Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Navratilova leads tributes to 'amazing' Novotna after her death at 49

Jana Novotna dead aged just 49 after ex-Wimbledon champion's lengthy battle with cancer Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna dies aged 49: WTA
Isaac Mcdaniel | 21 November, 2017, 01:12

Czech tennis player Jana Novotna, a Wimbledon champion in 1998 and 16-time grand-slam victor in doubles and mixed doubles, has died at the age of 49 after a long battle with cancer, the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) said on Monday.

Novotna passed away "after a long battle with cancer" and was surrounded by her family when she died peacefully.

Novotna won 12 doubles' titles in grand slams, but is perhaps most fondly remembered for her singles triumph at Wimbledon in 1998, an emotional victory which came five years after a final defeat at the All England club to Steffi Graf left her in tears on Centre Court. - "Always the champion" - "Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competitive".

She came to the attention of the wider public in 1993 when she featured in one of the most enduring images in the long history of Wimbledon as she was famously consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing the 1993 final to Steffi Graf, having led the final set 4-1. She defeated Venus Williams in the quarter-final on the way to that career highlight. "I know you will win it one day, don't worry", the Duchess told her at that moment.

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Novotna said the Duchess had told her "I believe you will do it" and, indeed, she did, winning Wimbledon, aged 29 and nine months, to become the oldest first-time Grand Slam singles victor in the Open era. "Unfortunately, she started playing better and I did not". Yet, once again, it heightened the idea that Novotna was one of sport's great "chokers" - one reporter once described her cruelly as "No-No Novotna, the lady from Choke-Oslovakia" - but it was a tag that she always challenged feistily. She also played twice in the semi-finals of the French Open and US Open. "Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana's family", WTA's CEO Steve Simon said.

Novotna won 500 career singles matches, making her the 15th woman in the Open Era to accomplish the feat.

Novotna also represented her country with success, claiming silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics as well as a bronze in Atlanta.

She posted on Twitter: "The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna..."

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