to have a positive mindset,” Osaka said. “I don’t want someone that’s in the box saying negative stuff. That would be the worst.”
“Yeah, someone that’s kind of direct, not afraid to say things to my face,” she added when describing the kind of a person she would like to work with.
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“I’d rather someone say it directly to me than go around my back. That’s one of the biggest things.”
This week Osaka competes at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is her first tournament since the Australian Open. She will also be playing as the top seed at a WTA tournament for the first time in her career.