Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina:
Who Can Force the Other to Play Defense?
Ons Jabeur has incredible hands and touch on both her approach shots and volleys. This puts a certain amount of pressure on an opponent. She also has the ability to “inject pace” (borrowed phrase from Howard Bryant) in what seem to be neutral baseline rallies. Again this puts pressure on an opponent.
Elena Rybakina is a pure power player. Grass courts typically reward powerful serves and the low bounces also make other big shots in a rally more deadly.
Both players are offense-first tennis players, even if I would categorize Jabeur as patiently aggressive and Rybakina as more of a let-it-rip player. Even with their stylistic differences, both players prefer to be the aggressor.
This leads me to the conclusion that the player who can dictate play more often than not will likely win the 2022 Wimbledon championships.
Defense to Offense
Jabeur has the luxury of having a more well-rounded game. Grass courts will reward her slice backhands. Jabeur’s plan A is to dictate, but plan B should be to absorb Rybakina’s power and redirect it with low bouncing shots that reverse the dynamic of as many points as possible. Jabeur’s ability to more easily alter the tennor of points should make her the favorite.
Recent Scores Suggest Nerves
Jabeur is the #2 player in the world and the favorite. That is not an easy place to be heading into a first grand slam final for both competitors. Her recent three-set matches in the quarter and semifinal suggest some nerves and a degree of needing to figure things out on the court. If Rybakina’s play forces a rushed sense of the match collapsing around Jabeur by grabbing a lead and hitting a lot of devastating shots, the time to figure things out during the match might appear to not exist for Jabeur.
If this were just Match A or Match B, I’d give Jabeur a better than 60% chance at winning. This is the Wimbledon final. If being the underdog gives Rybakina a sense of having nothing to lose, Elena may simply swing freely and overpower Ons. It is hard to know how either player will react to being in a first major final, but my guess is the underdog will be more relaxed. That aspect pushes this match much closer to a 50-50 proposition.
Elena Rybakina just overpowered a great counter-puncher and former champion. A straight-set win over Simona Halep would help anyone’s confidence. She is the taller and more powerful player on a surface that tends to reward power. This surface also rewards touch and great hands at the net.
I’ve gone back and forth in my head on this, but I think if Jabeur can keep just enough shots out of Rybakina’s preferred striking zones that she will win Wimbledon as the #3 seed and #2 player in the world.
My Prediction: Ons Jabeur d. Elena Rybakina 6-4, 2-6, 6-4