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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Teen tennis star who was born with three fingers achieves her dream playing at Wimbledon

15-year-old Francesca Jones was born with three fingers on each hand
She has endured a series of painful operations and has been teased
But the Yorkshire teenager says it has helped her achieve her SW19 dream 
Teen reached second round of her first junior Grand Slam tournament 

With fighting spirit and a powerful serve, 15-year-old Francesca Jones is like many other juniors at this year’s Wimbledon 
But the Yorkshire teenager has had to overcome painful operations, teasing and being born with three fingers on each hand to achieve her SW19 dream.
And, since the age of nine, she has been living by herself at a tennis academy in Barcelona, hundreds of miles away from her parents in Oxenhope in Bradford.

Since the age of nine, Francesca Jones, 15, who was born with just three fingers on each hand, has been living by herself at a tennis academy in Barcelona, hundreds of miles away from her parents in Bradford

Francesca was born with Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia, EEC syndrome, a rare condition which has left her with three fingers and one thumb on each hand.
It has also left her with a small right hand – her racket hand – and four toes on her left foot and just three on her right.
But that has not stopped the determined teenager from reaching the second round of her first junior Grand Slam tournament or being ranked number four in the world when she was under-14.
She missed out on a place in the third round after being beaten by 16-year-old American Kayla Day yesterday Tues, but still has a doubles match to look forward to.

With fighting spirit and a powerful serve, 15-year-old Francesca Jones is like many other juniors at this year’s Wimbledon

She credits her success to her condition, saying it has made her more determined.
Francesca said: ‘I have had so many people criticise me and say things. That just motivates me more. I just think: “Watch me do it.” You have got to keep on using it to your advantage.
‘People say that I can’t grip the racket properly and I get called names. I don’ t take much notice of it, but again it is using it as a positive.
‘If people can see that I am where I am now and hopefully where I will be in the future with my condition then I am proving a point that I have always wanted to prove.’
She has had three operations on her wrists in the last year alone so her appearance at Wimbledon is nothing short of miraculous.
But the rising star refuses to let her challenging condition hold her back and has her sights firmly set on being one of the best tennis players out there.

She said: ‘If I have to do them (the operations) again, I’ll do them again. I’m 100 per cent into doing this and giving it everything to get to where I want to be in the world.’
But having fewer fingers does have a technical impact on her game.
She said: ‘There are small things, like my nail broke today, which happens quite often because I have to hold on to the racket very hard.
‘When I was younger I did have problems because I also have this problem in my feet, it doesn’t just affect my hands.
‘I have three toes on my right foot which is obviously my dominant foot, so balance had always been a weakness of mine.
‘As I matured, as I got older, I have just worked on that day in, day out. Everything’s mental and everything’s work, so if you keep at it then eventually it’s going to work out for you.’
Born in Bradford, Francesca had to have numerous operations when she was a girl and was in and out of hospital.

She turned to tennis because she was ‘a bit chubby’ and needed to exercise, discovering she was good at it.
Francesca said: ‘I got to the point where I thought with my condition, I could have a massive point that I could prove here to people, that willpower and determination is everything in life.
‘With mental strength, if you keep that and stick with that then you’re going to get somewhere, and that’s when I thought, “You know what, I’m going to go for it and try and get through this and see where I can get.”’
She is supported by her financial adviser parents Adele and Simon, who she sees once a month after moving to Barcelona to train at the same academy that nurtured a 15-year-old Andy Murray.
Francesca had the opportunity to play at Wimbledon last year, but the operations held her back.
This year, however, she has achieved a dream. But like anyone who wants to be the best, she is furious that she lost.
She said: ‘I come and I play to win, which is why losing today is very disappointing.
‘But I’ll use the positives that I have from the match today to my benefit when I go to the next couple of tournaments. I know that I have the level of a top five player so I’m just going to go for it.’ 
By Emine Sinaz