Both, she says, have inspired her to be where she is today. Nadal, for his never-say-die attitude on court. Williams, for her ability to smash through boundaries and barriers.
‘They’re two true champions,’ Jones says in a Zoom call on Wednesday. ‘Rafa’s attitude is second to none and that’s something I’ve always… I wouldn’t say replicated because you want to be yourself. But I’ve always admired.
‘And Serena has probably been one of the people in my childhood that helped me realise that humans don’t need to have limits. She always pushes her own boundaries and that’s what it’s about – pushing each individual boundary that you set out for yourself.’
Jones, more than most, has pushed herself to the limits.
Born with ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, a rare condition that causes developmental problems for feet and hands, Jones has three fingers and a thumb on each hand and seven toes – four on her left foot and three on her right.
The world No. 210 struggled with her balance growing up and had difficulties gripping her racquet properly.
Doctors were adamant that professional tennis was a pipe dream but after qualifying for the Australian Open earlier this year, she will now make her Grand Slam debut on home soil at the All England Club after being handed a wildcard.
It’s often understated what an achievement reaching the main draw of a Grand Slam is in its own right, but in Jones’s case it’s simply remarkable. But she wants more.
There’s a chance, of course, that the Brit – who has twice before played in qualifying – could face 23-time major winner Williams in the first round. Nadal, unfortunately, has decided against playing.
While Jones, a 20-year-old born in Bradford, has clearly learned lessons from both, it is her own self determination that has led her to this point.
‘Of course you have people round you that inspire you, people you look up to and people that help you recognise what it is you want to do, ultimately,’ she added. ‘They help you recognise your dreams.
‘But for me it’s also about not always depending on other people for that. You have people you look up to but they shouldn’t be your motivation. You should have your own motivation and you should find that within yourself.
‘Each person has their own trigger, obviously mine I’ve made very clear over the last six months. But for me, having those people around me – whether it’s my parents or Serena Williams – it’s also about myself and what I want from myself and how I get that out of myself.
‘So far that’s been hard work, determination. I am human so I’ve had big hurdles that I’ve had to overcome but it’s about pushing myself on a day-to-day basis and making sure the people around me are the right people to help me do that.’
Fran Jones factfile
Born: Keighley, Bradford Age: 20 Coach: Andreu Guilera Trains out of: Barcelona Current ranking: 210
As for her playing style, she has taken most inspiration from former world No. 1 Amelie Mauresmo, who also enjoyed a stint as Andy Murray’s coach.
‘As a style of play, I used to thoroughly enjoy going to Wimbledon with my dad and watching Mauresmo,’ she said. ‘Whenever Mauresmo was on the court I’d be straight there and enjoy watching her play because she was always very classy on court.’
The buildup to Wimbledon has hardly been smooth. She has lost all three of her matches on grass, including a three-setter against Georgina Garcia Perez in which she collapsed after cramping, and is on a six-match losing streak dating back to April 17.
On top of that, she was also forced into self-isolation for seven days immediately before Nottingham after being a close contact of a positive Covid test.
‘It’s easy to say on paper, but when you put it into a little bit of perspective, I lost to Donna Vekic [in Birmingham], and obviously she is one of the best performing players on the tour this year, so far,’ Jones said of her recent form.
‘And in that first match [against Garcia Perez] I was 3-1 up in the third set and unfortunately had full body cramps, so I’d say it’s not knocked my confidence too much.
‘If you look before that I played a top-100 player in the first round of qualifying for a Grand Slam as well, so I have probably been unlucky with the draws.
‘That said, I trust my game to beat all of those players. I was unfortunate in that I was in a close contact situation prior to the grass season so I had no practise on the grass before Nottingham.
‘So I have managed to have a couple of days now in between Eastbourne and Wimbledon and a couple of days after Birmingham before Eastbourne, so that’s why I think my performance was better in Eastbourne, but that is part of today’s world. I’m just doing what I can.’
Jones, a big Manchester United fan, was wearing an England Euro 2000 shirt – with David Beckham’s name and number on the back – during her media briefing and will be keeping a close eye on proceedings at Euro 2020 as she looks to occupy herself in the Wimbledon bubble.
‘Of course I will be following the football,’ she smiled. ‘I am a massive football fan. I actually cheekily said to my agents yesterday that we might be going into a football orientated career after my tennis career!
‘I adore the sport, I will definitely be following it. I watched the match yesterday [vs the Czech Republic], I am very passionate. Just a massive fan. I’m very patriotic, and because of that, of course I am as much of a hooligan with the England shirt on as I am with the United shirt on.
‘I definitely will be supporting the guys. Whenever its got to do with my country I am very proud to be British and English in this situation. And throughout the Olympics as well I will be following team GB.
‘An athlete has to live for their sport but it is important we do have those moments that we disconnect. For me that’s normally going out for food or watching football. I also like going out for a walk and taking in culture.
‘Of course this year being in a bubble we won’t have that, but I’m sure I’ll find ways, that’s what books are for. I go with the flow.’
Refreshingly honest and upbeat, Jones hopes to ‘cherish’ every moment she spends on the grass courts of Wimbledon this summer.
It’ll be a major surprise if she goes as deep as her idol Williams, a seven-time champion, but Jones has spent her life upsetting the odds.
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