By Megan Wilson
Bradford born Francesca Jones has reached her first Grand Slam tournament main draw after thrashing Chinas Lu Jaijing 6-0 6-1 in her final round of qualifying in Dubai. She will make her debut Grand slam appearance at the Australian Open in February. The 20-year-old rising star was born with a rare condition, ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, leaving her with three fingers and one thumb on each of her hands, as well as three toes on her left foot and four on her right.
At eight years old Jones was told by doctors that she would never make it as a professional tennis player, news many would have been disheartened by. However, after being accepted into the Sanches-Casal Academy in Barcelona when she was just nine, Jones was determined to rise above expectations and push the boundaries despite her condition.
To facilitate her playing, she uses a lighter racket and a smaller grip, but her main focus has been maintaining a strong physicality to prevent injuries (Jones has had over 10 surgeries already by the age of 20). Her off-court training has included lots of work centred around balance and technique, as well as strengthening up parts of her body and enhancing her movement so she can compete at the highest level.
With her three qualifying wins in Dubai, Jones will rise to No. 217 in the WTA ranking, surpassing her current career-high of No. 241 in the world. Despite only ever facing one top 100 player before in her career, Jones will jet off to Australia where she will quarantine for fourteen days prior to the event, to face the likes of Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep.
In recent days, Jones has received a huge amount of praise, admiration and media attention, with Judy Murray adding her support on Twitter, echoing the voice of the nation.
She says that mental resilience has always been her most valuable asset, often giving her the edge over many of her opponents. She credits this to the experiences she been through, using her syndrome to an advantage and channelling her differences has positively impacted her game and ability.
With her rise in the rankings and Grand Slam debut, Jones aims to inspire others to believe in their ability, regardless of people’s assumptions or limits put upon you. This week, she has well and truly proved the doctor wrong.
Image: si.robi via Wikimedia commons