Francesca Jones will head to the Australian Open this week on a mission to inspire others trying to overcome physical difficulties in pursuit of their goals.
The British No 5 triumphantly qualified for her first Grand Slam event, despite having just three fingers on each hand and only seven toes on her feet.
The 20 year-old from Bradford has to use an extra lightweight racket with an especially thin handle to accommodate her grip, which is affected by the rare condition Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia Syndrome.
Brit Francesca Jones has proven the doctors wrong to book her place at the Australian Open
Jones (above in December) was born with three fingers on each hand, and is missing three toes
Jones is British but is based in Barcelona and shouted ‘Vamos!’ to her coach after the victory
Against all the odds, the 20-year-old has booked her place in the main draw in Melbourne
It was not enough to stop her crushing higher ranked Chinese opponent Jia Jing Lu 6-0, 6-1 in her third and final qualifying round in Dubai, thus booking her seat on the flight onwards to Melbourne.
Not only does she want to prove wrong the doctors who told her she would not compete at the highest level, but also to serve as an example of what can be achieved in the face of adversity.
‘I’d rather prove to people what you can do,’ she said. ‘I am not playing out of revenge.
‘I am playing to have a positive impact on the people who hopefully read my story. I do hope people can take the positives from it. I’d love people to take strength from my story to build their own.’
Jones had just come off an emotional phone call home to her parents Simon and Adele, originally from Yorkshire but now based in Surrey.
‘All I could hear was crying, screams and my dog was barking. It was quite an emotional call because obviously we’ve gone through a lot together,’ said the Keighley-born player, who has been largely based in Barcelona from the age of ten.
Now in the main draw of Aussie Open, she could face likes of Serena Williams (pictured)
Jones has had to battle hard to reach a ranking that will now be on the cusp of world’s top 200
The youngster likened the qualifying tournament to reality TV, and she’s now on the plane
‘You miss out on a lot of experiences with your parents and that’s hard on all of us.’
She is now guaranteed a minimum main draw first round payday of £56,000, although in effect it ensures more than that.
Now on the cusp of the world’s top 200, it is unthinkable that she will not be given a wildcard for this summer’s Wimbledon, where she has only played in the junior event so far.
Even this week Jones has had to overcome physical issues with her hands, which had been affected by the cold during her Christmas visit home.
‘My fingers had actually split from the cold in the UK and I couldn’t hold my racket too well on my forehand side and my forehand is my best shot. So I had a wee mental breakdown to be honest, before the first match.
‘I am quite a perfectionist, so I do worry about the days when I don’t hit the forehand exactly the way that I should have done or I’m not serving well.’
Jones says proving the specialist wrong has been a huge motivation throughout her career
She will now be hoping for a big draw in Australia, against the likes of Williams or Simona Halep
Already she has to contend with moving unlike other players, due to having four toes on one foot and three on the other.
‘My challenge has been to put myself in a physical shape that prevents injuries. My feet work in a different way and that means I run differently. My balance goes through my feet in a different way.
‘I’ve always had a really small grip and a light racket and I’m hesitant to change that because it has worked well so far. In the gym, I have spent a lot of time just trying to gain strength to support my muscles that can support the weaknesses that I may have.
Jones serves during her Battle of the Brits match against Heather Watson in December
‘But I think every human being has physical weaknesses unless you’re Cristiano Ronaldo or something.
‘I wouldn’t say I ever felt sorry for myself, this was all I knew. I’ve had phenomenal parents who just guided me through each step and they were always beside me when they could be.
‘Each person is dealt their set of cards and each person has to play their game with their set of cards and try to win the game. That’s how I see it.
‘I’ve observed Jo Konta a lot and know the dedication and focus these players put in to be where they are today. I’m just looking forward to putting myself in that environment and seeing how they react.’
Her immediate task was to review her packing, now that she will be taking one of the charter flights laid on by the Australian Open.
‘The first thing I need to do is get laundry done. I didn’t want to jinx anything so I brought enough, but not too much. I went to London for Christmas, so I had loads of winter clothes with me, so I do have three bags.’
Jones has fashioned a decent baseline game, but it is clear that her attitude is also a major weapon. Unlike too many of the other GB female players she does not obsess about social media, for example, and actually wants nothing to do with it.
‘I’m not big on social media,’ she said. ‘For me is a platform that can be used to your benefit in some ways but I also think at the moment it has a negative influence on society. I don’t want to get too caught up in it, I like to stick to the tennis.’
With the Australian Open delayed until February 8 she has three weeks to wait before discovering her opponent on what will be her Grand Slam debut.
‘Any draw for me will be a fascinating one whether it’s Serena Williams or another qualifier. It’s all great experience and I’m looking forward to whatever comes my way.’