Jana Novotna, who won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1998 and 16 other Grand Slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles during her career, died Sunday in her native Czech Republic after a long battle with cancer, the Women’s Tennis Association announced in a statement. She was 49.
Novotna, a three-time Olympic medalist, captured her only Grand Slam singles title against France’s Nathalie Tauziat at Wimbledon. The win came five years after Novotna lost a 4-1 lead to top-seeded Steffi Graf in the final set of the 1993 Wimbledon singles final and then famously cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder. “Third time lucky,” the Duchess told Novotna after she lost the 1997 Wimbledon final to Martina Hingis in three sets. The Duchess was right.
“I think I always said that winning one Grand Slam would mean so much to me,” Novotna said after her win over Tauziat. “And winning Wimbledon, I guess it means everything, really. This is what I have been working for for many, many years, and this is definitely a dream come true.”
Novotna, who turned pro in 1987, won 24 WTA singles titles and 76 doubles titles during her career. She retired from the pro tour in 1999 and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005.
“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA CEO Steve Simon said in a statement. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.”
Several women’s tennis legends mourned Novotna’s death on social media.
“The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna,” Martina Navratilova wrote. “I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”
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 (@Martina) November 20, 2017
A sad loss to the tennis world, but a devastating loss to those of us who shared a deep friendship with her…a woman with integrity and honor. RIP Jana.
— Chris Evert (@ChrissieEvert) November 20, 2017
Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competive. I can’t believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young.
— Pam Shriver (@PHShriver) November 20, 2017
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