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Former Wimbledon Tennis Champion Jana Novota Dies At 49

Czech Jana Novotna receives the service from Spanish Conchita Martinez during the 1/2 final of Kremlin Cup tennis tournament in Moscow, Russia, 01 November 1997 (reissued 20 November 2017). Media reports on 20 November 2017 state that Jana Novotna died at the age of 49. Novotna, who won 16 Grand Slam titles, died of cancer and was surrounded by her family when she peacefully passed away, International Womens Tennis Association (WTA) chief Steve Simon was quoted as saying. EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV



Tennis loses a legend as former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna passes away from cancer at 49


By: Thomas Cluck


It is a sad day for the tennis community as 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna of the Czech Republic, one of the kindest, most beloved legends of our sport, passed away after a long battle with breast cancer aged 49.


“After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49,” said a statement by the WTA the morning after her death on November 19th.


Describing Novotna’s accomplishments and legacy in the game, WTA CEO Steve Simon 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’s legendary career was highlighted by her 1998 Wimbledon triumph, defeating Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets in the final at the All England Club to claim her lone Grand Slam title. Novotna manifested the final words players see before they step foot on Centre Court, meeting with triumph and disaster just the same.


After suffering heartbreak in 1993 in a tight final set loss to Steffi Graff in the final from a commanding 4-1 up in the deciding set, it was more bitter disappointment in 1997 for Novotna as she let a lead in the final slip yet again, with Martina Hingis eventually claiming the title over Novotna to make it two heartbreaking Wimbledon final defeats in the tournament Czech great Martina Navratilova, Novotna’s good friend, owned with nine singles titles.


Despite two agonizingly close finishes in the span of five years, Novotna’s perseverance and grit came through for her at the tournament she dreamed of winning most, finally banishing those demons and breaking through to claim her first Grand Slam win, a testament to her perpetual hard work and an incredible story of sport, coming from one of the greatest chokes in tennis history to finally achieve her dream after all on the sport’s most hallowed grounds.


The sight was strikingly similar and significantly different from 1993 to 1998, the same all-white clothing on the green grass court with the Duchess of Kent presenting the trophy, only this time in 1998 it was a triumphal Novotna receiving the Venus Rosewater Dish following her disaster five years prior.


Going from her tears of defeat on the Duchess’ shoulder in her first Wimbledon final to the jubilation and radiant smile when she finally claimed the most coveted of tennis trophies on her third try was a moving reminder of just what the great British poet Rudyard Kipling meant when he said to “meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same.” Jana Novotna did just that.


The Czech’s achievements spread far from her sole major singles win however, also reaching an Australian Open final early in her career in 1991, winning 24 WTA titles, including the year-end championships on one occasion, and a bronze medal in singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.


Novotna’s most monumental legacy however came in doubles though where she held 15 major crowns across women’s and mixed, with a career Grand Slam to her name in women’s doubles and two Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 1996. The Czech, a former doubles number one, also won the year-end championships on two occasions as well as leading her country to a Fed Cup win in 1988.


Novotna will be missed throughout the entire tennis community, one of the warmest and most beloved players of her generation gone too soon, and the team at 10sBalls sends our thoughts and prayers to her family and friends during this difficult time.

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