INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Once again, Naomi Osaka has culled the Williams sisters alumni society in her search for a new coach.
And she has come up with Jermaine Jenkins.
The 34-year-old American most recently was the hitting partner for Venus. He also is the brother of Jarmere, Serena Williams’s current hitting partner.
Former coach Sascha Bajin was the longtime hitting partner for Serena before he got the big gig with the up-and-coming Osaka.
So if being a hitting partner to a top player so often seemed like a gig that had little opportunity for advancement, the current world No. 1 and US Open and Australian Open champion has singlehandedly changed the narrative.
Jenkins joined Team Venus Williams in June, 2015. But at the end of the 2019 season, he found out his services were no longer required. Williams also let loose her coach of 11 years, David Witt.
Witt is not coaching anyone at the moment. But Jenkins bounced back quickly.
In January, he was named the USTA’s national coach for women’s tennis, based out of the federation’s national campus outside Orlando, Fla.
Short turnaround for new coach
After the seemingly acrimonious parting with Bajin, shortly after the two combined for Osaka’s second consecutive Grand Slam title, Osaka headed to the Premier tournament in Dubai with only a coach from the Japanese federation as support.
She lost her first match to Kristina Mladenovic. And clearly, she was not in the best of spirits. The news that she had sacked a coach who had brought her from No. 68 to No. 1 in a little over a year obviously attracted a lot of notice. Perhaps more than she had expected.
Osaka wanted to have someone in place before the all important American swing through Indian Wells and Miami.
The 21-year-old won the BNP Paribas Open a year ago, in a shocker at the time. So she comes to the desert as the defending champion.
Brother act back in the game
Jermaine Jenkins will be reunited on Tour with brother Jarmere, who began working for Serena in Dec. 2017.
Jermaine Jenkins was a standout at Clemson University, an all-American, captain of his team and team MVP.
He also earned a B.A. in Business Administration and Management.
There’s no indication in any of the stories out there what Jenkins will do with his current position with the USTA. He’s been on the job less than two months.
There isn’t even any confirmation about whether this is a guaranteed, full-time gig, or a trial. So we don’t even know if he’s not simply taking a leave from his current job to test the water on this U.S. swing. We’re efforting on getting more details.
But either way, there’s a certain irony there.
Osaka – in retrospect – was definitely a player the USTA let get away. Imagine if the USTA had a 21-year-old No. 1, who has won the last two Grand Slam titles, in their stable.
But Osaka didn’t play junior tennis. And big tennis federations are most definitely inflexible to anything other than the regimented tradition path.
So by the time she was on their radar, (according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal, at age 16) she already had gone to the Japanese federation to help support her budding career.
Now, she’s taken the USTA’s new women’s coach.