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Fran-Tastic: Austin is Home to One of World's Best Wheelchair Tennis Players

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 09:47 PM CDT

Plenty of players hold court at Grey Rock Tennis Club. However, few hold a candle to Francisca Mardones.

"It's almost impossible to describe how amazing it is," said former United States Davis Cup Captain, Dennis Rolston.

Francisca enjoys tennis because it's an individual sport. Therefore, a match is as much about you as it is about your opponent.

"You compete against your mind and your body," said Mardones.

And if anyone knows the power of mind and body, it's Fran.

"She's got a strong body, strong heart," said Fernando Velasco, owner/general manager of Grey Rock Tennis Center.

In 1999, while working as a hotel manager in the Caribbean, Mardones was caught outside during Hurricane Lenny. As the category 4 storm barreled down, Fran was thrown over a cliff. The accident broke her back and caused her to spend a year in the hospital. After undergoing more than 20 surgeries, Mardones' legs no longer functioned - but she held the future in her hands.

"I couldn't move," recalled Fran. "I couldn't talk. I couldn't do anything. I said, 'your life will change only if you want it to."

As she was rehabbing and adjusting to her new life, Francisca was introduced to wheelchair tennis. She had never picked up a racket before. That was only seven years ago.

"Tennis gave me a lot of things in my life," admitted Mardones.

When it comes to rules, the only difference between wheelchair tennis and able bodied tennis is that Francisca and her competitors can allow the ball to bounce twice, rather than just once. But we very quickly learned Fran doesn't usually even need that second bounce.

She trains with Velasco and Ralston, a former Wimbledon doubles champion at Grey Rock - a facility she found while visiting a friend last year.

"We don't ask, we just say, 'Lord, thank you," said Velasco.

After competing for her native country in the London Paralympic games, Fran decided to move from Chile to Austin in January to train full time. She's currently number 16 in the world rankings.

"If I could go back 13 years ago, when I had my accident -  I would not change anything," said Mardones.

Life may have served up an unforced error, but like a true tennis pro, Fran rallied - and even put her own spin on the return.

By Adam WinklerFran-Tastic: Austin is Home to One of World's Best Wheelchair Tennis Players


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WORLD SERIES

Friday - Game 3

Kansas City 3, San Francisco 2

(Royals lead series 2-1)

Saturday - Game 4

Kansas City (Vargas 11-10) at San Francisco (Vogelsong 8-13), 8:07 p.m.

TOP 25 COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Friday's Game

(6) Oregon 59, California 41

Saturday's Games

No. 1 Mississippi State at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m.

No. 3 Mississippi at No. 24 LSU, 7:15 p.m.

No. 4 Alabama at Tennessee, 7:30 p.m.

No. 5 Auburn vs. South Carolina, 7:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State vs. Michigan, 3:30 p.m.

No. 10 TCU vs. Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m.

No. 11 Kansas State vs. Texas, Noon

No. 13 Ohio State at Penn State, 8 p.m.

No. 14 Arizona State at Washington, 10:45 p.m.

No. 15 Arizona at Washington State, 5 p.m.

No. 16 Nebraska vs. Rutgers, Noon

No. 19 Utah vs. No. 20 Southern Cal, 10 p.m.

No. 21 Clemson vs. Syracuse, 7 p.m.

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No. 23 Marshall vs. FAU, 3:30 p.m.

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Saturday's Games

Buffalo at San Jose, 4 p.m.

Boston at Toronto, 7 p.m.

N.Y. Rangers at Montreal, 7 p.m.

New Jersey at Ottawa, 7 p.m.

Dallas at N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.

Detroit at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Chicago at St. Louis, 8 p.m.

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MLS

Friday's Games

Chicago 2, Houston 1

Saturday's Games

Los Angeles at Seattle FC, 3 p.m.

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Toronto FC at New England, 7:30 p.m.

Portland at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

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Friday-Saturday

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St. Louis at Kansas City, 1 p.m.

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Minnesota at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

Seattle at Carolina, 1 p.m.

Baltimore at Cincinnati, 1 p.m.

Miami at Jacksonville, 1 p.m.

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Buffalo at N.Y. Jets, 1 p.m.

Philadelphia at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

Oakland at Cleveland, 4:25 p.m.

Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, 4:25 p.m.

Green Bay at New Orleans, 8:30 p.m.

Open: N.Y. Giants, San Francisco

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Washington at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

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Friday's Games

Dallas 117, Orlando 92

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Minnesota 113, Chicago 112

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Houston 96, San Antonio 87

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Sacramento 93, L.A. Lakers 92

Golden State 119, Denver 112

Portland 99, L-A Clippers 89

Saturday

No games scheduled

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