Britain’s Francesca Jones guaranteed herself a £56,000 payday by defying doctors’ expectations to reach a first Grand Slam singles main draw at the Australian Open today.
Jones, who was born with a rare condition which resulted in her having three fingers and a thumb on each hand, was told at the age of eight that she could never become a professional tennis player.
But the world No241 blitzed her way into the singles draw of the first Grand Slam of 2021 with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Lu Jiajing at the qualifying event in Doha.
The 20-year-old, who need a minute over an hour to seal the victory, was playing in only her second Grand Slam qualifying event – having been in qualifying for Wimbledon in 2019 only to lose her opening match. But in Doha, she defeated players comfortably more experienced than her in Monica Niculescu, Jana Fett and Lu.
“I’m super happy to qualify and really looking forward to getting to Oz,” she said after the win. “I’ve never been before and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Jones will now fly straight to Melbourne where she will have to quarantine for 14 days before making her Grand Slam debut and earn easily the biggest day of her career.
The Yorkshire player has described herself as “playing with a different set of cards” after being diagnosed with ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome. She has undergone repeated surgery on both her hands and feet, and could not properly hold a racket when playing as a youngster.
After winning her second qualifying match in Doha, she likened her experience of bidding to get to Melbourne to the X Factor.
“It’s kind of cool,” she said. “Like in the X Factor, you move onto the next stage, that’s how it feels. Simon Cowell tells you that you are through and you are on a flight to the live show. That’s how I see it at the moment.
“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.”