British qualifier Francesca Jones overcomes rare condition to fulfil her tennis dream
British qualifier Francesca Jones overcomes rare condition to fulfil her tennis dream

‘No limits’: Aus Open’s most inspirational story

The main interview room at Melbourne Park isn't usually the place you'll find the 245th ranked female player holding court with the world's media.

It's usually the domain of the likes of Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic, but given the interest in Francesca Jones' incredible story she found herself front and centre under the bright lights.

The fascination with the 20-year-old British qualifier is understandable because you won't find a more uplifting and emotional tale at this year's Australian Open.

Jones 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.

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

At the age of eight doctors told her she wouldn't be able to become a professional tennis player but she ignored them, moving to Barcelona the following year without her parents to chase her dream.

Now Jones wants to send a message to the world after gaining a spot in her first Grand Slam tournament by winning through Australian Open qualifying in Dubai.

"It's great to be here and to be able to get my message across, which is: Please don't have any limits and keep pushing yourself," Jones says.

"Do what it is that you want to do and just commit to it. Look, if I can have any positive impact on children, adults, and they can take strength from my story and create their own, then that would be great.

"My objectives are bigger than just qualifying for here, and hopefully I can continue to spread the word over the years."

 

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She refuses to use her condition as an excuse, making it very clear that she sees herself exactly the same as the other 127 women in the Open draw.

"I think every human being faces their own challenges, you know. I don't want to put myself in the spotlight and say, 'Oh, I've gone through X, Y and Z'.

"Every human being has barriers that they have to find a way to get over. I've had my barriers and I'm still challenged by those barriers.

"I'm still working my way to get over them and move onto the next."

Jones, who will play American Shelby Rogers in the opening round, says mental strength is her greatest asset.

"(My) medication is mental strength. Some of the obvious barriers when I was a child were balance and just the way that I would put weight through my feet.

"And obviously grip, I needed to have quite a few modifications done to my racquets when I was a child and still do today.

"In terms of the day-to-day, as I've said previously, every athlete faces their challenges.

"I have strengths and I have weaknesses, and I work on my weaknesses like the next female tennis player that walks in here will, as well.

"It's just progress, a work in progress that I'm constantly trying to evolve."

After getting out of her hotel lockdown Jones - who is now guaranteed a $100,000 payday, which will double her career earnings - didn't waste time in hitting the shops.

"I've been trying to rein it in a little bit and remind myself that you don't just start buying everything that you see," she said.

"But I definitely needed pyjamas, that was the main thing as I only brought one pair of pyjamas with me."

Originally published as 'No limits': Aus Open's most inspirational story


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