Naomi Osaka has broken down in tears in bizarre scenes after a shock loss in her first match since winning the Australian Open.
A teary Osaka admitted she’s struggling to cope with the attention she’s received since splitting with her coach just weeks after winning the Australian Open and becoming world No.1.
The 21-year-old Japanese star opened up after suffering an upset loss in her first match since claiming her second grand slam title in Melbourne last month.
She fell 6-3-6-3 to world No.67 Kristina Mladenovic at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday night.
Osaka wiped away tears at her post-match media conference as she answered questions over her decision to part company with coach Sascha Bajin, who helped her to the US Open and Australian Open titles and the top ranking.
“I don’t really like attention. So it’s been a little tough,” Osaka said.
“No offence to you guys but I’m pretty sure, as time goes on, you guys will stop talking about it.
“But for now, It’s like the biggest tennis news. It’s a little bit hard because I feel like people are staring at me – and not in like a good way.”
Earlier in the week Osaka had felt compelled to address the split with Bajin in an interview she did for the WTA.
“Everyone thinks it was a money-related issue, but it wasn’t,” Osaka said. “That’s one of the most hurtful things I’ve ever heard.
“I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family. I would never do that to them.”
“My reason is I wouldn’t put success over my happiness – that’s my main thing. I’m not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around.”
Bajin, a former hitting partner of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki, became WTA coach of the year in 2018 after his success with Osaka, as she rose from world No.72.
Osaka said in that interview it was clear things were not right between them during the season’s opening major.
“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.”
Osaka said she hopes to have a new coach in place by March at Indian Wells.