It didn’t take long for Naomi Osaka to shift her focus to the grass season after her narrow loss to eventual champion Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros. With five years since her last appearance on grass courts, Osaka faces the challenge of making up for lost time.

But she's ready to tackle this campaign with renewed energy and determination.

“I’m kind of taking it as this is my first year on grass,” the former World No.1 said in ‘s-Hertogenbosch earlier this month. 

After a few days of practice in Mallorca, Osaka made a notable quarterfinal run in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and battled through a narrow three-set defeat in Berlin. These results have given Osaka and her team valuable insights into her grass-court potential. Now, returning to Wimbledon for the first time in a half-decade, she is ready to turn over a new leaf.  

“The goals when she came back [from maternity leave] were to do much better on the clay and on the grass,” Osaka’s coach, Wim Fissette, told ahead of her opener against Diane Parry on Monday. 

“After Paris she felt like, ‘Hey, I can really mean something in the future on the clay,’ and she definitely took that confidence to the grass.”

All four of Osaka’s Grand Slam titles have come on hard courts, and while Fissette admits that will always be her favorite surface, he is placing no limits on Osaka’s capabilities on clay and grass moving forward. 

“For me it’s like Naomi was competing to win one of the two hard-court Slams in her first career,” Fissette said. “I believe in the future, in the next five years, she will compete to win one of the four Grand Slams.”

“We will go to all the Slams now where we believe we have a chance. And although we know that probably grass is going to be more difficult than hard court, we believe, and she believes more and more, she can be an all-round player.”

Osaka has many tools that would make her a serious threat on grass, and she said after her first win in ‘s-Hertogenbosch she felt more confident in her serve on grass than on any other surface. Combining her big serve and powerful groundstrokes with the right movement will be the key toward unlocking her true potential on the turf. 

“It’s actually funny because in our first training in Mallorca, five minutes before the training, she said to Flo [Florian Zitzelsberger], our physio, ‘Should we tape my knees?’ And he was like, ‘Why should we do that?’” Fissette said. 

“She said, ‘Just for the movement, and I can fall.’ He was like, ‘Just slide, come on, let’s go, now we’re going to slide.’ So they were doing drills to slide and actually for her, the most important is to feel comfortable with her movement and to feel confident. And even if she falls, that it doesn’t matter.”

Osaka is 14-13 lifetime on grass at tour level, and she’s never made it past the third round in any of her previous three appearances at the All England Club. 

Ahead of this Wimbledon fortnight, the 26-year-old Osaka lost a third-set tiebreak to Bianca Andreescu in one grass-court event and fell 6-3 in the third to Zheng Qinwen in the other. 

There have been seven different Wimbledon champions in women’s singles in the past seven editions of the tournament.

Fissette and Osaka spend a lot of time watching footage of other players, with games similar to Osaka’s, as reference points. During the clay season, they paid attention to how a big hitter like Elena Rybakina competed on the red dirt, a surface she was successful on, despite not being a natural clay-courter. 

On grass, they have several options to draw inspiration from, but the solution remains on Osaka’s racquet. 

“In the past it was big hitters that won [Wimbledon], or like very good movers, like Angelique Kerber or Simona Halep,” Fissette said. “Or the big serves like Serena, Rybakina. It’s always you have to make for yourself the best plan.”

Fissette has extensive coaching experience and was in Kerber’s corner when she won Wimbledon in 2018. He also helped guide Kim Clijsters to three Grand Slam titles after she had her first child and was on Team Osaka during her triumphs at the 2020 US Open and 2021 Australian Open. 

“I think for me, he’s probably the best coach I’ve ever had, for sure,” Osaka said of Fissette earlier this month. “Honestly, I have a lot of really good things to say about Wim. He’s a super nice guy. He coaches me in a way that, I think we both understand each other well. I’m not the type that constantly wants someone in my ear. I like to figure things out. 

“He kind of knows that and keeps it in my pace. It’s kind of rare for me to find someone that I click with well, and I’m glad he’s sticking around.”