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By Richard Pagliaro | Tuesday, August 2, 2022


Former world No. 1 Naomi Osaka launches her return in San Jose with a familiar face, her father, Leonard François, as head coach.

Photo credit: Getty

Reconnecting with her roots, Naomi Osaka has reunited with her father as coach.

The former world No. 1 launches her tournament return in San Jose today where she faces Qinwen Zheng. Osaka told the media in San Jose her father and original coach, Leonard François, has returned as her "head coach."

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Leonard François, who succeeds Wim Fissette as coach, has been in San Jose helping his daughter train for her return.

Osaka said her father's positive energy and his lifelong knowledge of her game were primary reasons she sought him out as coach.

"I really wanted him to come back because he helps me think differently," Naomi Osaka told the media in San Jose. :When I have dark thoughts, he knows how to help me see things in a more positive way. When I'm stressed, he starts dancing, things like that, to make me feel better and think about something else.

"It's good to have him by my side, it reminds me of when I was still a child. Currently, yes, he is my head coach. That is the title I give it."

Last month, veteran coach Fissette announced his split from Osaka in an Instagram post. 

"It has been a privilege to coach Naomi since 2019 and see her grow into the champion she has become," Fissette said. "She has inspired a whole new generation to fall in love with the game & to speak up for what they believe in and it’s been incredible to play a part in that journey.

"Thank you @naomiosaka I wish you all the best and looking forward to my next chapter."

The 41st-ranked Osaka said it was an amicable parting and shared she needed "a different kind of energy."

"We had a really good time together and he's a great coach," Osaka said of Fissette. "He is a very ambitious person. I was injured and I felt he really wanted to be at Wimbledon. We were on two different wave lengths, but he's really a cool guy.

"We didn't part on bad terms, but I needed a different kind of energy."

This isn't the first time father and daughter have reunited to work together.

Following her 2019 US Open fourth-round exit, Osaka asked Leonard François to coach her during the Asian swing.

The pair enjoyed immediate success as Osaka captured back-to-back championships in her hometown of Osaka and in Beijing where she rallied past world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty to extend her winning streak to 10 matches.

Despite their success, Osaka said back in 2019 her father would not be her full-time coach for one simple reason.

Dad gets too tight watching her play.

"He's always there, you know. But I don't think he can handle it," Osaka said of her father back in 2019. "Like, not even just saying this, but he doesn't like watching my matches. I think it stresses him out because he, like, twitches every time I hit a ball.

"He said he'll take the [coaching] role very seriously, but I don't think it's a long-term thing.”

Osaka, who previously worked with Sascha Bajin and Jermaine Jenkins before Fissette, credits her father, who often wears mirrored sunglasses while sitting in her support box, as being a positive presence who keeps things simple.

“The thing with my dad is he keeps it very simple," Osaka said. "He knows my personality because, like, he's my dad.

"Most of the time he doesn't even really say anything. He just waits for me to figure it out."


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