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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Monday, October 2, 2023

Keep your eye on the ball is a timeless tennis adage. 

Surveying the WTA trialing performance byes, Ons Jabeur sees a ball of confusion.

More: Djokovic Captures 24th Grand Slam Title

Fresh off winning her first career hard-court title in Ningbo, Jabeur was asked her reaction to performance byes—a trial system where players receive a bye based on their performance at a prior tournament rather than the traditional seeding-based byes—by the media in Beijing.

The two-time Wimbledon finalist calls the system "really, really confusing" and said the schedule is a bit out of whack as well.

"The rules about the performance bye are really, really confusing," Jabeur told the media in Beijing. "For me, I wish I had a performance bye from Ningbo. If it's allowed to give from 500 to 1000, then it's allowed to give from a 250 to a 1000.

"I think the schedule should be better. We shouldn't have a tournament in Mexico, then Tokyo, then Tokyo to here. At least Tokyo to here is better."

Jabeur's comments come a day after world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka slammed performance byes as absurd.

"I knew they sent this email earlier, that everyone knows about this performance bye, but I kind of like didn't get it," Sabalenka said after she swept Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-2, in her Beijing opener. "I thought it was like extra byes. I don't understand that. Players getting byes from playing semifinals on the lower tournament, they getting bye on 1000 tournament, I don't get it.

"I think you have to own these byes. You have to own it by consistency of your game, not just by playing good at one tournament, then you get this advantage. No, you have to deserve it. I don't understand that. I don't agree with that."

Tennis Express

Australian Open champion Sabalenka said she agreed with 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, who ripped the Tour for not adequately explaining performance byes to some players. Rybakina learned of the peformance byes when she arrived in Tokyo last week and subsequently withdrew from the Toray Pan Pacific Open citing an illness.

"Even though I came to Tokyo couple of days, everybody saw me, no one told me about this, that it might happen. So this is first thing," Rybakina told the media in Beijing. "I don't think it was good to put this rule just in end of the season because we had many events like this. I don't think that it looks nice, that world No. 1 doesn't have a bye.

"But this is something to discuss with the players and see how the rule is going to be in the future because it wasn't here for four years, and that's why many players, maybe younger players like Coco, maybe she didn't know also about this. Which, as I said, it's not that difficult to explain how it's going to work. That's why many players are not happy."

Jabeur offered two suggestions for the Tour:

1. If you're going to add performance byes, then keep the traditional seeded bye system and

2. Communicate clearly to players any rule changes in advance before they take place.

"I feel like if they're going to do performance byes, they should keep normal byes maybe, yeah, and explain better the rules for sure," Jabeur said. "I think we didn't have any explanation on that. For me, honestly I thought I had a bye in Ningbo to start with and I didn't.

"Yeah, it is frustrating. I do understand the point of Elena, and hopefully we can find a solution about it with the WTA and avoid this happening. Definitely clear the rules once for all."

Photo credit: Rob Newell/CameraSport