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Jana Novotna's Wimbledon Story Was Among The Most Iconic In The Sport's History

Jana Novotna's Wimbledon Story Was Among The Most Iconic In The Sport's History

Jana Novotna has today passed away at the age of just 49, following a long battle with cancer. Her passing was today confirmed in a statement by the WTA.

It is with deep sadness that the WTA announces the passing on Sunday, November 19, of Jana Novotna, the former WTA World No.1 doubles and No.2 singles champion. After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49.

Known for her brilliant, athletic game, Novotna won 24 WTA singles titles in 14 years on the professional women’s circuit, along with 76 doubles titles. Having reached the Wimbledon singles final twice previously, she famously defeated the Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat to win the title in 1998. She also won the WTA Finals in 1997.

Altogether, Novotna won 17 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in doubles and four in mixed doubles. She was a three-time Olympic medalist and a member of her country’s victorious Fed Cup championship team in 1988.

Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005, her career successes made Jana Novotna an inspiration to those who knew her and to many up and coming WTA players on the professional women’s tennis circuit. In more recent years, she made the transition into professional coaching.

Steve Simon, WTA CEO, said: "Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her. Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family."

Novotna had a spectacular career, but is arguably best-remembered for completing one of the most wonderful arcs ever seen at SW19. In 1993, she shot through to the singles' final as the eighth seed, in which she came agonisingly close to an improbable triumph. Having lost the first set, to Steffi Graf she won the second, and found herself serving for the game at 4-1 up in the third set. What followed, however, was a collapse: she double-faulted on that point and proceeded to lose five straight games.

She ended the afternoon weeping on the shoulder of Katharine, Duchess of Kent. Remarkably, some British papers were pressured by the All-England Club not to run the photos of this moment, as it was deemed inappropriate.

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Further anguish in London was to come. In 1994, she lost to Martina Navratilova in the last eight. She was a semi-finalist a year later, and a quarter-finalist in 1996.

1997 brought further heartache. Once again she swept to the final, only to lose in three sets to top seed Martina Hingis.

But finally, 1998 brought redemption. At the age of 29, Novotna defeated Nathalie Tauziat in two sets became the oldest first-time Grand Slam singles winner in the Open Era. She laid waste to a couple of demons en route, beating Venus Williams in the quarter-final before avenging the final defeat to Hingis in the last four. It was to be the only singles' Grand Slam title of her career.

She had an outstanding career, however, winning twelve Grand Slams at doubles, four of them in London. She won three Olympic medals for Czechoslovakia and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

Gavin Cooney
Article written by
Changed the spelling of his name upon pressure from Michael Owen.

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