Jun/19

11

Did Osaka Drop Bajin Because Of His Romance With Another Player?

Last night during a phone conversation with a veteran professional coach and hitting partner, a bombshell was dropped randomly about the real reason WTA no. 1 Naomi Osaka discontinued her association with coach Sascha Bajin two weeks after winning the Australian Open earlier this year.

This source has never failed me once and never shared false information. He has connections to current players and access to the inside world of the WTA and ATP. I can assure you this source has no motive to deceive or spread false information.

So here’s what he said, “The real reason Osaka fired Bajin is because his girlfriend is a 19 year old player in the WTA.”

The logical assumption is that the boss and best player in the world was not super comfortable with her coach dividing loyalties to her own career and the tennis career of his girlfriend. A perfect case of conflicts of interest.

“It makes perfect sense, that explains it,” said one long time tennis journalist when asked for his thoughts of the rumor/bombshell revelation. “I saw her press conference when she said it was definitely not about money. She said it twice.”

Back in February, Osaka talked about her reasons for releasing Bajin.

“It was kind of brewing in Australia. I think some people could see that if they saw how we interacted. I would not want to split on really bad terms. I’m not going to say anything bad about him because, of course, I’m really grateful for all the things he’s done. During the Australian Open, I was just trying to tell myself to get through it. I’m not sure, but I think you guys noticed.”

It makes perfect sense for Osaka to be concerned that her own coach, who she is paying a hefty salary, would be romantically involved with another player who she could one day meet on the tennis court in a pro match. Exactly where would Bajin devote his loyalties in such a scenario?

And it makes perfect sense for Osaka and Bajin to not reveal the details of what really happened. The public does not need to know all the details of the personal lives of Osaka and Bajin and the supposed mystery player.

I’m not sure what to believe. Anything is possible in the tennis world where they say “love means zero.” Perhaps at Wimbledon the media will ask Osaka and Bajin, who now coaches Kiki Mladenovic, for their comments on this rumor.

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48 comments

  • catherine · June 11, 2019 at 2:07 pm

    I heard variations on that story earlier this year and it was also mentioned online. I’ve always been sceptical. Presumably Kiki was also aware of it when she hired Bajin, being older than Naomi and generally more sophisticated. Clearly she wasn’t bothered.

    There is no way reporters at Wimbledon would be permitted to ask any questions about players’ private lives.’Tennis questions only’ is a strict rule.

    Presumably this ‘girlfriend’ has her own coach ?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 11, 2019 at 3:23 pm

    Catherine, where did you read this? I told this to some major media people and none of them heard about it and some big name ex players and TV people they asked also had no idea or heard nothing about this angle. Can you disclose your online sources? Because I think you may be trying to dilute the value of this exclusive scoop 🙂

  • catherine · June 11, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    Scoop – I don’t know how ‘exclusive’ this story is – I fairly regularly read comments on Youtube and a couple of other sites and at the time of the split there were theories aplenty buzzing around, including this one, others clearly just silly and the majority of course anonymous. Most reputable newspapers and news sites would not have run the story because there were no names mentioned and it wasn’t confirmed. Just speculation. I can’t really see what you can do with this gossip either, unless someone decides to kiss and tell which is unlikely. There’s no great issue of public interest involved – so no surprise that many of your contacts didn’t know about it. Time’s moved on as well and there are other tennis upheavals to think about.

    I didn’t have any intention of diluting your story – those were simply my comments. One way or another I pick up quite a bit of stuff about players and their backgrounds but I seldom mention any of it because the sources, human and electronic, aren’t always reliable and it’s none of our business anyway. Unless illegality is involved.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 11, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    i asked a colleague and he did not hear of this, he then asked more colleagues and also they did not know of this. it does all make sense. but yes the tennis universe moves on.

  • Jeff · June 12, 2019 at 1:14 am

    Scoop,

    I think Catherine is spot-on, I had seen some similar stories.

    Some more important news. Monfils and Svitolina no longer together so now I have a chance with the Ukrainian beauty. Also, Wawrinka and Vekic have split up. Also Zverev opened up about a month ago about how he broke up with his Russian gal and how it affected him on the court.

