Fran Jones plans for future on Oxford University visit with Emma Raducanu

Fran Jones and Emma Raducanu were dreaming of their academic futures on a pre-Wimbledon trip to Oxford.

The good friends both excelled at school and, while tennis is very much the priority at the moment, they took a day off last week to do a little forward planning.

“We are both pretty academic, I would say,” said 23-year-old Jones. “We have a vision for the future and Oxford (University) is definitely something that we would both enjoy.

“It was just a bit spontaneous really, we felt like going and we love coffee so some great little coffee spots. It was just a good opportunity for a day off.

“I think sometimes tennis is consuming and it’s important that you can have that vision for your career afterwards and sometimes keeping in touch with it. So that when you do come back in here, you’re ready to go again instead of everything else being drowned out.

“There’s a lot I want to do in my life and I feel like sometimes I don’t have enough time to do everything.

“But I think I would like to use my different skill sets off the court once I’m done with tennis, and I think tennis is a fantastic sport to provide you the life experiences and the values that many people don’t attain until a much later age.”

Jones, who hinted that politics could be her subject of choice, has become very close to Raducanu over the past few months, with the pair spending a lot of time together.

They missed out on an on-court meeting in Nottingham earlier this month when Jones withdrew because of a shoulder niggle, but she agrees that Raducanu appears to be in a much happier place than on many occasions since her US Open win in 2021.

“Just my presence, it’s just a consequence of her spending some time with me,” she said with a smile.

“No, it’s great to see her in that space. As players, we carry a lot of weight throughout the year. And it’s important to understand how to balance that and I think she’s coming to terms with how she wants to be and feel and how she needs to manage her life off the court.”

Jones knows all too well the highs and lows of the sport having made her Wimbledon debut in 2021, pushing Coco Gauff in a close match, only to miss out the last two years through injury.

Born with only three fingers and a thumb on each hand and seven toes because of the rare genetic condition Ectrodactyly Ectodermal Dysplasia, the Yorkshirewoman faces significant physical challenges.

“Obviously as a Brit you want to play in your country, you want to play every week,” she said of her Nottingham withdrawal. “But equally we know that I’m different to other people on the tour.

“It’s been three years since I played here last time and the biggest motivator for me to keep being persistent was to come back to Wimbledon.

Fran Jones, left, prepares to hug Coco Gauff after a Wimbledon match in 2021
Fran Jones, left, played Coco Gauff at Wimbledon in 2021 (Steven Paston/PA)

“It’s been a tough couple of years and, with the physical challenges I’ve faced, it’s been important that I’ve surrounded myself with the right people.

“Now I view it as almost like an orchestra. You have your different instruments and at different periods of time some people in your team play their instrument a little bit louder than the others.”

Jones will make her All England Club return against Croatian Petra Martic, and has the carrot of a potential second-round match against world number one Iga Swiatek.

“I like to play on the big stage where I can so I’m sure it’s a great motivation for me but it’s all about the first match,” added Jones.