WORTHING’S young wheelchair tennis star Lauren Jones made a glorious return to competition at the Sheffield Wheelchair Tennis Tournament last month.
The 19-year-old clinched her second senior ITF Futures women’s singles title in her first tournament in more than a year.
With her last tournament in February, 2014, Jones went into the event unseeded and without a world ranking after recovering from injury. However, a 6-2, 6-1 win over fellow Brit Caroline MacDonald gave her the perfect introduction to playing competitive tennis once again as she eased into the semi-finals.
The former world number one junior went on to pass a stern test when she was taken to a first set tie-break by Britain’s current world number two ranked junior and tournament top seed Luz Esperanza Merry in the last four. Jones dominated proceedings thereafter to move into the final 7-6 (5), 6-1.
She sealed the title with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over close friend and second seed Busra Un of Turkey.
Jones, one of 18 players on the Tennis Foundation’s Wheelchair Tennis Performance Programme, said: “I was so nervous before my match against Esperanza and again in the final, so it was such a relief to come through and win those matches and it’s an incredible feeling to be back playing competitively after a long journey.
“It’s been a bit of a torturous year, having struggled with injury and I’m so thankful to be back. I couldn’t be happier right now.
“I’ve been working with Tom Pocock at West Worthing Tennis Club for about a year and a half now, but obviously some of that time has been while I’ve not been able to hit. I started hitting with soft balls for about ten minutes a time just before Christmas and gradually built up to playing with full balls for longer and longer in recent weeks, and I’m still getting back into my full programme.
“During the time I wasn’t able to hit, I’ve also done a lot with my psychologist on my mental approach. When I arrived in Sheffield, my main aim was to carry out all the things I’d been working on and not to worry about points, games and results.
“I’m proud of myself for doing that and the rest of it took care of itself and saw me through to winning the tournament. I’m really excited for the future now.”
Jones now has her sights set on playing in Israel or Switzerland later this month, when she aims to get the points from a second tournament that she needs to make her return to the world rankings.