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Monday, February 1, 2021

Francesca Jones qualifies for Australian Open ! ,.. .. ... remember Azeem Hafeez ?

After the epochal WC victory in June 1983, India were beaten badly by the West Indies at home and then Pakis toured India.  Remember ODI no. 224 at Hyderabad on Sept 10, 1983 – India won – a tall left-arm pacer made his debut for Pakistan and was talked about !!

For the arm-chair  critics, India had no business being alive in the series at this point of time - and of even having hope.   Bowled out for 36, they were written-off by Pundits.  They came back strongly winning the 2nd Test, and pulling out a draw in more testing circumstances in the Third – now they are in for the finals at Brisbane.  But, India will need to find at least two replacements with Vihari and Ravindra Jadeja ruled out and may yet need more with doubts over Jasprit Bumrah. Shardul Thakur or T Natarajan could come into the mix, with Kuldeep Yadav as a second spinner if R Ashwin recovers as the lead spinner. India could also play both Rishabh Pant and Wriddhiman Saha or bring back Mayank Agarwal in place of Vihari and continue with Pant as the designated wicketkeeper.  No Cricket post this !! ~ the story of Francesca Jones.. … .. Jones is British but is based in Barcelona and shouted 'Vamos!' to her coach after the victory.

Britain’s Francesca Jones has qualified for the Australian Open, defeating Lu Jia-Jing of China 6-0, 6-1 in just 61 minutes to reach the main draw of a grand slam tournament for the first time.

Despite being one of the lowest ranked players in the field and only making the cut-off in December after some withdrawals, the 20-year-old marked her first appearance in an overseas grand slam qualifying draw by defeating three higher-ranked players and producing her best tennis under the notorious pressure of the final qualifying round. The victory has secured Jones at least A$100,000 (£56,556), by far the biggest earnings of her career. It also led to an emotional phone call with her parents, who she moved away from aged nine to join the Sánchez-Casal academy in Barcelona.  “They didn’t really have much to say,” she said. “All I could hear was crying, screams and my dog was barking. It was quite an emotional call because obviously we’ve gone through a lot together and I left the UK at nine or 10. You miss out on a lot of experiences with your parents and that’s hard on all of us.”

Wednesday marked Jones’s third win of the week in Dubai, where the women’s qualifying tournament was relocated because of coronavirus, after victories against the former world No 28 Monica Niculescu and Jana Fett. It was the first time she had beaten two top -200 opponents in a week. Jones will rise to No 217 in the WTA rankings having been 352nd at the beginning of 2020.   The Australian Open gets underway in Melbourne on February 8.

The 2021 Australian Open is a Grand Slam tennis tournament that is scheduled to take place at Melbourne Park, from 8–21 February 2021. It will be the 109th edition of the Australian Open, the 53rd in the Open Era, and the first Grand Slam of the year. It was originally scheduled for 18–31 January 2021, but was postponed by three weeks to February due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event is part of the 2021 ATP Tour and the 2021 WTA Tour. Qualifying matches for the Australian Open were held outside the country for the first time in the Grand Slam history, the men's and women's matches held in Doha, Qatar and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, respectively, from 10–13 January.[3][4] The 8 February start will give qualifiers time to travel to and complete two weeks of quarantine in Australia before the warm-up events start on 31 January.

The tournament will consist of events for professional players in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. Wheelchair players will compete in singles and doubles tournaments. As in previous years, the tournament's main sponsor is Kia. Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin are the defending champions in Men's Singles and Women's Singles, respectively.

Francesca Jones rose to the latest challenge facing her in fine style on Wednesday morning when she blasted her way into the Australian Open main draw. The 20-year-old from Bradford, who was born with the rare condition Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia Syndrome, won her third and final qualifying match to put herself on the plane to Melbourne. Barcelona-based Jones thrashed the more experienced and higher ranked Chinese Jia Jing Lu 6-0, 6-1 in Dubai, where the preliminary event is being held to limit the number of players entering Australia.

Jones has had to battle hard to reach a ranking that will now be on the cusp of the world's top 200. She has thumbs but only three fingers on each hand, and is also missing three toes due to the rare condition she was born with. Aged eight she was told by specialists that there was no point her pursuing a tennis career. Nothing has stopped her learning to give the ball an almighty thump, and she put in her best performance of the week.  Speaking ahead of her final match in Dubai, Jones had likened the situation to appearing on a reality TV show. Jones says proving the specialist wrong has been a huge motivation throughout her career.  She did indeed stay focused to book her place in Melbourne, which will go down as the best moment in her fledgling career so far. It has been quite a journey for the 20-year-old Brit. 'It will have had an impact on my mental strength and my mentality and mindset as a whole, but I am sure everyone goes through hardship and deals with adversity in their own way. Everyone's story makes a person who they are.'

Jones is a feisty baseliner with a solid all round game who continually urges herself on. With an unusually small right hand she has needed wrist surgery already and sometimes suffers problems with her fingernails, through having to hold the racket extra tight.

Getting back to that Hyderabad ODI, the debutant was Azeem Hafeez, a tall, left-arm fast bowler,  who was rushed into Test cricket regardless of his limited first-class experience, due to a shin injury to Pakistan's spearhead, Imran Khan. Azeem was born with two fingers missing on his right hand but despite his handicap, he performed commendably in the Test arena. His debut was against India in 1983-84 and on the subsequent tour of Australia, he bowled marathon spells, taking 19 wickets with five-wicket hauls at Adelaide and Perth. In the home series against India he took a marvelous 6 for 46 at Lahore on a lifeless pitch. He then took 22 wickets in the six consecutive Tests against the Kiwis. He gave way to left-arm paceman, Wasim Akram. In the 18 Tests Azeem played, he took 63 wickets.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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