DUBAI, UAE - World No.1 Naomi Osaka says she'll begin her search for a new coach in earnest after this week's Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The top seed in Dubai spoke to reporters at WTA All Access Hour on Sunday, and addressed her recent split with coach Sascha Bajin, which she announced by Twitter last week.
The 21-year-old said her decision to part ways with the 2018 WTA Coach of the Year had been brewing since Melbourne. Despite the discord, Osaka would go on to win her second consecutive major at the Australian Open and become the youngest debut WTA No.1 in nearly nine years.
"I think during Australian Open, I was just trying to tell myself to get through it," Osaka said. "I'm not sure, but I think you guys noticed.
"Everyone thinks it was a money-related issue, but it wasn't. For me, that's one of the most hurtful things I've ever heard. I travel with everyone on my team, I see them more than my family. I would never do that to them.
"I'm not going to say anything bad about him because, of course, I'm really grateful for all the things that he's done. I wouldn't come here and say anything bad."
Read more: 2019 Coaching Carousel
Osaka said the primary reason for the decision was to change the energy on her team. Referencing two particularly low moments from the Volvo Car Open last spring and the China Open last fall, Osaka said she put more value in her personal happiness than on-court success.
"The biggest thing is I don't want myself to think to be successful I have to put success over happiness, because if I'm not happy being around certain people I'm not going to torture myself," Osaka told WTA Insider. "Especially since Charleston and Beijing and stuff. So I'd rather just surround myself with people that I really like and that truly care about me and are just really positive. I think I've been able to do that.
"If I'm not waking up every day happy to practice and happy to be around the people I'm around, this is my life. I'm not going to sacrifice that just to keep a person around. I have to be happy with where I am at my life. I feel like I worked really hard - maybe not for 21 years, but for 17 years - to be No.1 and to win Grand Slams."
"Everyone around me is really good at change and adapting. You kind of have to do that to be around me. If you're not then it gets a little bit tough. Everyone around me was really supportive and I'm just really grateful I have smart people around me."
This week, Osaka is set to play her first tournament since overtaking Simona Halep at World No.1. She will also be playing as the top seed at a WTA tournament for the first time in her career.
"I'm happy just getting into the tournament and having a bye," Osaka said with a laugh. "Having a bye to me is, like, the biggest deal.
"Other than that I just want to do well at every tournament I play. That was my goal after the US Open and I'm just going to try and continue with that mindset."
"Of course this tournament, the next few tournaments are going to be very important to me. Indian Wells is coming up. I know that I have to defend that. But, of course, one of my biggest goals is just to have fun.
"I think I'm in a really good position right now. Last year I wasn't even in the top 50, and now I'm No. 1. One of the biggest things is to just have fun with everything you're doing, and I'm really happy to be here now."
Osaka says she hopes to have a full-time coach in place by the time she gets to the BNP Paribas Open. As she sets out to find a new coach, Osaka once again emphasized positivity.
"[The most important thing for me is] just to have a positive mindset," Osaka said. "I don't want someone that's in the box saying negative stuff. That would be the worst.
"Yeah, someone that's kind of direct, not afraid to say things to my face. I'd rather someone say it directly to me than go around my back. That's one of the biggest things."
This week in Dubai she is accompanied by her father, fitness coach Abdul Sillah, physio Kristy Starr, and Japan Tennis Federation coach Masashi Yoshikawa.
"Yoshikawa-san is not really my coach-coach," Osaka said. "He's just been helping me since I was 16. He's one of the people that knows my game the most. He's always around at certain tournaments, he's always helping.
"I thought it would be a good idea for him to come here since I'm sort of stuck right now. This is the one tournament that I think I need someone around that's very helpful."
Since making the decision to split with Bajin, Osaka says she's already felt an uplift.
"Compared to Australia, I feel really happy now," Osaka said. "That's the funny thing because I heard some people saying I looked really sad in Australia every day.
"I feel really happy, especially since Indian Wells and Miami coming up I'm really looking forward to that. This is my third time here, so I actually want to explore Dubai more.
"Of course doing well here is one of my biggest goals but at the same time I'm sort of in a transition period. I'm just looking forward to what the future holds."