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The coach of Naomi Osaka, Sascha Bajin, says she and Serena Williams have similar games but very different personalities.
Bajin is the former hitting partner of Williams, and began working with Osaka in 2017. The 20-year-old has reached the semifinals at the US Open, crushing most of her opponents.
“They really are different people, because the only similarity they have is that they have the same hair, big hair,” Bajin said with a laugh. “I believe that they want to play the same. They are very powerful, big servers, big hitters, both of them. But even on court, Serena is very aggressive, and Naomi, I have to push her to get a fist pump out of her.
"Off court, too, Naomi is a little bit more reserved, just a little bit more shy. When I was with Serena, she was a little bit more outgoing. On court she's more of a boss, kind of like, than Naomi is now."
Bajin would like Osaka to have more of Williams's competitive fire on court.
"We are all, in the team, working hard to make sure that Naomi one day might own the court like Serena," he said "I really, really, really hope Serena makes it to the finals here and I hope that we do. That would be beautiful.”
The Japanese player had a fine start to the season, including winning Indian Wells, where she defeated Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep and Daria Kasatkina to win the title.
But Osaka seemed weighed down by the pressure that followed her title run, and did not go deep at any events until the US Open.
According to her coach, she has changed her approach and is embracing the occasion.
“She's playing smarter now,” Bajin said. “But she's just matured a lot on court. A beautiful display was [in the fourth round against Aryna] Sabalenka where she's down three match points, trying to push the forehand return in, misses two of them, then goes back to deuce and attacks her second serve, gets that point, and ultimately earned match point. Sabalenka double-faulted, earned the match with putting pressure on. So these are the little things that I love watching and seeing how she progresses.
"I believe that Naomi is one of those individuals who really craves the big stage.”
Bajin has also worked with Victoria Azarenka and Caroline Wozniacki on the WTA tour.
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