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By Richard Pagliaro | Wednesday, January 13, 2021

 
Francesca Jones

World No. 241 Francesca Jones, born with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, realized her tennis dream today qualifying for the Australian Open main draw.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Her doctor once declared Francesca Jones’ tennis dream dead on arrival.

Today, Jones realized a major milestone in a victory of stirring character.

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The 20-year-old British baseliner swept Lu Jia-Jing 6-0, 6-1 in the final round of Australian Open qualifying to secure a spot in her first career Grand Slam tournament—and continue overcoming obstacles.

It’s a monumental moment for any young player. It resonates even more deeply for Jones, who was eight years old when her doctor told her she’d never be able to play tennis due to her unique physical condition.

Jones has ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, a rare genetic condition. She was born with three fingers and a thumb on each hand, four toes on her left foot and three toes on her right foot.

The world No. 241, who has played primarily at the ITF level, wields a light-weight racquet with an extra small grip to compensate for her condition and enable her to swing with control. Standard grip changes fellow pros without thought during a match can be more challenging for Jones, but she’s never let go of the dream.





"I have big goals that I want to achieve and I do want to change people's perspective on not just tennis, but sport and how they approach sport," Jones told the ITF. "Tennis has really helped me, and my challenges have really helped me, become the player I am on court. And hopefully will continue making me who I am."

Jones knocked off a pair of former Top 100-ranked players—28th-seeded Monica Niculescu and Jan Fett—in her first two qualifying-round matches in Dubai. Jones won 18 of 20 first-serve points and broke in all six of Lu’s service games to power into the AO main-draw today.

The Australian Open begins February 8th in Melbourne and Jones is ecstatic to earn her spot.

"I'm just super happy to qualify and really looking forward to getting out to Oz," said Jones, who moved to the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona at the age of 10 and still lives in the Spanish city.

"I've never been before and I'm sure it's going to be an amazing experience."

In an Australian Open qualifying draw filled with high-profile players including former Wimbledon finalist Genie Bouchard, who did not qualify, and reigning Australian Open doubles champion Timea Babos, who edged 20th-seeded Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, to qualify, Jones has already earned her title as Most Inspirational Player of the 2021 AO before a shot has been struck in main-draw play.




Defying the doctor who told her a chasing a tennis career was an impossible dream, Jones continues to show perseverance and commitment to the cause are the greatest powers we can carry on court.

"You get the staring, you get the questions, you get the sympathy sometimes and then you get the opposite: you get the hatred," Jones said. "But I've never been one to focus too much on what other people think of me. Because I don't think this defines me. I think it made me who I am, but that doesn't necessarily means it defines me.

“I was always told I wouldn't [play] professional, my body wasn't made to be an elite athlete, but that was never an impediment...I'm really looking forward to getting out to Oz. I've never been [to the AO] before so it's gonna be my first time and I'm sure it will be an amazing experience.”

 

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