What was meant to be a coming-out party was overshadowed by a mid-match feud between Williams and umpire Carlos Ramos, which later became the talk of the tournament’s aftermath, even though Osaka’s run – at only 20 years old – was historic by all measures.
Five months later, after soaring to the world’s number-one ranking and becoming the first in 18 years to follow-up their first Grand Slam singles title with consecutive second (the Australian Open), Osaka abruptly parted ways with her coach, Sascha Bajin.
“Everyone thinks it’s a money-related issue, but it wasn’t,” she said of the split back in February. “That’s one of the most hurtful things, because I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family, and I would never do that to them.
“I won’t put success over my happiness,” Osaka continued. “It was kind of brewing in Australia, and I think some people could see that if they saw how we interacted.”
Osaka is now coached by Jermain Jenkins, the United States’ Tennis Association’s national coach for women’s tennis, and who a former hitting partner of Venus Williams.
But Osaka suffered a minor knee injury, leaving her participation in this year’s US Open in question.
The injury occurred last Friday, and although the significance is not yet known, it was enough for Osaka – who opened Monday as the world’s number-one ranked player, a position she’s held for 20 weeks in 2019 – to pull out of the Cincinnati Open quarterfinals this past weekend.
“It sucks, especially since I didn't want to get injured this close to the Open,” Osaka told reporters afterward.
She later finished a game with her knee heavily taped, and explained why she before ultimately withdrawing to preserve herself for the Open.
“My pain tolerance is really high, that's usually why I play through things that apparently I shouldn't,” she added. “I really don't know what's going on with my leg right now. I was asking the trainer if it was safe to play, because I really hate withdrawing. I went out there, I wanted to finish the set, but I felt this like it wasn't safe.”
This year, Osaka was bounced in the third round of the French Open and the first round of Wimbledon in her other Grand Slam appearances. But she is coming off of back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in the Cincinnati Open and Canadian Open.
Her best finish with Jenkins was a semifinal appearance in the Stuttgart Open on April 22.