“Great Thinker on the Court”: Coach Credits Mindset for Naomi Osaka’s Run to Australian Open 2021 Final

Published 02/19/2021, 5:30 AM EST
Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, February 18, 2021 Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her semi final match against Serena Williams of the U.S. REUTERS/Loren Elliott


Former Belgian tennis player and Naomi Osaka’s coach, Wim Fissette, has lavished praise on the current World Number 3, calling her a “thinker on the court.” After dropping her opening service game in the semifinal on Thursday, Naomi Osaka dished out tennis of the highest order to outclass 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and reach the Australian Open final.

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Coach says Osaka’s positive mindset stood out in her semis win over Serena

Fissette said that it was not just the positive “mindset” of the Japanese star but also her on-court smarts that have been paying rich dividends for her in the tournament and have now put her in sight of her fourth Grand Slam title.

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The Belgian’s association with Osaka since 2019 has already bred success in the form of the second US Open title that Osaka won last year.

Tennis – Australian Open – Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia, Japan’s Naomi Osaka in action during her semi final match against Serena Williams of the U.S. REUTERS/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake

The coach said that a player is often overcome by the fear of losing when it comes to battling the biggest stars in the game, but this is where his pupil rolls up her sleeves and plays some of her best tennis.

“But her mindset is just looking at the positives like, ‘This is what I train for. This is the moment where I want to play my best tennis,’” said the Belgian, who has previously worked with the likes of two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka and current World Number 2 Simona Halep.

Coach reveals Naomi Osaka was as excited as kids in a toy store to play Serena

Revealing Osaka’s state of mind going into the last-four clash against Serena, Fissette said, “Naomi was excited before the match. She was like when I bring my kids to the toy store, you know?”

Praising Osaka’s on-court strategies against Serena, Fissette pointed out how she sensed the American’s weakening forehand returns in the second set and decided to target her serves in that direction.

Calling her game sense and match awareness as “the best thing about Naomi,” the Belgian said, “She’s a big server, she’s a big hitter, but she’s a lot more than that. She’s also a great thinker on the court.”

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The 39-year-old American wilted and was forced into making unforced errors in the face of the pressure that was brought to bear by Osaka.

What also stood out about Osaka’s game in the last-four clash was how she pushed Serena into a corner with her deep cross-court and down-the-line shots and followed up with sumptuous winners down the open court.

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The Japanese star will take on 25-year-old American Jennifer Brady in the title clash on Saturday.

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Priyabrata Chowdhury

858 articles

Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.

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