Tennis star Lauren's lockdown has led to new dreams

It is a shade over a year since Worthing wheelchair tennis star Lauren Jones won the most recent of more than 30 career titles.

Lauren Jones in action at Nottingham last year
Lauren Jones in action at Nottingham last year

But after a ‘busy and intense lockdown’, the 25-year-old three-time national champion believes she is stronger than ever and is excited for the future.

The LTA’s Nottingham Futures tournament last July brought Jones her first singles title and her second doubles title since being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease at the start of 2019.

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But with the support of her national governing body, Jones and her team have been able to maximise the opportunities presented by lockdown.

Lauren Jones wants to win more titles - and has other plans too

Jones said: “It’s been a busy few months, but with lots of positive things that will just allow me to push on when I’m back to full-time competition and training.

“The support from the LTA was incredible, a really good opportunity for players and staff to come together.

“I was sent a range of equipment to help me train, including an FK Pro suspension system and a pull-up bar, but the big thing for me was the set of wheelchair rollers I got.

“I’ve been able to base my pushing fitness programme on the rollers then mix that up with hill sprints in my tennis chair when it’s been quiet around the local golf courses and country roads.”

No stranger to challenges, Jones was paralysed after falling out of a tree aged 13, in 2009.

Ten years later she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and underwent major surgery for the condition early last year.

She said: “We identified at that start of lockdown this would be an extended break from tennis and were asked how best we could make the most of the time and one of those things was to focus on my health and getting me stronger and fitter.

“I’m more aware now of what upsets my Crohn’s and learning more about my body, because it is a chronic illness and I’ve had to adapt my training.

“I’ve been quite high risk as I’m on medication for the Crohn’s that are immunosuppressants, so they make my immune system worse, so I got out of London quickly and came back to Worthing and to the country.

“For the first few weeks I isolated from my parents, too, so we had the house split in half, and since then I’ve been living with my mum and dad, my brother and our respective girlfriends.

“They’ve all made sure I’ve been kept away from anything harmful.”

While unable to be competitive on court during lockdown, Jones has seen multiple gains during her three-month strength and conditioning programme devised by her own team with input from the LTA’s strength and conditioning coach.

She added: “My main aim has been to strengthen my back to help with preventing arm and shoulder injuries and there’s been a noticeable difference in terms of muscle bulk. Bulking up was the plan and my hill sprint times have improved week-on-week.

“The resistance pushing has been a big focus.”

Having back to Worthing, the Tennis Sussex ambassador is hoping to be able to return to the capital soon. But, in the meantime, the former world No 1 junior has been grateful for the support of a local tennis facility.

“I got back on court a few weeks ago and introduced three sessions a week at Billingshurst Tennis Club, whose clubhouse I actually opened in 2014 after becoming world No 1 junior the year before,” she said.

“We’ve had a relationship since then and they’ve stepped in and helped. I’ve been mixing the on-court sessions with continuing my strength and condition sessions two days a week.

“The plan has been to build up the tennis so I can go back to full-time training.”

With Jones maintaining her dream of earning qualification for the Tokyo Paralympics, lockdown has enabled her to continue working on her mental strength, which she believes will be huge as she bids to move back towards her career-best ranking of No 24, which she achieved in 2017.

Currently world No 44, Jones said: “Lockdown didn’t come at an idle time for any of us and I’d already started working with a psychologist quite a while before, focusing on the mental side.

“I’ve shown I have the technical ability and shown I’m a talented player but have maybe held myself back by being a perfectionist and being too hard on myself.

“I’m excited to get back to full-time training and continue where we left off and just need a prolonged period on tour now, whenever we are able to.

“I’m looking forward to introducing match play to my training. But I’m not in any massive rush, I’ll do so when it’s safe and the right time.”

Before her accident in 2009, Jones had dreams of playing football for England and had already played for Brighton & Hove Albion as a junior. Being back in Worthing has enabled her to nurture local relationships as well as looking further afield and building a partnership in the football community.

“I’ve been working with a company based in Worthing to launch my new website. Lockdown has given us the chance to focus on what we wanted to include on the website in conjunction with new partners and sponsors.”

Among new partners are Rangers FC. “I grew up a Reading supporter and remain so but the Rangers family have all been so lovely and have really been inspired by my story.”

To learn more about Lauren, visit her new website at laurenjones.online and for more on disability tennis, see www.lta.org.uk/play