    On another topic, has anyone paid attention to Noah Rubin’s constant trashing of tennis on Twitter? He makes some good points here and there but is constantly badmouthing it and said the sport would flop once the Big 4 go away. That upset some players. Rubin’s career has gone nowhere and he is lashing out; it is sad to see.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 2:21 am

    Jeff – thanks for the gossip 🙂 I’m obviously out of the loop at present. I knew about Zverev but not the others. Svitolina certainly doesn’t have a great record for long relationships with men so I’d skip that if I were you. Elena might concentrate a little more on her tennis game now. Did Donna and Vekic break up before RG ? I’m a little surprised but the age gap there might be responsible.

    Sometimes I think the world would be a better place without Twitter. A few people might be a lot happier. Rubin seems restless and unhappy with tennis I’d agree. Maybe that’s what’s behind Behind the Racquet.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 2:30 am

    Wonder what broke the bond of svitofils? Maybe a bad mix with his family during Roland g arros? Everything was too public with them and that ig account. The end came quickly, sometimes it does.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 2:45 am

    I must keep up more. Apparently Vekic and Stan have been apart for a while. Scoop, I agree that everything is too public these days. Nothing can sink a relationship faster than having it all out in the open and chat fodder for the multitude. Everyone can nose in about who has stopped following who and what’s happening on their IG accounts.

    Public people in any field with good relationships tend to keep them in the background.

  • Hartt · June 12, 2019 at 6:39 am

    I meant to report on the Monfils and Svitolina split, but was obviously too late. (I figured everyone had heard about Stan and Donna.)

    I agree that their joint Instagram account was probably a bad idea, but it would be tough to keep a relationship between 2 top tennis players under wraps. As soon as one watched the other in a tournament the news would be out.

    Generally I am not overly concerned about the relationships of players, but I hope that things go well for Dominic and Kiki, purely because I think he is a super nice guy.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 7:06 am

    Hartt – Domi and Kiki have been together for a while and seem to be happy in the way they’ve organised their careers – quite mature both of them so maybe that one will last.

    In the run-up to W’don an interesting piece from Martina about the top 20 and their grass preparation. Simona isn’t playing any tournaments but I assume she’ll be practising somewhere. Good advice from Martina to Barty and media pressure: say no more often than yes – something Kerber should have borne in mind in ’17.

    https://www.wtatennis.com/news/navratilova-barty-will-be-tough-beat-wimbledon

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 7:18 am

    Barty could become a dominant force on Wimbledon grass for years with her perfectly suited grass game. Her confidence will be sky high now that she has won the biggest tournament on her worst surface. She could rampage through the fortnight in Wimbledon.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 7:46 am

    She could yes, but she’s also down to play all 3 British grass events before W’don and that’s a lot. Wouldn’t be surprised if she skips one.

    Bencic, Kerber and Sevastova are the only ones playing Mallorca. The weather forecast in England looks a bit iffy, been raining this week, so maybe Spain is a good bet. I’m surprised about Simona.

  • Hartt · June 12, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Catherine, thanks for the link to the article about Barty. I especially enjoyed Martina’s analysis of Barty’s playing style. I am relying on you to let us know when the WTA site has something worth reading. 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 8:21 am

    She must love to play on grass to play them all, my guess is she will withdraw from one or two. Appearance fees could be a reason she is playing all three. Everyone wants to see her now, especially on her most preferred surface.

  • Hartt · June 12, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Catherine, Simona is on the player list for Eastbourne.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Hartt – I usually read whatever Martina writes, even if it means going to the WTA site 🙂 Martina must be one of the brightest people ever to have played the game and she always has something pertinent to say.

    Eastbourne is a chancy event, coming right before W’don. Chris had a marathon v Martina there one year, didn’t do well at W’don and never played Eastbourne again. Simona must think it’s worth the risk.

    (Borg never played pre-Wimbledon events after around 1973 – he practised with Gerulaitis on a private grass court in North London.)

