Nothing was more evident over the last few days than Francesca Jones’ determination on court to make the planned chartered flights out of Dubai and off to quarantine in Melbourne. To make the main draw of a Slam is special in itself. To do it with physical challenges makes it all the sweeter.
Jones was born with a rare genetic order, Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia (EEC) which affects her grip and balance but has added a steely determination to the 20-year-old who hit a career high at the end of last year, despite the challenges to lower-ranked players in terms of tournaments in the midst of a global pandemic.
Her path through the Australian Qualifying draw was no easy feat, drawing the seeded and experienced Monica Niculescu in the first round. She was broken in her very first game before fighting back to overturn the odds in the first set and displayed more of the same in the second set to stun the World No. 144.
She had to come back from behind again, this time against Jana Fett and after an almighty tussle where Fett failed to capitalise on six more chances to break, she levelled and went on to win a tense tie-break to take the lead.
She did not panic when the momentum swung sharply to the Croatian as she set about levelling the match. Instead, after an initial flurry of breaks at the start of the decider, Jones put pedal to the metal and denied Fett any other chance of adding to her game tally.
Come the final qualifying round against Jia-Jing Lu, it was a fait accompli for the loss of just a single game, accompanied with a deserving roar of triumph.
She told BBC Sport: “I’m just super happy to qualify and really looking forward to getting out to Oz. I’ve never been before and I’m sure it’s going to be an amazing experience.”
Special charter flights have been put on to bring players to the State of Victoria where they will quarantine and be allowed limited practice ahead of the Australian swing of events, starting on the January 31.
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