Adversity can be overrated, according to Francesca Jones, who quietly pulled off a remarkable feat last week.
It almost went unnoticed that, equipped with a world ranking of 817, the 22 year-old from Leeds became the first GB woman in seven months to reach the last four of a main WTA Tour event, the Copa Colsanatis in Bogota, Colombia.
Having only just come back after more than a year off with injury, she took out the number three seed before eventually losing to Wimbledon semi-finalist Tatjana Maria.
It was a welcome return to the elite level for Jones who, just prior to Emma Raducanu burst into the nation’s consciousness in 2021, had received her own surge of publicity.
That was down to the progress which saw her coming through the qualifying event for the Australian Open, in spite of her being born with the rare genetic condition Electrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia, which means she has only seven toes, and three fingers and a thumb on each hand.
Francesca Jones made the semi-finals of the Copa Colsanatis in Bogota, Colombia – the first time in seven months a British woman has reached such a stage of a main WTA Tour event
Jones – despite suffering from serious injury troubles over the past year – has said that the word ‘adversity’ is thrown about too often
Tatjana Maria – a Wimbledon semi-finalist – defeated Jones in the semi-finals in Bogota
Now, as then, she talks matter-of-factly about the issues that brings in trying to better her career-best ranking of 149, in a sport that attracts top female athletes from around the world.
‘The word adversity is thrown around a little bit too much for my liking nowadays,’ Jones tells Sportsmail from Colombia, ahead of her next tournament, in Ecuador. ‘ I would say that everyone goes through their challenges, and I’ve certainly gone through mine over the last last twelve to eighteen months.
‘I think everyone faces their own versions of adversity. And so I don’t like to say big mine up. I think the wheelchair tennis players and the para athletes are extremely special and deserve more credit than anyone.’
Jones vanished off the scene at the start of 2022, having looked poised to make a run at the top 100 only a few months previously. Even now, she does not know if the catalogue of injuries she suffered are in any way related to her condition.
‘I don’t think I can say yes or no to that to be honest because I wasn’t really given a diagnosis. In Australia last year I basically started off with a a problem in my elbow and then I fractured my foot. Then I had a nerve injury which was peculiar and a mystery to all the doctors.
‘We just knew that it was a nerve issue. It was extremely rare and nothing familiar to me, I just know it’s in my upper body, around my playing arm, I’m still not sure if it has properly healed. For me it’s really been about perseverance, I’ve faced multiple things. So it has definitely been challenging, it’s been a long period.’
Jones has long been slightly removed from the British scene, and bases herself in Barcelona. Interestingly she shares a mentor with Raducanu in Jane O’ Donoghue, the former Lawn Tennis Association coach with whom she keeps in regular touch.
During her long spell out Jones re-formulated her support team by starting work with strength and conditioning coach Alex Wolf and Portuguese physio Mario Ferreira.
Feeling fitter, in February she took herself off to South America to play in lower tier events in Argentina and Colombia, accompanied by coach Adam Thornton-Brown, who used to hit with the Williams sisters on their visits to the UK.
She arrived in Bogota – which is at 2500 metres altitude – off the back of four lesser tournaments and used an IPR (injury protected ranking) to enter.
‘I’ve had a tough year and a half so I wouldn’t say I was expecting a particular result, but I’ve known that my official ranking doesn’t tell the story and I had built up some match rhythm.
‘I’ve always liked the clay and the conditions suited me. The big thing for altitude is obviously the lack of oxygen. So you know you might get a little bit out breath at the start first few days but we arrived in good time to make sure I had the right preparation.
‘The conditions can be a little bit quicker and obviously it bounces a lot more basically, the balls don’t fluff up as quickly. Actually because it rained so much there last week it probably helped my opponent in the semi-final. Overall I maybe didn’t expect to be playing at such a high level as quickly as I did.’
Jane O’Donoghue is a mentor to both Jones and Raducanu and she keeps in regular touch
The return of Jones to contention in a WTA event relinquishes some of the pressure mounting on the British women’s game
Her return to form and boost of her ranking came too late for her to make a run on GB’s Billie Jean King Cup squad
The result has dramatically boosted her ranking to inside the top 400, but was far too late for her to be in contention for a place in GB’s Billie Jean King Cup squad to play France in Coventry this week.
Jones now plans to keep playing on the clay up until the French Open, which she will enter by using another of her IPR designations. She will do so with the same brisk professionalism and a notable lack of self-pity.
‘We know what we’re signing up for in this sport, I think everyone faces their different aspects and it’s just about accepting it and trying to face it head on. Do what you can within the circumstances you’ve got.
‘I really felt in September 2021 that I was ready to break the top 100. I did three months to prepare for hopefully a big 2022 but it didn’t happen. I have always believed that I will find my way to the top of the game and I’m not really focused on how long it takes.’
Francesca Jones is on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fran_jones_/?hl=en
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Sports Event Casino Handicap Description
|PK||0||It means not giving in to each other, and winning 1 point wins all.|
|0-50||0/0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses 50%.|
|0 loss||0.5||Indicates that when the handicap team is tied with the transferee team, the team betting on the handicap loses.|
|1+50||0.5/1||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 level||1||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the two teams will tie and win by 2 points.|
|1-50||1/1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 2 points.|
|1 loss||1.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 1 point, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins by 2 points.|
|2+50||1.5/2||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|2 flat||2||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the two teams will tie and win all 3 points.|
|2 losses||2/2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 3 points.|
|3+50||2.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 2 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 3 points.|
|3 losses||2.5/3||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap wins 50%, and all 4 points win.|
|3 levels||3||Indicates that when the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the two teams will tie and win all 4 points.|
|3-50||3/3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses 50% and wins all 4 points.|
|3 losses||3.5||When the handicap team wins the handicap team by 3 points, the team betting on the handicap loses all and wins all 4 points.|
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