Jones was born in Kings Heath, Birmingham, England. Her parents were prominent table tennis players, her father, Adrian Haydon, having been English number 1 and a competitor at world championships between 1928 and 1953. Ann, as a young girl, also took up the game, participating in five world championships in the 1950s, the best result being losing finalist in singles, doubles and mixed doubles all in Stockholm 1957. Soon after this, she wrote the book Tackle Table Tennis This Way.
She was also a powerful lawn tennis player, winning the 1954 and 1955 British Junior Championships. In 1956, she won the Wimbledon girls’ singles championship.
Jones played lawn tennis in a highly competitive era that included some of the greatest female tennis players of all time, including Billie Jean King, Margaret Court, and Maria Bueno. Despite the fierce competition, she won the 1961 French Championships, beating Margaret Smith Court, former champion Zsuzsa Körmöczy and Yola Ramirez Ochoa and reached the final of the 1961 U.S. Championships, beating Wimbledon champion Angela Mortimer, losing to the defending champion, Darlene Hard.
In 1962, she married P.F. Jones and, recorded as Ann Haydon-Jones, won the French title for a second time in 1966, beating Maria Bueno and Nancy Richey. She also won the Italian Championships that year, beating Françoise Dürr and Annette Van Zyl.
At both the Wimbledon Championships and the U.S. Championships in 1967, Jones lost in the final to King. Two years later, however, the two again met in the Wimbledon final. This time, Jones took the most coveted title in the sport, making her the first left-handed female player to do so. She rounded off that year’s Wimbledon by winning the mixed doubles championship with Australia’s Fred Stolle. Her performances resulted in her being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Jones made Wimbledon 1969 her last Grand Slam singles event.
She was seeded number one for the 1969 US Open but withdrew before the tournament began. She radically reduced her playing schedule for 1970, playing in South Africa where she won the Orange Free State Championships and the Western Province Championships. She then largely played only events in the United Kingdom for the remainder of the year. She returned to the international scene to play The Federation Cup event in Australia, where she partnered Virginia Wade on the British team.
In 1971, Jones played on the Virginia Slims Circuit, winning the U.S.$10,000 first prize for the event staged in Las Vegas, beating King in the final. Jones more or less retired after this event as she was expecting her first child. However, Jones continued to play the occasional UK event and was part of the 1975 Wightman Cup team for Great Britain. In 1977, Jones teamed with Winnie Wooldridge to play doubles at Wimbledon.
According to Lance Tingay of The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail and Bud Collins, Jones was ranked in the world top ten from 1957 through 1963 and from 1965 through 1970, reaching a career high of World No. 2 in those rankings in 1967 and 1969. According to Mark Lewisohn in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, on 4 July 1969, The Beatles paused the dubbing session for their song Golden Slumbers to listen to Jones beat King for the Wimbledon title, live on radio.
With the dawn of the open era in 1968, Jones joined with King and others to organize the first professional female touring group. In 1970, she was hired by the BBC as a guest commentator and worked with them for over three decades, while occasionally commentating for US TV stations’ tennis coverage. Jones was chairwoman of the Women’s International Tennis Council and for many years the British team captain for events such as the Federation and Wightman Cups.
Over her career, she reached 6 Wimbledon semifinals in addition to her two appearances in the final: in 1958, beating Maria Bueno and losing to defending champion Althea Gibson, 1960, beating Renee Schuurman Haygarth and losing, after nearly winning, to Sandra Reynolds, 1962, beating Billie Jean Moffitt and losing to eventual champion Karen Hantze Susman, 1963, losing to beaten finalist Billie Jean Moffitt, 1966, beating Nancy Richey and losing a titanic struggle to Maria Bueno 3-6, 11-9, 5-7, and 1968, beating Richey and losing, after leading by a set and a break, to holder Billie Jean King.
In the US nationals, as well as her final appearances in 1961 and 1967, Ann Jones also reached 3 semifinals, in 1959, beating 2nd seed Sandra Reynolds (Price) and losing to Christine Truman, in 1963, beating 2nd seed Darlene Hard and losing 9-7 in the third to eventual winner Maria Bueno and in 1968, beating Peaches Bartkowicz and losing to eventual winner Virginia Wade.
As well as winning the French championships twice, Jones reached 3 other French finals, beating Annette Van Zyl and losing to Nancy Richey in 1968, and beating Rosemary Casals and Lesley Turner and losing in 3 sets to Margaret Smith Court in 1969. Of her three losing finals in the French championships, there was one which nearly added to her total of wins: 1963 when having remarkably beaten Jan Lehane and Věra Suková for the loss of one game in four sets, she led Lesley Turner Bowrey 5-2 in the final set.
She also reached the semifinals in 1957, aged 17, beating 3rd seed Christiane Mercelis and losing a tough semifinal to Dorothy Head Knode, and in 1962 beating Jan Lehane and losing to Lesley Turner Bowrey.
In the British Hard Courts championships, after losing in the finals in 1958 to Shirley Bloomer Brasher and 1960 to Christine Truman Janes, she was undefeated from 1963 to 1966, winning finals against Norma Baylon, Jan Lehane, Annette Van Zyl and Virginia Wade. She was a stalwart in the Wightman Cup from 1957 (aged 18, beating Darlene Hard, then Wimbledon finalist) to 1967, 1970 and 1975, winning the deciding match in 1958 against Mimi Arnold when Britain won for the first time since 1930, taking both her singles against Billie Jean Moffitt King and Nancy Richey in 1965, and overall winning 9 singles and 6 doubles.
Despite playing at a time when there were 4 other British winners of the French, Australian, US and Wimbledon titles around, (Mortimer, Brasher, Truman and Wade), she was ranked no. 1 in her country on 7 occasions before turning professional. Naturally a baseliner and effective as such on clay (one Paris opponent, Tiiu Kivi, said it was like playing a brick wall that moved), she schooled herself to become a most effective net player, perhaps seen at her best when attacking Margaret Smith Court to defeat in the Wimbledon semifinal of 1969. Apart from Althea Gibson, early in her career, there was not a leading player of her era that she did not beat on several occasions.
In 1971 she published her tennis autobiography, A Game to Love.
Jones caused something of a stir on 30 August 1962 when she married businessman Philip “Pip” Jones (1907-1993) who was thirty-one years her senior and five years older than her father. The couple later became the butt of many jokes on Monty Python’s Flying Circus during its series run. As a running gag, the Pythons would frequently insert “Ann Haydon-Jones and her husband Pip” into any sketch where a list of names was being read off.
In 1985, Jones was voted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. For many years, Jones was chairwoman of the International Women’s Tennis Council and has long been a member of Wimbledon’s Committee of Management. She became the first ever ‘civilian woman’ (i.e. not a member of the British Royal Family) to present the trophies at Wimbledon, when she awarded the winners of the Mixed Doubles championship their cup in 2007, a ceremony she now regularly performs. She has since also presented the junior girl’s trophy.
Already a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), Jones was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2014 New Year Honours for services to tennis.
To book Ann Jones as the tennis speaker for your corporate event, function or conference, simply contact the Champions Speakers agency by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling a booking agent directly on 0207 1010 553.
When at corporate events, Ann is known to cover the following topics:
- Sporting Success
- Drive & Determination
- International Tennis