Fran Jones wants her Australian Open “X Factor” story to be an inspiration for anyone dealing with health adversity.
When she was 8 years old, the British ace was told by a doctor her unusual physical condition would prevent her becoming a tennis star.
The 20-year-old – who had a series of operations as a kid – was born with the rare genetic conditions of ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia. The British No.5 has only three fingers and a thumb on each hand and has three toes on one foot and four toes on the other.
Yet remarkably she secured a place at next month’s Australian Open, thrashing China’s Lu Jiajing 6-0 6-1 in the final round of qualifying in Dubai.
“I try to use it as a positive and I see it as an advantage in many ways,” Jones said. “I don’t think I reached a low point with the syndrome. Of course, like any other tennis player, I’ve reached many low points in my life.
“You could say I proved the doctor wrong and I’m sure a good few other people as well. But you know what? I’m not bothered about proving people wrong, I’d rather prove to people you can switch the perspective there. I’m not playing out of revenge. I’m playing to have a positive impact for those who hopefully read my story. I do hope people can take some.
“I’d love to have a positive impact on people. I’d love people to take strength from my story. I’ve got so much more that I want to achieve and this is very much the start of my journey.”
As she booked a first spot in a grand slam main draw, Jones joked: “It’s like I’ve had the phone call now from Simon Cowell – is he in California? – and I’m now going to Australia not London for the show.”
Fran was based at Andy Murray’s former training base, the Sanchez Casal Academy in Barcelona, between the ages of 9-16.
Jones flies to Australia on Friday to begin two weeks of quarantining.
Jones, who describes herself as a perfectionist, overcame a “wee mental breakdown” after experiencing racket issues and split fingers after traveling from the London cold to the Middle East for qualifying.
Her idol is British No. 1 and multiple slam semifinalist Jo Konta, who she has watched closely during training at the NTC HQ.
“I’ve definitely had to work a lot more on my physicality,” Jones said. “My feet work in a different way and that means I run differently. My balance goes through my feet and toes in a different way. I’ve always had a really small grip and a light racket and I’m hesitant to change that.
“In the gym, I’ve spent a lot of time just trying to gain strength to support my muscles. Every human being has physical weaknesses – unless you’re Cristiano Ronaldo or something. I just try to better mine as I’d try to better myself in any other way.”
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