Britain’s No 5 women’s singles player Francesca Jones overcame a rare condition to go past the qualifying round in Dubai, and secure a spot at the Australian Open next month.
This will be the first time the 20-year-old from Leeds has made it to the main draw of a Grand Slam.
Born with a rare condition – ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, that effects the development of hands and feet – Jones has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, and three toes on her right foot.
“I went to the doctors and the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to play tennis due to whatever disadvantages they thought I had,” she said in an interview with the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
“And that was kind of my decision that, ‘you know what, you’ve said that, now I’m going to prove you wrong.’
What. A. Story.
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“Balance is a big thing. When you have less toes you automatically don’t have much to put your weight into. Definitely, the balance is a big one and my body isn’t built to become an athlete, let’s say. But to me that doesn’t mean it can’t be.
“There’s obviously a lot more risk of injuries… already I’ve had 10 surgeries. That’s something I have to deal with in a different way. I’ve never had an injury that has taken me out that hasn’t been…. caused by my syndrome.”
Despite the condition, the Brit had been serious about the sport and had left home when she was nine to train at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona – where former World No 1 Andy Murray spent his developmental years.
She made the biggest strides in her career over the past week however.
In her opening round match in Dubai, she overcame 28th seed and former World No 11 Monica Niculescu of Romania 6-3, 6-2. This followed a three-set win over Croatian Jana Fett 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-1.
Then came the 6-0, 6-1 drubbing of China’s Jia-Jing Lu in the final round of the qualifiers to secure her ticket to Melbourne.