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Prague | Jana Novotna Dies aged 49

Prague | Jana Novotna Dies aged 49
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The tennis world is shocked to learn that former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died, aged just 49.

Blessed with great athletic ability and a wicked sense of humour, Jana was always friendly and smiling, full of fun.

She was seen most recently at the Laver Cup in Prague this past September and her battle against cancer was kept private and not common knowledge within the game.

The news was broken by the WTA in a statement: “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.”

Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.

Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.

WTA statement

Born on October 2, 1968, Jana won a total of 100 professional tennis titles in her career, but endeared herself particularly to the British public when she lost her first Wimbledon final in 1992 to Steffi Graf and cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent during the presentation ceremony on Centre Court.

“One day you will do it, I know you will,” the Duchess consoled her, and so she did.

The defeat remains one of the iconic images of sport, but ultimately there was to be a happy ending to the story when, five years later, Jana won the final at her third attempt, defeating defending champion Martina Hingis in the semi-final and then Nathalie Tauziat in the final.

In a 2015 interview with the BBC, Novotna said of the 1993 final, “The next day, even though I was sad and disappointed, I opened the newspaper and my picture with the Duchess of Kent was on the front pages.

“For a moment it felt like I was the winner and that was a great feeling. I still have the newspapers. They’re beautiful pictures and I think it showed the human side of professional tennis, which most of the people came to remember instead of me losing.

“It wouldn’t sound great to say the 1993 final was the one I was most proud of because I lost the match when I was ahead. But it meant so much for me and maybe it made me a better player, a better person and maybe that match helped me to accomplish a lot more in my career.”

That ended up being her only Grand Slam title in singles, although she was prolific in the doubles, wearing her distinctive headband and winning 24 Grand Slams, ticking off the full set of Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open, and the US Open.

She reached the final of the Australian Open once, and appeared in the semi-finals of the French Open and the US Open and retired with 76 titles in doubles, and 24 in singles to her name.

She was the World No 1 ranked player in doubles in 1990 and got as high as No 2 in singles in 1997.



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Jana Novotna known for her brilliant, athletic game, dies aged 49

Jana Novotna, of the Czech Republic, speaks at a n

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Born on October 2, 1968, Jana won a total of 100 professional tennis titles in her career, but endeared herself particularly to the British public when she lost her first Wimbledon final in 1992 to Steffi Graf and cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent during the presentation ceremony on Centre Court.

“One day you will do it, I know you will,” the Duchess consoled her, and so she did.

The defeat remains one of the iconic images of sport, but ultimately there was to be a happy ending to the story when, five years later, Jana won the final at her third attempt, defeating defending champion Martina Hingis in the semi-final and then Nathalie Tauziat in the final.

In a 2015 interview with the BBC, Novotna said of the 1993 final, “The next day, even though I was sad and disappointed, I opened the newspaper and my picture with the Duchess of Kent was on the front pages.

“For a moment it felt like I was the winner and that was a great feeling. I still have the newspapers. They’re beautiful pictures and I think it showed the human side of professional tennis, which most of the people came to remember instead of me losing.

“It wouldn’t sound great to say the 1993 final was the one I was most proud of because I lost the match when I was ahead. But it meant so much for me and maybe it made me a better player, a better person and maybe that match helped me to accomplish a lot more in my career.”

That ended up being her only Grand Slam title in singles, although she was prolific in the doubles, wearing her distinctive headband and winning 24 Grand Slams, ticking off the full set of Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open, and the US Open.

She reached the final of the Australian Open once, and appeared in the semi-finals of the French Open and the US Open and retired with 76 titles in doubles, and 24 in singles to her name.

She was the World No 1 ranked player in doubles in 1990 and got as high as No 2 in singles in 1997.

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

She was also a member of her country’s victorious Fed Cup championship team in 1988.

She was a fine grass court player and shared the Eastbourne title in 1997 with Arantxa Sánchez Vicario when the final match was abandoned due to rain.

