January 12, 2021
Inspirational Francesca Jones has qualified for the Australian Open against all odds.
The gritty Yorkshire lass beat China’s Jia-Jing Lu 6-0, 6-1 to make the main draw in Melbourne.
‘I’m just super happy to qualify and really look forward to getting out to Australia,’ she said. ‘I’ve never been before and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing experience.’
Jones will pocket £55,000 for making the first round of a Grand Slam for the first time.
That’s more than she has made in her entire career so far. But it’s not about the money for this amazing young lady.
Jones is more motivated than most – and for all the right reasons.
The 20-year-old from Bradford is certainly showing us all how to dig deep and overcome hardship in these challenging times.
You might have thought that Francesca started with something of a disadvantage in sport. She was born with fewer fingers and toes than most of us.
But that just seems to have fired her up even more. It has increased her determination to be the very best she can be.
‘I try to use it as a positive,’ Jones says. ‘I see it as an advantage in many ways.’
Doctors told her as a child that she would never be able to fulfil her tennis dreams.
‘The greatest thing in life is to do what people say you can’t do,’ Jones says.
‘But this isn’t to prove the doctors wrong. This is to prove to people what you can do.
‘It would be great to have a positive impact on younger kids and people in similar positions to me.’
The toughest test in qualifying undoubtedly came during her second match of three.
She beat a 24-year-old Croatian called Jana Fett in thrilling style.
First there was an epic tie-break, then Fran faltered, and finally she completely commanded for a dramatic 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 6-1 victory.
Anyone who watched the match closely will have wondered how on earth she manages to hit such high levels.
For the record, Jones has three fingers and a thumb on both hands, three toes on her right foot and four on her left.
She spent much of her childhood in hospital having operations. Initially it was a struggle to achieve full balance.
You wouldn’t have known it as she overcame Fett in that key clash. Jones is fast and mobile around the court. And she strikes the ball with a beautiful fluency.
In fact it was only Francesca’s serve that let her down as she double-faulted constantly in that troublesome second set.
The problem seemed to be set off by a close line call. What looked like an ace down the middle was called out.
Jones was unsettled. She admits that she can become too emotional on court, perhaps because of all the emotion she has invested in getting there.
Having notched up ten double faults by the start of the decider, she regained her steely nerve and only made the same mistake once in the third set.
Crucially, Jones also converted a magnificent seven break points out of ten in a highly entertaining match.
In her final qualifier against Jia-Jing Lu, no one would have known about her service hiccups in her previous test.
In fact she managed an incredible 90 per cent first-serve win percentage to book her place at the Aussie Open.
With her flight to Melbourne secured, the sky’s the limit. Now we can’t wait to see if she lands a big-name opponent in the draw.
Such unlikely sporting stardom is the kind of thing they make movies about.
Jones wants to be the female Andy Murray. Who is to say she can’t fulfil that dream as well?
Some might even suggest that Francesca now deserves a wild card straight into the main draw of Wimbledon 2021.
Just to hear her speak is to realise how driven this fabulous young woman is.
She said recently: ‘The reason that I started committing as a professional and wanting to achieve big things in the game is because I want people to hopefully take positives from what I’ve managed to do so far, and inspire themselves.’
She beat Monica Niculescu 6-3, 6-2 in her first step towards qualifying for the Aussie Open. Now Fett and Jia-Jing Lu have been seen off too.
Jones is only ranked 241 currently. But she is definitely pushing to break into the top 200 now.
She even beat 2013 Wimbledon finalist Sabine Lisicki earlier in the year.
Wouldn’t it be great to see Britain’s newest and most inspirational star make an impact at Wimbledon 2021?
There are so many wonderful stories to witness on Centre Court and No1 Court.
So many plots and subplots to relish and encourage at Wimbledon.
We think Wimbledon 2021 is going to be the greatest of all time. And we can help you be there.