Francesca Jones & Laura Robson: A Tale Of Two British

Francesca Jones (photo: Jorge Ferrari/Tennis Australia)

WASHINGTON, January 22, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

While British No. 5 Francesca Jones is feeling blessed these days, after qualifying for the Australian Open last week in Dubai – her first Grand Slam main draw – former British No. 1 Laura Robson is feeling cursed, following a third round of hip surgery that has left her unsure whether she can continue her tennis career.

First, the good news story is about how the 243rd-ranked Jones, a 20-year-old LTA Pro-Scholarship Program player, overcame the odds of booking her place in the Melbourne main draw. She beat No. 200 Lu Jil-Jing of China, 6-0, 6-1, in the final round of the Australian Open qualifiers and faced players ranked up to 100 spots higher than her en route. Earlier, she defeated No. 144 Monica Niculescu of Romania, 6-3, 6-2, in the opening round and No. 209 Jana Fett of Croatia, 7-6 (7), 2-6, 6-1 in the second round.

“I feel blessed that we can even compete,” Jones expressed last week. She reached a career-high ITF Juniors ranking of No. 31 in 2017.

What’s remarkable about Jones is she was born with a thumb and three fingers on each hand, and with only seven toes because she has a rare genetic condition called Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia (EED).

In an interview published on the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) website, Jones said: “I’m definitely excited, I’ve never been to Melbourne before and I’m excited to play on the courts there that I’ve seen on TV since I was a kid.

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that with qualifying here but it’s actually been quite a nice stepping stone and transition.

“The first match was good tennis, I played well but I think there’s still so much I could have done better. To be honest, in the second match the first two sets were poor from both of us, but I was happy to get through to give myself the opportunity to bring out my best in the final match.

“It’s been different, but I just feel blessed by the fact that we can even compete during this current climate. I’m proud of the work my team and I have done but there’s still much more to be done and I’m aware of that.”

Meanwhile, the news about Robson isn’t optimistic. Stuart Fraser of The Times of London reported that Robson recently underwent a third operation “to prioritize the long-term health of my hip.”

She’s unsure at the moment whether she can continue her tennis career.

Robson, 27, was a Wimbledon junior champion at age 14 and an Olympic silver medalist in mixed doubles representing Great Britain at age 18. Then, at 19, she was ranked in the Top 30.

As Christopher Clarey, longtime tennis correspondent for The New York Times wrote on Twitter: “Pro tennis can be brutal on the body and on the mind.”

As Robson wrote on her Instagram platform, “For my birthday this year, I got crutches.”


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A post shared by Laura Robson (@laurarobson5)

Finally, David Law, co-host of The Tennis Podcastand longtime BBC Radio 5 Live tennis commentator, wrote on Twitter: “Real shame. Few cleaner strikers of a tennis ball than Laura Robson. Her wins over Clijsters, Li Na, Kvitova tell you that. She’s had wretched luck with injuries. If a pro tennis return isn’t possible, she’s got a lot to offer as a commentator/pundit, in my view.”

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