The following year, the two players met once again in the final on centre court at Devonshire Park and this time, Jana beat the Spaniard to claim the women’s singles title.

In 1997 she reached the Wimbledon final again, but was beaten by Martina Hingis at a time when the Swiss was reaching her peak.

Coached by former Grand Slam winner Hana Mandlikova and from a country with a long history of producing a wide variety of gifted tennis players, she fought hard against the ‘Czech choker’ label, and eventually rose above it, an immensely popular figure.

She won four Wimbledon doubles titles with compatriot Helena Sukova in 1989 and 1990, with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1995 and with Hingis in 1998.

She earned $10m in a career in which she won more than 500 matches, beating some of the best players in the game, mostly on grass, where her exceptional skills were seen to best advantage.

Novotna also spent two years working as a commentator for the BBC and continued to play in invitational tournaments, often with Martina Navratilova.

She also went into coaching, working with 2013 Wimbledon winner Marion Bartoli and countrywoman Barbora Krejcikova.


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Jana Novotna is consoled by the Duchess of Kent after her defeat in the Women's Singles Final in 1993

Novotna & Duchess of Kent

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Tributes are pouring in as news of Jana’s death permeates through the tennis world.

Former British player and now tennis commentator Andrew Castle said the news of Novotna’s death was a “terrible shame”.

“She was good fun of an evening, a champion on court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful,” he tweeted.

“The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna…I am gutted and beyond words- Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman,” Martina Navratilova tweeted.

Wimbledon tweeted a statement on Novotna’s passing Monday morning: “The All England Club is deeply saddened to hear the news of Jana Novotna’s passing,” the tweet said.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory.”

“The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Former British No 1 Jo Durie said on Twitter: “Oh no how terribly sad. All thoughts to her family and friends. So glad Jana won Wimbledon. Such a fighter on court & a wicked sense of humour.”

“Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competitive,” the former Doubles World No 1 Pam Shriver said. “I can’t believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young.”

“When she lost to Steffi Graf at Wimbledon in 1993, I was crying,” said Jan Kodes, a fellow Czech tennis player who won three Grand Slams, including one Wimbledon title, in the 1970s. “She came to me and said, ‘Mr. Kodes, don’t cry, I will win it here one day anyhow.’ “

“And she did five years later,” Mr. Kodes said, in remarks published by the Czech news website Idnes. “Jana certainly was a player who became a role model for many young girls.”

Ivo Kaderka, President of the Czech Tennis Association, described Ms. Novotna as a domestic tennis legend whose impact extended beyond the sport.

“Despite winning Wimbledon, she remained a pleasant, normal intelligent girl, who always came to support us and cheer,” Mr. Kaderka said. “Who would have thought she would leave so soon.”

Jana’s former coach, Hana Mandlikova, told the Czech Press Agency that the tennis star’s death at a young age made it “difficult to find words.”

“Jana was a great girl,” Mandlikova said. “I am very happy it worked out for her in Wimbledon eventually.”

 

 




About The Author

Barbara Wancke

Barbara Wancke is a Tennis Threads Tennis Correspondent who has been involved in the sport for over 40 years, not only as a former player, umpire and coach but primarily as an administrator and tennis writer contributing over the years to Lawn Tennis, Tennis World, and Tennis Today.
She has worked with the Dunlop Sports Co, IMG and at the ITF as Director of Women’s Tennis, responsible, amongst other things, for the running of the Federation Cup (now Fed Cup), and acting as Technical Director for tennis at the Seoul Olympics (1988). She subsequently set up her own tennis consultancy Tennis Interlink and was elected to the Board of the TIA UK where she became the Executive Administrator and Executive Vice President until she stood down in July 2014 and is currently an Honorary Vice President.

4 Comments

  1. Mary Kemp

    Lovely lady bless her RIP Jana xx

    Reply
  2. Janet Edgar

    So sad to hear this news. She was an amazing tennis player.

    Reply

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