Naomi Osaka is at the centre of another coaching storm after it emerged that a bitter ex-mentor was suing the tennis star for millions of dollars.
The World No.1 surprised the tennis world when she parted with coach Sascha Bajin shortly after winning the Australian Open and taking the top spot in the world.
Now Osaka has a new issue with another former coach, who is taking legal action against the Japanese superstar.
Christophe Jean coached Osaka and her sister Mari when the siblings were teenagers in 2011, and claims that he is entitled to a 20 percent cut of their prize money for an “indefinite” period.
The former mentor says he entered into a contract with Osaka’s father Leonard Francois (also known as Max) and according to court documents lodged in the United States, is seeking more than $2.8 million in compensation.
“I didn’t want to do this, but the last time I talked with Max he told me to go get a lawyer,” Jean told Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.
“So I got a lawyer.”
Osaka has brought in a high-profile lawyer of her own, with New York-based Alex Spiro – the man who got former NFL star Aaron Hernandez acquitted of a double homicide – confident his client has little to answer for.
“While it comes as no surprise that Naomi’s meteoric rise as an international icon and inspiration would lead to some false claim, this silly ‘contract’ that Naomi never saw or signed — which purports to give away part of herself at the age of 14 — is particularly absurd,” Spiro said in a statement.
“This case has no merit and we will move past it.”
Osaka is yet to comment publicly on the law suit but says she’s glad to have moved on from the original issue with her former coach, Bajin.
The 21-year-old says she’s confident that her decision to bring American coach Jermaine Jenkins into her team is working out, despite crashing out in the fourth round of her Indian Wells defence.
“I think it’s always a bit tricky whenever you change someone in the team, but I feel like for a first tournament we did really well,” she said of her partnership with Jenkins, a former US collegiate star who served as a hitting partner to Venus Williams from 2015 until the end of last season.
“We communicate well. So I think that’s a really big plus. I don’t think it’s going to be difficult. I think that we are all sort of on the same page, and we are all looking forward to Miami,” she said.
“Yeah, I think it should be good.”