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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Sunday, October 1, 2023

Wim Fissette's decision to cut the coaching cord with Qinwen Zheng to return to coach Naomi Osaka left the Chinese star in tears—and questioning the ethics of her ex-coach's exit strategy.

Speaking to the media in Beijing, Zheng said she cried when her coach told her was quitting to return to work with former world No. 1 Osaka.

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"It was quite a big impact to me and my team members and my family. I cried after hearing that," Zheng said. "There were no fights, no arguments in our collaboration.

"There was nothing new to me in this collaboration, but also he did not do anything wrong."

Zheng will be put to the test immediately at the China Open facing 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a Beijing blockbuster opener.

The player-coach dynamic can be a complicated relationship. Because players are both student and boss of the coach, it can be an uneasy alliance at times.

Zheng said she understands Fissette will earn more money coaching Osaka and must take care of his family. However, she said while she understand her former coach's decision to move on, she can't forgive him for the way he departed. Zheng believes Fissette took an unethical exit.

"I thought that was an unethical end to that collaboration," Zheng said. "I understand that Osaka can provide a better offer to him. I understand from his perspective this might be a better position. He has a family to support.

"I understand his decision, but it doesn't mean I will forgive him for making such a decision."

From Fissette's point of view, when a four-time Grand Slam champion with the game and track record of Osaka calls, of course you have to listen.

Still, Zheng said the way their partnership ended remains a sore spot.

Tennis Express

The 20-year-old Zheng, who has been touted by Grand Slam champions ranging from John McEnroe to Chrissie Evert as a potential Top 10 player, knocked off two-time Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur to reach the US Open quarterfinals.

In the aftermath of her US Open quarterfinal loss to Aryna Sabalenka, Zheng said Fissette told her he felt "no connection" anymore.

"During the US Open, I knew he had contact with the team of Osaka," Zheng said. "Right after the match [loss to Sabalenka], he said to me that he felt like he had no connection with me. He never said that to me before.

"Right after I was defeated, he said that to me. I felt very strange. I talked to my manager. I asked my manager whether he will go to Osaka's team. The manager said, no, he wouldn't be that kind of person. But after resting for a week, he suddenly told me that he was going to work with Osaka."


A post shared by Wim Fissette (@fissettewim)

Zheng said for now her fitness coach, Rob Brandsma, is also serving as her tennis coach.

"I started working with him after the US Open. I think he's a very successful fitness coach," Zheng said of Brandsma. "He knows when to add more items in my practice, when to lessen the items in my practice.

"He's also taking up the role of a tennis coach because I thought that is quite ideal for me. People are usually opposed to such an idea, having a fitness coach working as your tennis coach.

"During the match, in the critical moments, I would also look to my team members. I actually did that during the Asian Games. I really recognize him as a true member of my team, someone I can rely on."

Photo credit: Robert Prange/Getty