Hall of Famer Jana Novotna, the 1998 Wimbledon champion whose impassioned vie for that title left her forever endeared in the hearts and minds of fans around the world, has passed away at age 49 following a courageous battle with cancer. She died on November 19 in the Czech Republic.
Novotna's sole Wimbledon singles title came in her third quest for the Rosewater Dish, a highlight of her storied career. In that Championship match, she overcame France's Nathalie Tauziat in a fast-paced, straight sets serve and volley battle. It played out like most of Novotna's matches - she moved quickly and agiley around the court, displaying supreme athleticism paired with passion in every point. At the trophy ceremony, she shared tears of joy with the Dutchess of Kent, the same royal family member who comforted Novotna's tears of defeat in her 1993 loss to Steffi Graf.
Novotná etched her place in tennis history with magnificent doubles play, winning 16 of her 17 major titles in doubles competition. She was a finalist in 23 women’s majors and won 12, three of those paired with Arantxa Sánchez-Vicario, four with Helena Suková, and one with Gigi Fernández. She was most successful on the fast grass at Wimbledon, winning the 1989, 1990, 1995, and 1998 titles. She won the US Open and the French Open titles three times each. She brought her share to several successful doubles pairings, and was named the 1998 WTA Tour Doubles Team of the Year with Martina Hingis, the 1997 International Tennis Federation Doubles Team of the Year with Lindsay Davenport, the 1996 WTA Tour Doubles Team of the Year with Sánchez Vicario, with Gigi Fernández in 1991, and in 1989 and 1990 with Suková. Novotna also wom four major titles in mixed doubles, all partnered with Australian Jim Pugh.
Novotna was a dedicated representative of the Czech Republic. She was a member of the Czech Republic's 1988 Championship Fed Cup team. She represented the nation in Olympic competition in 1988, 1992, and 1996. She and Suková won the Silver Medal in doubles in Atlanta and Seoul, and in singles play, Novotná won a Bronze Medal at Atlanta.
In retirment, she remained active in tennis as a broadcaster and fervent supporter of the sport.
Novotna's passing has drawn an outpouring of sympathy and condolences from throughout the tennis world.
“Jana’s passion and determination was evident with every point she played. She was a joy to watch on the court. She is gone far too soon. Her legacy as one of our sport’s greatest champions will always be remembered and admired. We keep Jana’s family and friends in our thoughts,” stated Stan Smith, president of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.