  • Hartt · June 12, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Yes, Martina is great. I also enjoy it when she does commentary for a match, although I don’t get to hear her very often.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Still waiting for my first good personal experience with Martina. She’s one of those when you ask for an interview/Biofile, you get the ‘go through the proper channels’ routine. Last year I walked by her in the Miami Open stadium hall by the lower media room in Crandon Park and she actually was staring me down as we walked by. As if she was trying to make me flinch and look away first, which I did not. She’s tough. The best Martina experience for me was when she did an HBO movie with Chris Evert about their rivalry and they sat together and talked about their careers and rivalries and Martina said she always liked and respected Chris even when the rivalry was most tense and how she never took a cheap shot at her in the media and Martina really appreciated that, you could see she was touched by it. I have her book by George Vescey for years but I’d rather read and do a Facing Martina book. Hey there’s an idea!

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    Agree, Martina is a pretty good commentator, not the best, not the worst. It’s too bad she didn’t find a niche as a coach, that it did not work out with Radwanska. Imagine they had very poor chemistry.

  • catherine · June 12, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    I don’t think Martina ever wanted to coach. She probably would have done so long before she joined up with Radwanska. That surprised me a bit. The ending of the association didn’t surprise me at all.

    No, Martina’s never been someone you can stop and chat to. She’s never trusted the press and for good reason if you go back far enough. A ‘Facing Martina’ book would be interesting but you’d probably find several obstacles in your path.

    Last time I ever saw Martina was at the US Open one year – towards the end of a press conference I started to ask a question (very rare from me)and she got up and left the room. I decided then and there never to attend another pc in my life and I never did.

    In a way I feel she was too bright to be solely a tennis player, I mean bright in an IQ way, but that was what she did and she never really settled to anything else. She writes well (she spoke fluent idiomatic English by the time she was 18)and could maybe do more of that. I remember last year after the Serena/Osaka mayhem at the USO I read the stuff other reporters wrote and decided to wait to see what Martina said before I made up my mind. Her piece was in the NYT and it was very good.

    I admired her very much as a great player, she should really have got a Grand Slam and I can’t see anyone overtaking those 9 W’don titles, but there was something caviare to the general about her as a person and in her dealings with anyone not in her close circle.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    Martina mentored young kuznetsova. But to be as big a legend as she is, it had to be awkward to coach a player just starting. It’s a combination that has never produced results, to my knowledge.

  • Dan Markowitz · June 12, 2019 at 3:29 pm

    Just watching the Challenger from Ohio, a match that has Duckhee Lee playing versus John McNally. There are linespeople, but not ball boys and girls. Kind of strange and made me think that tennis is the only sport that really needs ball kids. The sport slows down a good bit and makes it hard to watch, at least on the internet, without ball kids.

    Lee is an interesting player, 21 now and still only no. 218. He’s been deaf from birth, but can feel the ball vibrations. He was no. 130 more than two years ago. There has not been a Korean player to my knowledge in the top 100 besides Chung who always seems to be injured since that other Lee player like a decade ago. What was his name?

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 12, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    Hyung Taik Lee. Hyeon Chung has been disappointing because of injury issues but he should be the best Korean ever.

  • Jeff · June 13, 2019 at 1:19 am

    Anybody else want to chime in on Noah Rubin? What a tool. He is ranked around the likes of Jack Sock, Donald Young and other bums of the U.S. tennis system.

    Some interesting matches tomorrow. Kudla v. Monfils, Auger-Aliassime v. Simon and Jarry v. Tsitsipas.

    Isn’t it amazing that Auger-Aliassime is ranked No. 21? he has sped past the Americans in a heartbeat.

  • Hartt · June 13, 2019 at 5:49 am

    Actually, I don’t think it is surprising that Auger-Aliassime is ranked No.21. He has been breaking records as “the youngest to” since he was 14, and it was just a matter of time before he had his breakthrough. Barring serious injury, he is on the road to superstardom, so it may be unfair to the American players to compare them to him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2019 at 9:15 am

    Rubin is frustrated, like Pospisil who is sounding off a lot lately on twitter about all the disappointments he is dealing with as a struggling, injured pro, the costs of travel and coaching and physio. Tennis is great for the winners of the world but it’s brutal for the strivers and losers. As one struggler told me at Sarasota Open after a practice, “this is a vicious sport.”

