Francesca Jones Defying the Odds

Francesca Jones
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Francesca Jones qualified for the 2021 Australian Open in the United Arab Emirates, where the qualifying was held due to COVID-19.

The young Brit had been one of the lowest ranked players in qualifying. She only made the event due to other players withdrawing. Jones defeated Lu Jiajing in the final round to book her place in her first ever Grand Slam main draw.

Who is Francesca Jones?

Francesca Jones was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire and will celebrate her 21st birthday in September. Jones is the current British No.5. Born with the rare genetic condition Ectrodactyly-Ectodermal Dysplasia, the Brit has three fingers and a thumb on both hands, four toes on her left foot and three toes on her right foot.

This resulted in balance problems and difficulty gripping tennis racquets. Doctors advised her to give up on her dreams, as she would never play professional tennis in their mind.

Jones left Britain at the age of nine, training at the Sanchez Casale Academy until the age of 16. The young Brit has featured on the ITF circuit. During the interrupted 2020 season, Jones played many events. Her best placing were semifinals, the last being in Istanbul at the end of October.

Qualifying Run

Heading to Abu Dhabi for Australian Open qualifying, the young Brit could not even be sure she would participate. Her ranking of 241 meant she was on the alternate list. Fortunately, for Jones withdrawals meant that she landed a place in the draw.

When the draw was made, however, it did not look good for Jones. Her first round opponent was Romanian Monica Niculescu, who was also the 28th seed. The Brit was not intimidated and took out the seed in straight sets, barely losing a game. Jones won the first round of qualifying 6-2 6-3.

The second round saw the Brit against Jana Fett. The Croatian pushed Jones hard in the first set, taking it to a tiebreak. In the breaker Fett kept the pressure on, but Jones showed the determination that is referred to in her county of birth as “Yorkshire grit” to edge the breaker.

Fett managed to regroup, as Jones’ level dropped and the Croatian strolled through the second set. Jones though fought back in the final set, and once again proved the Yorkshire grit to move into the final round of qualifying 7-6(9) 2-6 6-1.

The final qualifying round saw the Brit against Lu Jiajing. The Chinese player barely got any time on the court as in just over an hour the Brit had dominated the match. Jones lost only one game, and she appeared annoyed to have done that. She took the match 6-0 6-1 to qualify for a Grand Slam main draw for the first time.

Seeing condition as a positive

Jones spoke to the press after qualifying and was asked if she had ever reached a low point due to her condition. She responded “I wouldn’t say I’ve ever reached a low point due to my syndrome. I stand by what I’ve said previously which is I try and use it as a positive and I see it as an advantage in many ways.”

The Brit had also doubted if she would be able to take to the court leading up to the first match, stating that “Before the first few days before my match, I was speaking to my coach and I was saying that my fingers had actually split from the cold in the UK and I couldn’t hold the racket too well on my forehand side.

“The forehand is my best shot so I had a wee mental breakdown before the match to be honest. It was a few days before the match and my fingers were still cut and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to take advantage of my weapon.”

Jones has now flown to Australia and should be taking part in the first Grand Slam of the year. What is not clear, however, is if the event will still go ahead having been thrown into turmoil with news that 47 players are self-isolating after passengers on the charter flights from USA and Dubai tested positive for the virus.

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