Osaka is finding out that being No. 1 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
with all the pressure and scrutiny that comes with it
The 21-year old Japanese American move up to top women’s tennis rankings after winning the Australian Open last month. Her meteoric rise to No. 1 from No. 72 began with her upset win over Serena Williams at the U.S. Open last summer.
Last week she fired her coach, Sascha Bajin,
sparking rumors he was let go because of a financial disagreement.
Clearly the situation was on her mind when she lost in Dubai. Osaka lost
6-3, 6-3 to Kristina Mladenovic at the Dubai
Duty Free Tennis Championships, after having a bye in the first round.
She had not played since winning the Australian Open last month.
After her defeat, she admitted that her coach situation was a distraction and led to loss.
Talking to the media, she said, “Yeah, I mean, I’m pretty sure, like, you guys — no offense to you guys — but I’m pretty sure as time goes on, you guys will stop talking about it. For now, it’s like the biggest tennis news, I guess. It’s a little bit hard because I feel like people are staring at me, and not like in a good way.”
“My reason is I wouldn’t put success over my happiness — that’s my main thing. I’m not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around.”
Bajin, a former hitting partner of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, was named as the WTA’s coach of the year in 2018 after his success with Osaka, who plays for Japan but lives and trains in the U.S.
“The biggest thing is I don’t want myself to think to be successful, I have to put success over happiness,” Osaka told reporters. “Because if I’m not happy being around certain people, I’m not going to torture myself. … So I’d rather just surround myself with people that I really like and that truly care about me and are just really positive. I think I’ve been able to do that.
“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.”
With her Japanese-Haitian heritage and as a U.S. citizen, Osaka holds enormous global appeal and endorsement offers are reportedly flooding in.
Osaka hopes to name a coach before she competes at Indian Wells, Calif. which begins March 4.
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