Jana Novotna fi­nally got to be queen of Wim­ble­don

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OBITUARIES -

JANA Novotna, a Czech ten­nis player who pro­vided one of the most poignant mo­ments in the modern his­tory of her sport when she wept on the shoul­der of a Bri­tish royal after los­ing the 1993 Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle, and who came back to claim the hon­our five years later, died on Novem­ber 19 in the Czech Repub­lic, aged 49.

She had can­cer, ac­cord­ing to an an­nounce­ment by the Women’s Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion.

Novotna, who re­tired in 1999, was ranked No 2 in the world at her peak, a player de­fined by her grace, skill and un­flag­ging com­pet­i­tive spirit.

“Watch­ing Jana Novotna play ten­nis was a pure adrenalin rush – you didn’t dare take your eye off the gifted, ac­ro­batic ath­lete for fear you’d miss a shot des­tined for ESPN’s Top Plays,” read a de­scrip­tion of her on the web­site of the In­ter­na­tional Ten­nis Hall of Fame, where she was in­ducted in 2005. “She was per­pet­ual mo­tion on court.”

Novotna amassed 100 ca­reer ti­tles, 24 for sin­gles and 76 for dou­bles. As an Olympian, she won the sil­ver medal in women’s dou­bles at both the 1988 Games in Seoul and the 1996 Games in At­lanta, where she also took bronze in the women’s sin­gles.

But she was best re­mem­bered for her per­for­mances at the All Eng­land Club, the site of her dogged chase of a Wim­ble­don sin­gles ti­tle. She came dev­as­tat­ingly close in 1993, com­pet­ing against Ger­man player St­effi Graf, then the top player in the world.

Novotna had been ahead, 4-1, in the last set. But with vic­tory in her reach, her game melted.

Just over 20 min­utes later, they were shak­ing hands. Novotna had failed to win an­other game.

As Novotna re­ceived the run­nerup plate from the Duchess of Kent, she be­gan cry­ing on the duchess’s shoul­der. The crowd hon­oured her with a long ap­plause. The duchess at­tempted to comfort her, say­ing, “I know you will win it one day.”

In 1997, Novotna re­turned, com­pet­ing in the fi­nal against Martina Hingis. When Novotna lost again, the Duchess as­sured her that the third try would be “lucky”. In­deed, the next year, she beat Nathalie Tauziat to win her only Grand Slam sin­gles ti­tle. –

The Wash­ing­ton Post

Jana Novotna.

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