July 12, 2020

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When Naomi Osaka arrived in Paris before last year’s French Open, she had won the last two Grand Slams: the 2018 US Open, and the 2019 Australian Open.

She had also sacked the coach she was working with when she won them, former Serena Williams hitting partner Sascha Bajin.

A lot of fans couldn’t understand it. Then again, it seems coaches get far too much credit when the player wins, and too much blame when the player loses. But if it’s not a happy team, you make the move.

After that – and a rise to the No. 1 ranking – Osaka struggled quite a bit (and probably not because Bajin was gone – same principle in reverse).

Osaka was beaten by Belinda Bencic at big events in Indian Wells and Madrid. She also was beaten by Kristina Mladenovic and Hsieh Su-Wei. She also issued two walkovers.

But as she went through her paces with Jermaine Jenkins at the Parc Jean-Bouin (watched carefully by a big group of Japanese media), this was another major – Osaka time.

She came back in both the first round against Anna Schmiedlova (0-6, 7-6, 6-1) and the second round against Victoria Azarenka (4-6, 7-5, 6-3). But that was all she had; Osaka went down rather meekly to Katarina Siniakova in the third round.

She rallied to win back-to-back events in Tokyo and Beijing, but withdrew with a shoulder injury after her first match at the WTA Tour Finals.

After such a sterling start, it was a difficult year – although not for her bank account, with the signing of multiple endorsement deals.