Jana Novotna finally got to be queen of Wimbledon
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