- Naomi Osaka on Tuesday lost her first match since splitting with her coach Sascha Bajin.
- Osaka, who won the Australian Open last month, was dumped out of the Dubai Tennis Championships in the first round.
- Osaka, who made errors and failed to build momentum, was beaten in straight sets – 6-3, 6-3 – by Kristina Mladenovic, an unseeded French player.
- Mladenovic will progress to the next round on Wednesday, with a place in the quarterfinal up for grabs. Osaka, meanwhile, has plenty of time to regroup and rethink her next move.
Naomi Osaka suffered a humiliating defeat on Tuesday in her first match since splitting from her coach Sascha Bajin.
Osaka’s shock announcement that she had parted ways with Bajin stunned the tennis world last week. The New York Times tennis journalist Ben Rothenberg said that “the reasons for the split were unclear,” describing the news as “surprising.”
Osaka and Bajin had a wildly successful ride in women’s tennis. But ahead of the Dubai Tennis Championships this week, Osaka said she left the trainer because she did not want to sacrifice her happiness.
Her first-round match against Kristina Mladenovic on Tuesday was the first time Osaka played since parting with Bajin and her first match since winning the Australian Open last month.
But for Osaka, the match on center court at the Aviation Club Tennis Center could not have gone much worse. She lost in straight sets – 6-3, 6-3 – to an unseeded athlete she was expected to beat.
It was a poor display from Osaka, who failed to build momentum, won a maximum of five points in a row compared with Mladenovic’s eight, and served five double faults.
Mladenovic was a far more competent server, with four aces and 56% first-serve points won.
Watch the winning shot, which the commentator called “a very comfortable finish” for Mladenovic:
Upsets Osaka, 6-3, 6-3! pic.twitter.com/LMr20ULEVm
— WTA (@WTA) February 19, 2019
Osaka may be a back-to-back Grand Slam champion, but Mladenovic kept her cool and secured her first win over a woman atop the world rankings.
Osaka has time to regroup before the Indian Wells Masters in California next month, while Mladenovic will progress to the next round in Dubai – she plays Carla Suarez Navarro on Wednesday, with a quarterfinal place at stake for the winner.
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