Ons Jabuer v Elena Rybakina
There will be a new name on the Venus Rosewater dish come Saturday evening, with Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina to each contest their first Wimbledon final.
It is an event that will make history, with both women into their maiden Grand Slam showpiece and Jabeur seeking to become the first Arab women in history to win a major title. Rybakina, meanwhile, carries the hopes of Kazakhstan, who have never had a winner of such an event either.
Jabuer, who began the tournament as the No.3 seed but second favourite to Iga Swiatek to go all the way, begins as favourite, but the No.17 seed Rybakina has, of course, been in impressive form to go so deep into the tournament.
Certainly, Rybakina’s success over Simona Halep in the semi-finals is a warning shot to Jabeur. Against an opponent who is known for her ability to get the ball in play, her big hitting was simply too much as she ran out a comfortable winner.
The Tunisian, meanwhile, was given the awkward challenge of playing one of her closest friends, the unseeded Tatjana Maria. Both players know each other intimately, and that made for a closer match than might have been expected between players ranked 3 and 103 respectively in the WTA Ranking.
But Jabeur sweeps into the final off the back of a long winning streak and has more big-match experience than her opponent, who had only been in the second week of a Grand Slam twice before this week and who has just two relatively minor WTA titles to her credit.
Ons Jabeur to Win
Throughout the fortnight, Jabeur has looked in imperious form. She has dropped only a couple of sets to reach this point, and her response to this adversity has been formidable. Indeed, after allowing these sets to slide, she has bounced back on each occasion to win 6-1.
This has typified her form throughout the grass court season, in which she has won 11 matches from 11, losing only three sets. Although she has had a comparatively straightforward run at Wimbledon – she has faced only one seed in the form of Elise Mertens – she has already overcome Top 40 opponents Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Coco Gauff and Belinda Bencic on the surface this year.
Rybakina, meanwhile, has not been quite so sternly examined. Simona Halep is the only Top 40 opponent she has had to face on her journey, although the manner in which she dispatched the dangerous Romanian 6-3, 6-3 means she deserves respect. Her second-round win over Bianca Andreescu, who is slowly coming back to fitness, was another impressive victory.
Jabeur, meanwhile, is more used to the big stage, which will surely be a factor on Saturday. Her victory in Madrid’s WTA 1000 event was the biggest of her career and was followed by a run to the final of Rome, where she suffered one of just two losses in her last 24 matches. Her form is not only good, it is sustained and has been tested at a high level. With Rybakina having lost her last four finals, there is little doubt that the edge is with the African.
Both Players to Win a Set
The history between these two players points to this match being a close battle. Jabeur has the edge 2-1 in the head-to-head but their previous meetings have invariably been close, albeit all three were on hard courts. Rybakina took the first in Wuhan in 2019 before Jabeur hit back in 2021 by winning in Dubai. Another tight encounter was shaping up in the semi-finals of Chicage before Rybakina had to pull out injured.
In their two completed matches, Jabeur and Rybakina have played 28 games and 31 games, pointing to another lengthy contest at the All England club on Sunday.
This would be in keeping with Jabeur’s recent matches. In each of her last three encounters, she has played a minimum of 23 games. Against Mertens, she won two tight sets, then against both Marie Bouzkova and Maria, she ran out a relatively comfortable winner after dropping a set.
Rybakina, meanwhile, has played at least 23 games in four of her six matches over the fortnight, with her semi-final against Halep being by far the quickest encounter of her tournament. Incredibly, she has been sucked into these lengthy games despite dropping only one set throughout the competition. She has produced clutch moments to edge sets, which have often been long and gruelling.
At least One Tiebreak
Rybakina’s tendency to be involved in lengthy sets, meanwhile, means that the likelihood of a tiebreak is increased substantially. She has already played three at Wimbledon this year, winning each of them. Meanwhile, another five sets have been won either 6-4 or 7-5.
Jabeur, meanwhile, has only played one tiebreak but is likely to be sucked into a tighter game against an opponent who is serving impressively. Rybakina, for example, hit 71% of her first serves in versus Halep and won 70% of these points. Against one of the best returners in the women’s game – who admittedly had an off day – she gave up just a single break point. Indeed, the Kazak has been serving better and better throughout the tournament.
Although Jabeur has not been serving as big as Rybakina, her greater variety, touch and use of spin should give her the edge when the ball is in play, negating this disadvantage and helping her to win points when she has the delivery.
Indeed, the history between these players suggests this will be the case. In each of their two completed matches, there has been a tiebreak. Jabeur has had the edge in each of these shootouts, winning the first 7-3 in Wuhan before battling to the second in Dubai 8-6. Such an edge could prove crucial on Sunday.
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How to watch Wimbledon?
📅 When is Day 13 of Wimbledon? / Saturday, 9th July 2022 from 2:00pm
🏟 Where is Day 13 of Wimbledon? / All England Tennis Club (London)
📺 What TV channel is Day 13 of Wimbledon on? / BBC One/BBC Two