After announcing a parting of the ways with Dani Vallverdu, Karolina Pliskova has added Sascha Bajin to her team for the coming season, who coached Naomi Osaka to the US Open title in 2018, the year he was named WTA Coach of the Year.
Growing up reading manga/watching anime was something that bonded me and my sister immensely so this is really exciting for both of us. Naomi Osaka
Pliskova, 28, unveiled the news earlier this week on social media with a socially distanced photo that included Bajin and her fitness coach Azuz Simcich with the caption “Team Pliskova 2021”.
Bajin, who was the longtime hitting partner of Serena Williams, split with Osaka not long after she won the 2019 Australian Open.
The 36-year-old German also worked with Kristina Mladenovic in 2019 and Dayana Yastremska in 2020.
Pliskova, who has formerly been coached by Jiri Vanek, Tomas Krupa, David Kotyza, Rennae Stubbs and Conchita Martinez, hired Vallverdu for the 2020 season, and after winning the title in Brisbane and reaching the final of Rome, cited time commitment issues in her statement about their split.
The former World No 1 lost in the third round of the Australian Open and the second rounds of the US Open and Roland Garros, finishing the season ranked No 6.
Meanwhile Osaka, Japan’s three-time Grand Slam winner, has inspired a new manga character to appear in an issue of Nakayoshi magazine next month, the publishers announced on Sunday.
Osaka, who is the world’s highest paid female athlete, is a fan of both manga and anime and took to social media to welcome the character.
Her sister Mari Osaka is assisting with the character’s creation.
“Growing up reading manga/watching anime was something that bonded me and my sister immensely so this is really exciting for both of us,” Naomi Osaka wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of her character, complete with tennis racket and pink hair.
Nakayoshi said in their Tweet that the new manga, entitled ‘Unrivaled NAOMI Tenkaichi’, will be released in their December 28th magazine.
A previous attempt to depict Osaka, who has a Japanese mother and Haitian father, as a cartoon character misfired, when sponsor Nissin depicted her with pale skin and light brown hair, creating public outcry.
The noodle company removed the commercial and apologised to Osaka and said they had not intended to ‘whitewash’ her.
Japan has traditionally seen itself as a racially homogenous country, although several successful mixed-race athletes like Osaka, sprinter Asuka Cambridge and baseball pitcher Yu Darvish, are challenging that image.