May 16, 2024

Open Court


After six months, Jenkins and Osaka split

The news from the WTA keeps coming on this fine Thursday.

The latest, after Kim Clijsters announced her comeback and Simona Halep announced she and Darren Cahill would be reuniting in 2020, involves Naomi Osaka.

The 21-year-old Japanese star, who has not had a boring year, sacked her second coach of 2019.

After six months, Osaka and Jermaine Jenkins are history.

“I am super grateful for the things I learned on and off the court but I feel like now is an appropriate time for a change,” Osaka wrote on Twitter. “Appreciate you, forever warmed by you.”

Musical chairs on the coaching circuit

After Osaka backed up her 2018 US Open win with another Grand Slam title in Australia in January, coach Sascha Bajin went for the high jump.

He has resurfaced on the WTA Tour with Kristina Mladenovic.

In Jenkins, she found another Bajin – in the sense that he had been a hitting partner (Bajin for Serena, Jenkins for Venus Williams) who was getting a promotion of sorts.

Jenkins had already committed to a coaching job with the USTA when this opportunity came up.

Whenever the player has a father as a longtime coach, a new coach is coming into a situation where he has to mark out his own territory. But obviously it’s a delicate balance.

It seemed to be fine, right? As many rumblings as we’ve heard about why Osaka let Bajin go, there was never anything like that with the quiet, hard-working Jenkins, whose brother Jarmere is a hitting partner for Serena Williams.

(It’s funny that the immediate reaction from Osaka’s social media fans is to get Bajin back. One – he already has a job and two, they just don’t know).

It certainly seemed as though the team Osaka had put together melded well – at least when they were practicing at tournaments, where we could see them.

But you just never know.

A lot of life changes

Osaka and her boyfriend YBN Cordae, a rapper, also have gone fairly public with their romance of late.

We’re told Osaka now has a place in Los Angeles, which gives her some separation from her Florida-based family for the first time. And that, no doubt, will involve some growing pains.

So, what’s up? If Osaka brings in a new coach before the big Asian swing that will start next week with a fairly seminal appearance in her namesake city of Osaka, that will make three coaches in about eight months.

The WTA Tour has been chewing up and spitting out coaches all season long. It’s hard to know what, exactly they’re all looking for beyond instant results.

And the reality for Osaka is that not only are there not that many quality coaches on the WTA circuit in the first place, those that do exist mostly already have jobs. 

Grand Slam champions Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza are also currently coachless. Among others.

She may well have to think outside the box again.

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