When Francesca Jones was young, she was told by doctors that she could not play tennis. Now, the 20-year-old Brit has qualified for the Australian Open in Melbourne slated to begin next month.
"That was my decision...because you have said that, I am now going to go and prove you wrong," she said as per Xinhua news agency.
In fact, the doctors did have reasons to say so. Jones was born with ectrodactyly ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, which means that she has four fingers on each hand, and seven toes on her feet. But Jones was determined. At 10, she was accepted to the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Barcelona.
The difficulties she needs to overcome might sound unimaginable to other tennis players.
"Balance is a big thing," she said in a video from the International Tennis Federation (ITF). "When you do have fewer toes, you don't have much to put your weight to."
So she spent a lot of time trying to gain strength to support her muscles. She also used lighter rackets with a smaller grip. "I think every human being has physical weaknesses unless you're Cristiano Ronaldo or something. I just try to better mine as I would try to better myself in any other way."
Jones said that her mental strength was one of her biggest strengths. To her, Wimbledon in her own country is undoubtedly a massive objective.
"I think that just simply wearing all white and that feel the grass under your shoes is pretty phenomenal," she said.
However, she lost twice in the qualifications for the event, in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
In what was the third Grand Slam qualifying event she has ever contested, Jones finally had luck on her side.
In Dubai earlier this month, with three victories in a row, she managed to edge into her first Grand Slam event in Melbourne. Later, Jones made an emotional phone call to her parents, with whom she separated since joining the Sï¿½nchez-Casal academy.
"They didn't really have much to say," she recalled. "All I could hear was crying, screams and my dog was barking."
"We've gone through a lot together," she said. "You miss out on a lot of experiences with your parents and that's hard on all of us."
According to a report by the Guardian, she is now guaranteed at least 100,000 Australian dollars (about $77,020), which is the biggest earning in her career so far.
But it is nothing compared with the sense of achievement she has.
"To me, it means the world when you hear people chanting your name or feeling supported," she said.
Jones said she has big goals that she wants to achieve. "I do want to change people's perspective on not just tennis but sport and how they approach sport." Counting down to the Australian Open which will kick off on February 8, she knows that changes are gradually taking place.