  • Dan Markowitz · June 13, 2019 at 9:44 am

    You know, when Spadea in 2000 dropped from no. 18 to no. 247 I believe, I wasn’t around him, but it seems like he just looked to change things. He dropped his father as his coach, I don’t think he was paying him anything he just gave his parents his house to live in which I think they’re still living in in Boca Raton, and went out to LA to train with Pete Fischer. And then he took a player friend out with him out on the Challeger circuit and played in 2001 in places like Tulsa, Tyler, Tx, Birmingham, Costa Rica and other low-level event, 23 in all. In 2002, he came back and played 39 events (can you believe playing 39 pro tournaments in a year and he wasn’t a kid, he was 27-28) then in 2003 he played another 26 tournaments and by the end of 2003 he was back to no. 25. In those years, he beat Mardy Fish three times without a loss; he beat Magnus Norman, Blake, Chang, Hrbaty, Canas, Gimelstob, Clement, Youzhny, Ljubicic, Schriphan, Goldstein Kiefer, and Gambill and in 2003 reached the semis of both Indy Wells and Monte Carlo. (Has an American player ever reached the semis of Indy Wells and Monte Carlo in the same year or ever?)

    I haven’t seen much of what Rubin has said other than he’d like to see more money come in for the lower-ranked players like himself. He also was exploring whether more of a team concept like the WTT would appeal to fans and also give an opportunity for the lower-ranked players, I guess, to make more money.

    I know Vince even though he was offered, never played the WTT because it took place during tournaments like Indianapolis and LA where he looked to win ranking points and make prize money. What has Rubin said, Jeff, that makes you think he’s whining? Playing pro tennis isn’t for everyone. I know Rubin has invested a lot of time, energy and money into the sport, but as Spadea said to me once, “You don’t to go out and play pro tennis and lose money.”

    Look at a guy like Kudla who beat Monfils today in a well-played match in Stuttgart, the Virginian was down to no. 207 in late 2017 and now he’s back to no. 84 after being as high as no. 61. He’s the sixth-ranked American and still only 26, but he recovered and like Rubin, he’s not a big guy only 5-11 and he’s won now $2.5 million over his career where Rubin at 23 has won only 624,000 and is currently ranked no. 173.

  • Jeff · June 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Great points by you on these lower-ranked players. Kudla has shown plenty of guts to up his ranking and beat a star like Monfils, though Le Monf is getting over his Svitolina breakup.

    The bottom line Rubin needs to win a few matches and raise his level to Kudla’s

  • Hartt · June 13, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Scoop. was interested in your comment about Pospisil’s twitter posts, so checked it out. I have a lot of sympathy for lower-ranked players who struggle to make ends meet. Many of them can’t afford a traveling coach, much less a coach AND a physio for 30 weeks.

    I don’t have great sympathy for Vasek however. He has made nearly $5.3 million dollars, so he could easily have put something aside for a time away caused by injury. Also, he admitted he had a long spell where he lacked motivation, so that had an impact on his results and earning power.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Hartt, I also asked Vasek how he felt about Gimelstob earning about a $1m a year to produce the weekly ATP show which seems a very high amount that an outer source would happily do for a lot less, such as an independent company like Harry Cicma Productions. No reply to that question by Vasek. Cut that expense by the ATP and dedicate it to the players ranked outside top 100 would be a nice gesture by the ATP. Like you I was not impressed by Pospisil’s crying.

  • Jeff · June 13, 2019 at 11:53 am

    Sascha Zverev loses to Dustin Brown but that’s not the big story.

    His Russian gf was in the box with Lendl so perhaps they are back together now. Hopefully we will find out more soon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2019 at 1:11 pm

    How about the rumors Kyrgios 24 is dating Anisimova 17? Back to tennis, Struff has beaten Shap for the third time in a row, all in the last year. While Verdasco and Mannarino, both over 30, had played only three times in a decade before today, the fourth meeting.

  • Hartt · June 13, 2019 at 2:29 pm

    I am comparing Vasek’s attitude to that of FAA and Andreescu. Both will make a lot of $ in their careers, but they haven’t done that yet. Bianca’s career earnings to date are just under $1.9 million, and Felix’s are just over $1.2 million. But Tennis Canada is building a fundraising campaign around them. For every dollar fans donate, Bianca and Felix will each match that up to $50,000 apiece. The $ will assist Canadian junior players.

