Before the start of the season, Ons Jabeur said that she’d had enough of quarterfinals and wanted to go for titles in 2021, adding that a Top 10 debut was one of her goals.

But if you asked her now, ahead of her brutally tough second-round match against 14th-seeded Elena Rybakina, she’d probably be just fine with another quarterfinal appearance, seeing as she has yet to make one in 2021.

The Kazakh and Tunisian have faced off once before—at the Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open in 2019—with Rybakina securing a 6-1, 6-7 (3), 6-2, victory. This time around, Jabeur may have the advantage and is listed as a slight -134 favorite according to the oddsmakers. After losing to Aryna Sabalenka in the Abu Dhabi quarterfinal, Rybakina has struggled to find her best tennis, failing to pass the second round in her last three tournaments.

So many of Jabeur’s matches come down to her own level of play. When she’s on, firing aces and carving drop shots, she can beat anyone in the world. When her forehand sprays and her drop shots float, she is left with what looks like far more erratic tennis.

In Wuhan, Rybakina negated Jabeur’s drop shot by hugging the baseline. Standing well over six feet tall, Rybakina doesn’t have to worry about Jabeur’s kick serve bouncing out of reach, and can take it extremely early, like she does here.

Advertising

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round

This forces Jabeur to play defense early in the point, which can lead to some poor shot selection. I’m not sure what she was going for here, but turning your back to the court is rarely a good idea.

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round

Advertising

Jabeur's drop shots are awesome when executed effectively, but attempting them (or whatever this was) off of a perfectly-struck Rybakina backhand is not the right play.

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round

But with all her miscues, Jabeur can still destroy her opponents' rhythm with plays they hardly ever see, like this drop-shot return.

Advertising

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round

On Tuesday, expect Jabeur to learn from her mistakes, and gift Rybakina fewer free points than last time. Unfortunately for the Tunisian, there are no fans in Dubai this week, but given her foe's recent form she should still have enough game to get the job done.

The Pick: Ons Jabeur

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round

The Pick: Ons Jabeur vs. Elena Rybakina, WTA Dubai second round