Naomi Osaka on why she asked her father to rejoin her coaching team: ‘When I get stressed out he starts dancing’

WTA Tour
Naomi Osaka takes a breather

The last time Naomi Osaka played top-level tennis she still had Wim Fissette in her player’s box, but when she takes to the court at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic on Tuesday there will be a different albeit familiar face in her box.

After two successful years that saw them win the 2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open, Fissette announced in July that he and Osaka have ended their partnership.

The decision took the tennis world by a surprise, but the four-time Grand Slam winner says they didn’t end on bad terms as she just “needed different energy” in her camp.

“It was really good times with Wim and he’s a really amazing coach,” the former world No 1. “We didn’t part on bad terms. I just felt I needed different energy, and at the same time, he’s a very ambitious guy. I was getting injured and I’m sure he would have wanted to go to Wimbledon.

“So it was two different mindsets, I would say. But he’s a really cool guy still. So confirming that there were no bad things happening.”

Osaka missed Wimbledon after picking up an Achilles injury during her first-round exit from Roland Garros in May, but she has recovered and accepted a wildcard for this week’s WTA 500 event in San Jose.

She has returned to what she knows best for the tournament as her father Leonard Francois, who coached her until 2018, has rejoined her coaching set-up.

And while her father will no doubt get the best out of her terms of her playing ability, he also returned to help her when she is “stressed out”.

“I wanted to bring my dad back because he always makes me think outside the box,” Osaka said. “Whenever I think something is really bad he always makes me realise that things are much more positive than they seem. When I get stressed out he starts dancing or does something to make me feel better.

“So it’s just nice to have him around and it makes me remember the times when I was a kid. For right now, he would be my main coach. I would give him that title.”

Osaka missed big chunks of the 2021 season after she opted to take a break from the game on the back of her withdrawal from the French Open where she admitted that she struggled with depression and anxiety.

Her father will no doubt help her to relax more.

“I just would like to have fun and I know I say that very often, basically every tournament for the last year now, but to genuinely have fun,” the 24-year-old said. “I was telling my dad literally this morning when we were practicing in the rain, years ago we would have to fight to practice on public courts. It was just me and my sister and my dad alone.

“Now I’ve gotten to the point where people pay to watch me play, and for that I am very grateful. I would have never imagined that as a child. Just having fun and being grateful in the moment and trying to engage with everyone to the best of my abilities.”

Osaka will take on Qinwen Zheng in the first round on Tuesday and the winner could face sixth seed Coco Gauff in the second round. American Gauff faces Anhelina Kalinina in her opener.

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