Naomi Osaka's coach, Sascha Bajin, has been selected as the winner of the inaugural WTA Coach of the Year award.
33 year-old Bajin, a former hitting partner of tennis great Serena Williams, tweeted that he was “speechless and turning a bit red,” adding that it’s “easy to be a good coach when you have a great student.”
Bajin has worked with players like Victoria Azarenka, Sloane Stephens, and Caroline Wozniacki over the last three seasons before settling down as full-time coach of Osaka.
I had the privilege of meeting Bajin at the WTA Coaches Conference held during this year’s WTA Finals in Singapore. What struck me first when I met him was his physical presence – tall, muscular, oozing with fitness, I felt I was standing next to Thor. He had such a friendly, gentle demeanour about him that you immediately felt good vibes coming right at you. Its no surprise to me that he has had such a positive impact on Osaka. From his interviews, he shares some of his thoughts about his coaching style:
Give space and time to figure things out. Bajin says he tries to give as much space to Osaka to let her figure things out for herself. He tries not to tell her what to do too much but still offers some guidance to “narrow down the options”, giving her some room to see what kind of decisions she makes.
Be the positive voice. Bajin says Osaka is a real perfectionist and oftens gets down on herself, at times being negative and too hard on herself. When this happens, Bajin projects calm positivity and lifts her spirits. He feels that sometimes Osaka is too focused on what is not working instead of what is. So they talk it out and in the process they figure things out.
Player as top priority. Bajin says what is most important to him is that his players trust him and see that he places them as his top priority. Osaka feels comfortable with Bajin around her and it looks to me that Osaka has become somewhat less reserved and more comfortable with people, perhaps also from the practice she has had giving all the interviews since being the first Japanese tennis player to win a Grand Slam title.
With a very successful 2018 behind them, I have a feeling Team Osaka and Bajin will have another good year ahead in 2019!