While the eyes of the tennis world are largely fixed on Wimbledon, Worthing wheelchair star Lauren Jones is focused on three ITF Futures tournaments in Italy and Britain.
Jones, a part of the LTA’s GB wheelchair tennis world class performance programme, secured an unlikely victory in the women’s doubles at Croatia’s Zagreb Open, partnering Colombia’s Zuleinny Rodriguez Trujillo in her first competitive action since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease last year.
The first time partners beat the second and top seeds on the same day as Jones claimed the 20th women’s doubles title of her career - just a month into her latest comeback bid.
It was the perfect birthday present for Jones, who turned 24 this week.
She said: “I went into it expecting to be a bit rusty.
"It had been three months of not really being able to do anything much at all and my comeback was structured in terms of starting off with light physio, then light gym-based around physio exercises and then into strength and conditioning. I felt like I was in really good shape, so it was just about getting used to matches again. I think it went really well.”
A 6-0, 6-0 victory over Belgium’s Cristina Deac earned Jones a place in the women’s singles quarter-finals before she bowed out to Swedish second seed Rebecka Bellander.
But with those two matches behind her, it was in the doubles that she came into her own. A 6-2, 7-5 victory over the second seeds earned Jones and partner Rodriguez Trujillo a place in the final against top seeds.
Jones and Rodriguez Trujillo recovered from 4-1 down in the deciding match tie-break to prevail 6-3, 6-7 (5), (12-10).
The Worthing talent added: “We were 6-3 and 5-3 ahead before they came back to force the match tie-break and at the right time I delivered.
“At 10-10 I put in a big serve and then finished off with a drop shot. It was great!
“My team and I had our own personal goals for Zagreb and playing with Zuleinny really helped me to focus on those goals.
“I was using my experience to help her, whereas so many times in the past it’s been the other way around.
“I’ve been the less experienced or lower ranked player.”
Success in Zagreb came less than a month after Jones returned to on-court training and she is now focused on trying to qualify for the Tokyo Paralympics.
Currently ranked 89 in the world, she is aiming to improve and move towards the top 25 in order to realise her ambition.
Jones said: “I want to have six ITF Futures tournaments behind me as a solid foundation of matches and hopefully wins before starting to step up.
"That continues this month with two tournaments in Italy and then the Nottingham Futures at the end of the month, which takes place alongside the British Open Super Series.”
Are you inspired by Jones' story and interested in trying wheelchair tennis?
To find out more about the LTA’s work with disability tennis, head to www.lta.org.uk/play or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For news and updates follow on Twitter @the_LTA and @WChairTennisGB.
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