Osaka changes coach

Jermaine Jenkins was coach of Naomi Osaka for seven months, after the Japanese parted ways with Sascha Bajin, with whom she won two Grand Slams. PHOTO: REUTERS
Jermaine Jenkins was coach of Naomi Osaka for seven months, after the Japanese parted ways with Sascha Bajin, with whom she won two Grand Slams. PHOTO: REUTERS

Jenkins is second trainer sacked in seven months by struggling former world No. 1

TOKYO • Two-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka announced yesterday she was splitting with her coach, her second break-up this year as she battles for form.

On the eve of the Pan Pacific Open in Osaka, the 21-year-old Japanese announced she would no longer be working with Jermaine Jenkins, who joined her team after her Australian Open triumph in January.

"Writing this to let you guys know that me and Jay won't be working together anymore," Osaka tweeted.

"I'm super grateful for the time we spent together and the things I learned on and off the court but I feel like now is a (sic) appropriate time for a change... Thank you for everything, it was a blast."

Osaka had already caught the tennis world by surprise when she announced in February she was parting ways with coach Sascha Bajin, who had overseen her stunning rise to win two Grand Slams, which include the US Open last year.

Her Australian Open win made her Asia's first world No. 1 and the first player to claim her first two Grand Slam titles in successive attempts since Jennifer Capriati in 2001.

However, the top ranking and the attention that goes with it proved a heavy burden, she admitted, after a tearful first-round exit from the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in February.

Her results since the Australian Open have also been patchy. She lost in the third round of the French Open to Katerina Siniakova from the Czech Republic, ranked 41 places below her.

She then suffered a humiliating first-round exit at Wimbledon to Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan before crashing out of this month's US Open in the last 16 to Swiss player Belinda Bencic.

Osaka also lost her No. 1 ranking to Australian Ashleigh Barty in the lead-up to Wimbledon, where she admitted the fun had gone out of her game.

Top seed at Flushing Meadows, Osaka struggled with a knee problem before being upset by 13th seed Bencic in straight sets. Her form outside the Slams has hardly been better, losing two quarter-finals during the US hard-court season that has seen her slip to No. 4 in the world rankings.

The split with Jenkins came as Osaka returned home for the Pan Pacific Open where she reached the final last year. Her main challengers will be fellow top-10 players Kiki Bertens and Sloane Stephens.

Angelique Kerber, who beat her in the first round in 2017, is also in the draw for the competition that runs from Monday to Sept 22.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2019, with the headline 'Osaka changes coach'. Print Edition | Subscribe