“When I’m stressed, he starts dancing”

When Naomi Osaka last played high-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 his lodge.

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

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

“It was some really good times with Wim and he’s a really amazing coach,” said the former world number 1. “We didn’t part on bad terms. I just felt I needed a different energy, and at the same time he’s a very ambitious guy. I was hurting myself and I’m sure he would have liked to go to Wimbledon.

“So it was two different mindsets, I would say. But he’s still a really cool guy. Confirming that nothing bad happened.

Osaka missed Wimbledon after sustaining an Achilles injury in her first-round exit from Roland Garros in May, but 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 François, who coached her until 2018, joined her coaching training.

And while her father will no doubt make the most of her playing conditions, he has also returned to help her when she is ‘stressed’.

“I wanted to bring my dad back because he always pushes me off the beaten track,” Osaka said. “Whenever I think something is really wrong, he always makes me realize that things are a lot more positive than they seem. When I’m stressed, he starts dancing or does something to make me feel better.

“So it’s just nice to have him with me and it reminds me of when I was a kid. Right now he would be my main coach. I would give him that title.

Osaka missed big chunks of the 2021 season after opting to take a break from the game following her withdrawal from Roland Garros where she admitted that she struggled with depression and anxiety.

His father will no doubt help him to relax more.

“I just want to have fun and I know I say that a lot, pretty much every tournament last year now, but to really have fun,” the 24-year-old said. “I was literally telling my dad this morning when we were training in the rain, years ago we had to fight to practice on public grounds. It was just me and my sister and my dad alone.

“Now I’ve gotten to the point where people are paying to watch me play, and I’m very grateful for that. I never imagined that when I was a kid. Just having fun and being grateful in the moment and try to engage with everyone to the best of my ability.

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

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