Francesca Jones, who suffers from ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, is ready and primed to make main draw debut at Australian Open; “I do have big ambitions but I’m sharing probably a big objective with the rest of the players that are in this draw,” says the 20-year-old
By Raz Mirza
Britain’s Francesca Jones says she is ready to fulfill her potential after being handed a first-round date with big-hitting Shelby Rogers at the Australian Open.
The British No 5 was born with a congenital condition that means she only has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on one foot and four toes on the other but that has not let that stand in the way of her burgeoning tennis career.
“I want to be persistent. I want to just give everything I can, and if the result is not what I set it out to be, at least I won’t have regrets,” Jones says when discussing overcoming the odds.
Ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome is a rare genetic condition which often affects the fingers and toes and often requires adaptive surgery specially-adapted racket. The 20-year-old from Bradford often requires extra treatment because of the way she moves around the court.
And after making it through three rounds of qualifying Jones has since spent two weeks in quarantine and played her first tour-level match, losing 6-1 6-3 to French Open semi-finalist Nadia Podoroska.
She is now ready to make her Grand Slam main draw debut against 60th-ranked American Rogers.
“This is new territory for me, so it’s quite nice to be kind of the dark horse here,” Jones said during her press-conference in Melbourne on Friday.
“Ultimately I think I’m an uncomfortable draw for many players, and I’ll do my best to take advantage of the rhythm that I’ve created so far.
“I’m here to put my best game on the court and see where that takes me. Shelby is a great player, a lot of experience, and I guess most people would say I’m a young gun coming in with nothing to lose. It’s going to be a great matchup and a great match to play.”
While her condition left her needing several surgeries, the world No 245 does not see it as a disadvantage to her game and instead, tries to use it as a positive.
Jones receives support from her physios in Barcelona where she has been based for the last 10 years. She is also conscious about looking after her body due to the deficiencies caused by her syndrome, but she has never doubted her ability on the court.
“It would be unrealistic for me to sit here and say that I’ve had doubts that I would become a professional tennis player, but I have never doubted that I would be a professional tennis player as a result of my syndrome,” continued Jones.
“I have doubted that I would be a professional tennis player as a result of my ability, as a result of my serve, my forehand, my backhand, the doubts that every professional tennis player encounters on their journey to the top.
“I have never doubted that I will give up. I want to be persistent. I want to just give everything I can, and if the result is not what I set it out to be, at least I won’t have regrets.”
The Briton, who has received plenty of media attention in Australia, is as comfortable in the interview room as on the court and welcomes the spotlight her achievement has given her.
Jones says the support she has received from her fellow players has been overwhelming with the likes of Timea Bacsinszky and Sloane Stevens offering their encouragement.
“A few years ago at Wimbledon, Timea Bacsinszky actually came over to me and said what she thought I was doing was phenomenal and I had all her support and that was pretty awesome. I’ve actually kept that really close to my heart in the last few years because at the time she was a top ranked player and I thought that was a really nice detail from her,” she said.
“Sloane Stevens has been pretty awesome, too. She had a little chat with me in the changing rooms the other day. I haven’t spoken to many, I suppose, but I do know quite a few people here on the tour. I’ve seen them before, and I guess for me, I am just another player here with a very similar objective to the others at the end of the day.”
Jones, who trains at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton as part of the support offered by the Lawn Tennis Association’s Pro Scholarship Programme, says she didn’t qualify just to make up the number in Melbourne but is also determined to get her message across now that she has been given the platform.
“Please don’t have any limits and keep pushing yourself. Do what it is that you want to do and just commit to it,” Jones said.
She added: “I want to fulfill my potential, whatever that potential is, putting in the work day-in and day-out, making sure that I’m listening to the people around me, taking the best advice I can and see where that takes me.
“I do have big ambitions but I’m sharing probably a big objective with the rest of the players that are in this draw. For now it’s just making sure that I’m doing everything I can to achieve that on a daily basis.”
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