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27 Jan 2021 9:58
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  •   Home > News > International

    Francesca Jones qualifies for Australian Open years after doctors ruled her out of tennis

    British tennis player Francesca Jones, who was born with a rare genetic condition that affected the development of her hands and feet, qualifies for Australian Open.

    Doctors told Francesca Jones when she was eight that she would never be able to play professional tennis.

    The now-20-year-old Brit was born with the rare genetic condition, ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, leaving her with three fingers and a thumb on each hand and a total of seven toes.

    Jones has had to endure multiple surgeries and, due to her dominant right foot only having three toes, has struggled with balance throughout her career.

    "The doctors told me I wouldn't be able to play tennis due to whatever disadvantages they thought I had," Jones told the International Tennis Federation (ITF).

    "That was kinda my decision … because you've said that, I'm now going to go and prove you wrong."

    Prove them wrong she did.

    Aged 10, Jones was accepted to the Sánchez-Casal academy in Barcelona, developing her game on the clay courts that nurtured the early career of her fellow countrywoman and 2016 Australian Open semi-finalist Johanna Konta, and former world number one Andy Murray.

    On Wednesday, Jones beat the odds to qualify for the main draw of a grand slam tennis tournament for the first time.

    Jones needed just over an hour to dispatch Lu Jai-Jing of China, 6-0, 6-1 in Dubai — her third win of the week — to secure her spot on Friday's flight to Melbourne.

    "I'm just playing the game with a different set of cards," Jones told the BBC prior to the qualification tournament.

    "But it doesn't mean those cards can't win the game."

    Those cards amount to a lighter racquet with a smaller grip.

    Everything else is Jones' own dogged determination.

    "My mental strength is one of my biggest strengths, if not my biggest strength," Jones said.

    "I do have that edge against my opponents purely because of the experiences that I've gone through.

    "I use it [the condition] as a positive and advantage in many ways. I'm not playing out of revenge.

    "I'm playing to have a positive impact on people who read my story, and I hope people can take the positives from it and build on it."

    Ranked 241 in the world, Jones is now guaranteed a $100,000 pay day, which will double her career earnings.

    The Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on February 8.


    © 2021 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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