Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna dies, 49, after long battle with cancer

Beth Cruz
November 21, 2017

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.

Durie, who expressed her shock at Novotna's death, said her SW19 success showcased her fighting spirit. The women's tennis body said she died on Sunday after a long battle with cancer.

Winning 100 tournaments - 24 WTA singles and 76 doubles, including one grand slam singles and 16 doubles titles - plus three Olympic medals and the Fed Cup with Czechoslovakia, made her an outstanding champion.

Former American doubles star Pam Shriver added: "Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competive".

At the peak of her powers in the 1990s, Novotna features in one of the most enduring images in the long history of Wimbledon after famously being consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing the 1993 final to Steffi Graf.

For even though she was victorious as singles champion there in 1998, it was five years earlier on the same Centre Court that she really captured the imagination - and sympathy - of the sports world when losing the final to German Steffi Graf. But it was the highlight of her singles career that came to define her. "I know you will win it one day, don't worry", the Duchess told her at that moment.

Novotna defeated Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat to win her Wimbledon crown.

Over her career Novotna won 17 Grand Slam titles, including 12 in doubles and four in mixed doubles.

Czech player Petra Kvitova wrote in an Instagram post: "Today we lost a wonderful person, a Czech who played handsome tennis, who inspired me and supported me". The raw display of emotion won her many fans. Four years later, Novotna, whose background as a talented child gymnast helped her to hone a dynamically athletic serve-and-volley game flawless for Wimbledon, reached the final again. "Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA", WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said in a statement. I can't believe she is gone this soon.

Novotna, renowned for her serve and volley, was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.

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