    As well. Raonic has often donated to Tennis Canada fundraising and has also involved New Balance. I hope Pospsisil has made contributions to these types of initiatives. I haven’t heard anything one way or the other.

    Scoop, I think you made an excellent point about so much ATP $ going to Gimelstob.

  • Hartt · June 13, 2019 at 2:34 pm

    FAA won his match vs Simon today in Stuttgart in SS. This is just his 2nd match on grass at the pro level. His first was his win over Gulbis a couple days ago. FAA will face the tricky Dustin Brown next, after Dustin defeated Zverev today.

  • Hartt · June 13, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Jeff, are you sure that is the same woman? I don’t think it looks like her. Beyond the Russian being a brunette, not a blonde (and of course she could dye her hair), I don’t think the features are similar.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    hartt thanks for sharing these details about Tennis Canada. Very very impressive what Andreescu and Felix are doing. I don’t think any Americans do this or have ever done this.

  • Anon · June 13, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    The 19 year old player in question is S Zhuk.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 13, 2019 at 8:32 pm

    Speaking of generosity by tennis players, I was told Monica Seles and Andre Agassi paid for a machine for their old NBTA hitting partner Raul Ordonez who is a legend but he got Lou Gehrig disease and has major handicaps and this machine allows him to communicate. Really sad story, but so nice of Agassi and Seles to help him.

  • Jeff · June 14, 2019 at 2:48 am

    Catherine, you may be right. All these Russian babes look so similar but she was chatting up Lendl a lot so it looked like the same gal.

    Also a score you may have missed Tomic the Tank loses to No. 681 Ryan Peniston of Great Britain, retiring after losing a first-set breaker and then one game in the second. Classic tank job by the Aussie.

    How about some love for Denis Kudla reaching the quarters in Germany? He is one of the most talented Americans in tennis today

  • catherine · June 14, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Jeff- it’s Hartt who made the comment. I didn’t actually see much of the match so couldn’t pick out anyone in the box.

    Maybe it was one of Lendl’s daughters 🙂

  • Hartt · June 14, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Jeff, it looks like you were right. Tennis Tonic has a piece saying he is back with Sharypova. I guess I was too influenced by the hair colour!

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 14, 2019 at 9:44 am

    Zverev losing to Dustin Brown is another bad loss, Brown has been quiet for the last year. It’s curious that Lendl is back for grass season with Zverev but was left back home during clay, Lendl won a French Open but never won Wimbledon. Lendl’s job could be on the line.

  • Jeff · June 14, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Zverev is in disarray. Lendl can’t help him on grass, that’s for sure. Now he has this Russian girl back in his life when he was playing his worst tennis.

    Can’t see him getting farther than Round 3 at Wimby. Thiem has clearly passed him among his peers.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 14, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Just hope Zverev doesn’t start training with Kyrgios.

  • Hartt · June 14, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    FAA just won a close, exciting match over Dustin Brown. It went to 3 TBs. Brown was serving for the match when Félix finally broke him. The youngster won the deciding set TB pretty easily. FAA showed great fighting spirit and mental toughness to come back and win the match.

    If Milos wins his match (happening now) the 2 Canadians will meet in the SF.

  • Hartt · June 14, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    I’d meant to say that FAA had 30 aces, and 3 DFs. He had a first serve % of 66% and won 83% of first serve points. Brown had 9 aces and 6 DFs. Dustin was much better at the net than Félix, who had an off day in that dept.

  • Scoop Malinowski · June 14, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I like Felix to beat Raonic. All the pressure is on Raonic who is expected to teach the kid a grass court lesson. But i see the kid giving the veteran a schooling of elite future grand slam title tennis.

  • Hartt · June 14, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    As a fan of both players, I don’t want either to teach the other one a lesson. I am hoping for a competitive, entertaining match.

    I enjoyed seeing the Raonic vs Fucsovics match today. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to watch Milos matches (since mid-March), that I almost forgot what it was like. He played well today. He served well and made some nice volleys as well as the occasional DTL or CC winner. He “only” had 12 aces (his norm), and had a first serve % of 66%, like FAA. His first serve points won % was a little better than Félix’s at 89%.

    I don’t know which player I will root for – it will be a gut reaction once the match starts. Milos won their last match pretty easily, but FAA is a much more experienced player now.

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