Jones defies doctors to reach Australian Open

Britain's Francesca Jones playing girls' doubles at Wimbledon in 2016. She was accepted into the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona when she was 10.
Britain's Francesca Jones playing girls' doubles at Wimbledon in 2016. She was accepted into the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona when she was 10.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

DUBAI • Britain's Francesca Jones, who suffers from a rare genetic condition, reached her maiden Grand Slam main draw yesterday when she beat China's Lu Jiajing in the final round of Australian Open qualifying in Dubai.

Jones has ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, a condition which meant she was born with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on her right foot and four toes on her left.

The 20-year-old was told by doctors as a child that she would not be able to pursue a professional tennis career due to her physical disadvantages.

"When someone does say to you at eight, nine years old that you can't do something, I suppose most people would be heartbroken, but I just tried to take it on the chin and see how I could prove that person wrong," she told the BBC.

The world No. 241, who finds balance to be the biggest shortcoming due to her condition, has since overcome the odds and added a new chapter to her story yesterday when she beat China's Lu 6-0, 6-1 to book her ticket to Melbourne.

"I'm just super happy to qualify and really looking forward to getting out to Australia," said Jones, who has had over 10 surgeries.

"I've never been before and I'm sure it's going to be an amazing experience.

"I guess any draw for me would be a fascinating one. I look forward to any match I'll play, whether it'll be Serena Williams or another qualifier."

She will now board a chartered flight to Melbourne where the players will serve a mandatory 14-day quarantine before warm-up events start on Jan 31 before the Australian Open.

Also joining the Briton on that flight will be Italy's former world No. 5 Sara Errani.

The 33-year-old, ranked No. 131, booked her spot for the Feb 8-21 Grand Slam at Melbourne Park with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 win over Croatian Ana Konjuh in the final round of qualifying.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Jones defies doctors to reach Australian Open'. Print Edition | Subscribe