SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Naomi Osaka says she's healthy and feeling positive ahead of her first-round match at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic. The four-time major champion withdrew from the grass season after picking up an Achilles injury during the clay swing and now set to play her first tournament since Roland Garros and first on hard court since making the final at the Miami Open this spring.
San Jose will also be Osaka's first tournament since her decision to split with coach Wim Fissette. The duo had a successful two-year partnership, one in which Osaka won her third and fourth majors, at the 2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open.
"It was really good times with Wim and he's a really amazing coach," Osaka told reporters at Media Day in San Jose. "We didn't part on bad terms. I just felt I needed different energy, and at the same time, he's a very ambitious guy. I was getting injured and I'm sure he would have wanted to go to Wimbledon.
"So it was two different mindsets, I would say. But he's a really cool guy still. So confirming that there were no bad things happening."
Osaka will not be coachless during the summer hard-court season. She brought her father, Leonard Francois, who served as her primary coach until the 2018 season, back into the fold.
"I wanted to bring my dad back because he always makes me think outside the box," Osaka said. "Whenever I think something is really bad he always makes me realize that things are much more positive than they seem. When I get stressed out he starts dancing or something to make me feel better.
"So it's just nice to have him around and it makes me remember the times when I was a kid. For right now, he would be my main coach. I would give him that title."
hahah I remember thinking that was the best day of my life 😭 https://t.co/SCJoYr6wnk— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) July 22, 2022
Osaka will face talented teenager Zheng Qinwen in the first round. This is Osaka's first appearance at the Bay Area tournament since it moved from Stanford University to San Jose State University. Osaka made her debut on the Hologic WTA Tour at the 2014 edition and won her first tour match. Ranked outside the Top 400, the then 16-year-old future star qualified and upset Samantha Stosur in the first round.
From getting her first win to meeting Serena Williams to doing her first press conference, Osaka recalls the experience being overwhelming. Eight years on, she looked back and marveled at what eventually grew out of that week in Stanford.
"I just would like to have fun and I know I say that very often, basically every tournament for the last year now, but to genuinely have fun," Osaka said. "I was telling my dad literally this morning when we were practicing in the rain, years ago we would have to fight to practice on public courts. It was just me and my sister and my dad alone.
"Now I've gotten to the point where people pay to watch me play, and for that I am very grateful. I would have never imagined that as a child. Just having fun and being grateful in the moment and trying to engage with everyone to the best of my abilities."