Jana Novotna, who has passed on of disease at 49, will perpetually be associated with a snapshot of tears in vanquish on Center Court at Wimbledon, as much as the 100 titles she won in a long and commended tennis career.
The Czech player, who was enlisted into the sport’s hall of fame in 2005, attempted to contain her feelings subsequent to losing to Steffi Graf in the 1993 finals at the All England Club, and the picture of the Duchess of Kent reassuring her amid the trophy introduction is among the most persevering of the titles.
She was in sight of triumph, driving 4-1 in the third set, when the German took five diversions in succession and went ahead to win 7 (6), 1-6, 6-4. At the point when Novotna started crying in the wake of being given the washout’s plate, the Duchess of Kent put an arm around her and whispered: “Don’t stress, you’ll win this one day.”
She misplaced to Martina Hingis in the final 4 years later, however, gained the identity in 1998, beating the French participant Nathalie Tauziat (whose cousin, Didier Deschamps, per week later captained France to the world Cup title in Paris). At 29 years and nine months, Novotna became the oldest first-time winner of a slam singles name in the Open generation.
In a 2015 interview with the BBC, Novotna stated of 1993 very last, “tomorrow, even though I was sad and dissatisfied, I opened the newspaper and my picture with the Duchess of Kent changed into on the front pages. For a second it felt like I used to be the winner and that was a super feeling. I still have the newspapers. They’re stunning photos and that I assume it confirmed the human aspect of professional tennis, which the majority came to remember in place of me dropping.
“It wouldn’t sound great to mention 1993 final changed into the only I was maximum proud of because I lost the suit when I used to be in advance. however it meant a lot to me and maybe it made me a higher participant, a better individual and maybe that suit helped me to perform lots greater in my profession.”
Novotna, like many players of her technology, turned into maximum comfy playing at the net, a serve-volleyer of the incredible judgment and touch. Her forte changed into doubles, wherein she gained 12 grand slam titles – along with the whole set of Wimbledon, Australian, French and the USA – in addition to four in blended doubles, however, she was widely respected in singles, additionally.
Novotna’s singles recreation flourished beneath the tutelage of her compatriot, Hana Mandlikova, and he or she earned $10m in a profession wherein she won greater than 500 fits, beating a number of the pleasant players in the game, mostly on grass, where her talents had been visible to quality advantage. Her doubles partners covered Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, Arantxa Sánchez Vicario, Gigi Fernández and Helena Sukova.
She came to prominence in singles at the Australian Open in 1991 whilst, towards all expectancies, she beat Graf for the first time in eleven attempts on her way to the final, in which she lost in 3 sets to Monica Seles.
She won silver in the doubles at the 1988 Olympics and again in 1996 at Atlanta, wherein she additionally gained bronze inside the singles. She changed into ranked No1 within the world in doubles in 1990 and No2 in singles in 1997. Over 14 years, she received 24 singles titles in any respect degrees and 76 in doubles. After retiring in 1999, Novotna, in brief, did statement for the BBC at Wimbledon.
it’s miles a degree of the esteem in which she turned into held on and off the court docket that the tributes arrived from all quarters of the game on Monday.
“Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competitive,” the former world No1 Pam Shriver said. “I can’t believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young.”
It was a sentiment echoed by the former British No1 Andrew Castle who said: “She was the good fun of an evening, a champion on the court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful.”
Jo Durie, who lost all her five matches against Novotna, tweeted: “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 humor.”