Naomi Osaka's coach makes huge claim & Osaka on how quickly success could come

After giving birth and being out for 16 months, Osaka is back to tennis and her joy and love for the game have also returned.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Naomi Osaka's coach makes huge claim & Osaka on how quickly success could come
© Getty Images Sport - Darrian Traynor

Coach Wim Fissette claims Naomi Osaka has never been hungrier to win and he is also promising that the four-time Grand Slam champion is set to become "a better tennis player than she ever been before."

Osaka, a former world No. 1, enjoyed major tennis success early, having won her fourth Grand Slam title just after turning 23. But since winning the 2021 Australian Open, Osaka hasn't won any titles. After not playing much during the 2021 and 2022 seasons to address her mental health, Osaka skipped the entire 2023 season due to pregnancy.

But throughout 2023, Osaka was claiming that she would return fully motivated and determined to get back to winning Grand Slams after pregnancy. After giving birth and launching her preparations for her comeback, Osaka contacted her past coach Fissette. Between 2020 and 2022 July, Fissette worked for two years and the Japanese won her third and fourth Grand Slam titles during that period.

When the two split after 2022 Wimbledon, Osaka was struggling with her motivation and many were wondering where the Japanese's career was heading. Now, Fissette claims a lot has changed and describes the 26-year-old as "a new person."

"The last time I saw her was around July 2022, when we stopped working together, and I honestly really didn't know where her career was going to. When I spoke to her again this year in September, she already sounded like a new person. And a person with a lot of strong ambitions," Fissette told BBC.

"I've never seen her this way before where she was so hungry to learn. She was such a happy person on the court and the last weeks she has worked so hard and with so much discipline. I would say she was definitely the ideal player."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde
 

Fissette promises: Osaka will be better than ever

After landing her fourth Grand Slam title at the 2021 Australian Open, Osaka started to lose her joy and passion for tennis. That led to Osaka also losing her motivation and all of that had a negative impact on the Japanese's game and results. But now that Osaka has rediscovered her joy and passion for tennis, the former world No. 1 is working hard on her game and has her eyes on the biggest possible achievements.

Ahead of this year's Australian Open - where Osaka is a two-time champion - Fissette was asked about the 26-year-old's chances of making it all the way at Melbourne Park.

"I will always see her as a possible winner, but I am also realistic. She is always a candidate. I cannot predict results, but I will promise you that she will be a better tennis player than she has ever been before. For sure," Fissette said.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Graham Denholm
 

Osaka never counting herself out

Just a few years ago, Osaka was winning Grand Slams and being the top-ranked player in the world. At 26, Osaka is still relatively young but also coming off a very lengthy absence from tennis. Although many think that it would probably be a bit unrealistic to expect Osaka to win her third Australian Open title this year - in her second tournament after not playing for 16 months - Osaka underlined that she would not be out there competing if she felt she didn't have any chances.

"That would be a disservice to myself and also the people who want to see me play. I can't really say whether I'm going to do amazing or not, but I feel pretty good with where I'm at right now and I'm pretty competitive," Osaka answered when asked how quickly success could come for her.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Quinn Rooney
 

Osaka was positive about her Brisbane run

Last week, Osaka played her first tournament since 2022 September at the Brisbane International. In the Brisbane first round, Osaka saw off Tamara Korpatsch 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4. After beating Korpatsch, the next on Osaka's schedule was former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. Against Pliskova, Osaka made a really good start as she won the first set. But then, Osaka lost a tight second set and Pliskova ended up claiming a 3-6 7-6 (4) 6-4 win.

Osaka didn't lift the Brisbane title in her first tournament back but she left the tournament with confidence in her game.

"These two matches that I've had kind of prove to me that I am doing okay, and the year is just going to get better for me ... I know that if I keep training and if I keep putting in the work, then I'll eventually get to where I want to be," Osaka said after her Brisbane loss.

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Chris Hyde
 

Osaka wants to enjoy herself on the court

During the 2021 French Open, Osaka opened up about her battle with depression and anxiety. In the next couple of months, Osaka provided even more details about her mental health. At the time, mental health struggles were taking a toll on Osaka's career and overall well-being. Since then, Osaka has become an ambassador for athletes' good mental health and her example has led to other athletes opening up about their struggles.

While away from tennis last year, Osaka realized that she still loved tennis and that she wanted to come back. Also, Osaka used the time away from tennis to address certain things. Now, Osaka has a different perspective and her goal is to enjoy herself on the court more than ever as she is aware that she won't be a professional tennis player forever.

"I think I'm enjoying myself a lot more, and I also realize there's a lot of things that aren't in my control. Other than that, I feel more aware that I'm playing the best players in the world. Both of us have an opportunity to win," Osaka explained in Brisbane.

"I also just think I've trained so hard after giving birth that I need to enjoy these moments, and I also think in a way ... I know that the tennis lifespan isn't that long, so I should enjoy it while I can."

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka© Getty Images Sport - Graham Denholm
 

Osaka set for her eighth Australian Open appearance

Next week, Osaka will officially launch her eighth appearance at Melbourne Park. Osaka, who debuted at Melbourne Park in 2016, lifted her first Australian Open title in 2019 after beating Petra Kvitova in the final. Two years later, Osaka won her second Australian Open title following a straight-set victory over Jennifer Brady in the 2021 final at Melbourne Park.

In 2022, Osaka returned to Melbourne Park to defend her Australian Open title. But as already mentioned, Osaka wasn't really playing her best tennis at the time and she ended up losing to Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

After Osaka withdrew from the 2023 Australian Open, that led to some speculating if the Japanese was retiring from pro tennis. But then, Osaka put an end to all the rumors and speculations when she announced her pregnancy on January 11th.

Now, Osaka is back to tennis and set to play at Melbourne Park once again. It remains to be seen how well Osaka can do in her Australian Open return.

Naomi Osaka
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