Wednesday, June 19, 2024

French Open 2024: Britain’s Fran Jones on not playing Roland Garros

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If you know Fran Jones’ story, you will know she has had to do things differently.

So it should not be a surprise the 23-year-old Briton decided not to make a late push – and risk her longer-term ambitions – to join the world’s leading stars at this week’s French Open.

Jones is unique among British players, having grown up playing on clay and achieving her greatest successes on the surface.

However, the world number 295 opted against trying to play in qualifying at Roland Garros – the Grand Slam tournament which is the pinnacle of clay-court tennis.

“I could have pursued it but I’m not in a position where I’m willing to rush my body right now,” Jones, who barely played in 2022 and 2023 because of a string of injuries, told BBC Sport.

“This year’s goal is to spend more time on a tennis court.”

Jones was born with a genetic condition which means she has three fingers and a thumb on each hand, three toes on her right foot and four toes on her left.

Doctors told her to forget about playing tennis professionally.

As a result, Jones left Bradford aged 10 and moved to Barcelona, joining the renowned Sanchez Academy to help fulfil her goals.

“The experience of a doctor telling me playing tennis was an almost impossible challenge was powerful,” Jones said.

“It made it a challenge in my head.

“My competitiveness is what has got me to this point and the determination to keep pushing myself.

“People need to keep dreaming big and I will keep dreaming big until the day I die.”

Physical issues have hampered Jones’ progress in recent seasons and building her fitness remains a priority, having employed a full-time physio at the end of 2021.

Taking up road cycling and tackling the famous terrains around Girona, just north of her base in Barcelona, on long rides three times a week has improved stamina and strength.

This month Jones has played ITF events in Portugal, Italy and Spain as she continues to build robustness, and plans to start grass-court preparations for Wimbledon while her peers compete in Paris.

There are still setbacks, though. Last week she had to retire from an event in Madrid because of cramp.

“What I’ve found relatively tough, if not the biggest challenge so far, is getting into the rhythm of being a tennis player again – the lifestyle and its demands,” Jones said.

“You get used to the nine-to-five of rehab when you’re injured.

“I’m building up more tournaments and looking for more consecutive weeks competing, but I’m going with the flow. Almost every tournament I play is a privilege.

“I’m not looking for a ratio of weeks, the objective is to play when I feel my body is ready to.”

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