The one thing you can’t predict about the WTA is … what’s going to happen next.
New No. 1 Naomi Osaka rose to the top of the women’s tennis universe, after winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles with new coach Sascha Bajin.
Well, on Monday – just two weeks after that second title – it’s over.
Osaka announced via social media that she and Bajin have split.
That would have to go down as an … unexpected bit of news.
When Bajin came on board in Dec. 2017, Osaka was ranked No. 68 and had yet to win a title. In just over a year, she has won three – two Slams, and a Premier Mandatory – and risen to No. 1.
No doubt there was plenty going on behind the scenes, for something like that to happen.
Bajin was an out of the box choice at the time because of his lack of “official” coaching experience at the top level. But it proved to be a great fit with Osaka. He was so positive, that it balanced out the natural negativity the young Osaka displayed.
No word yet on what Osaka’s setup will look like going forward.
It’s worth noting that the current title holders at the four Grand Slams – Simona Halep at the French Open, Angelique Kerber at Wimbledon and Osaka for the other two – no longer are working with the coaches who got them there.
In the meantime – in that definitive move that kids do – Osaka has unfollowed Bajin on Instagram in recent weeks. And he has unfollowed her.
And as he states on his Instagram account that he’s sponsored by Yonex and Nissin – two of Osaka’s major sponsors – it will be worth seeing what happens with that.
It’s a pretty curt adios, given all they accomplished together.
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大坂なおみ (@Naomi_Osaka_) February 11, 2019
Bajin didn’t make any official pronouncement of his own, for whatever that’s worth. He merely replied to her Tweet.
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
During the trophy ceremony after her Australian Open victory, Osaka did not mention Bajin by name; she thanked her team as a collective.
That wouldn’t necessarily mean anything, though. Osaka joked that she had studied her notes before coming up to make the speech, but that she had forgotten most of “what she was supposed to say.”
In retrospect, her “Thanks to Sascha for hitting with me” comment in Melbourne was a little … dismissive. But only if you micro-analyze Osaka’s words. That’s a slippery slope because she’s definitely an unorthodox thinker.
— sascha Bajin (@BigSascha) January 26, 2019
The immediate reaction made it seem as though Bajin was the John Wooden of tennis. In fact, it was his first WTA coaching gig after multiple gigs as a very good hitting partner to top players. In terms of his long-term career prospects, Osaka may well have done as much for Bajin as he did for her.
Because he’ll always have this on his resumé now. And you’d think it would have established him in the mix, whenever a coaching opening comes up.
Big picture, hopefully it will encourage more female players to think out of the box a little, when looking for that good fit that often seems so elusive on the WTA Tour.
The two had a bet riding on the tournament. Bajin either had to cut his hair or dye it. “He doesn’t want to cut it, so he’ll have to dye it,” Osaka said in an interview after her win – suggesting pink as the appropriate color.
On the plus side, he won’t have to do that now.