Class of 2005
World No. 2 (1997)
Grand Slam Results
17-time major champion, 15-time finalist
Overall Record: 1268-378
Singles Record: 571-225
Doubles Record: 697-153
Silver Medal in Women’s Doubles at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games
Silver Medal in Women’s Doubles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
Bronze Medal in Women’s Singles at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
Member of the Czechoslovakian/Czech Republic Federation Cup Team 1987-1993, 1995-1998
Member of the 1988 Czech Championship Federation Cup Team
Overall Record: 33-12
Singles Record: 22-7
Doubles Record: 11-5
Watching Jana Novotná play tennis was a pure adrenaline 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. She was perpetual motion on court – never a dull moment – Novotná expended lots of energy running down every ball and attacking on virtually every point. Novotná basically cut her side of the court in half, playing from the service box to the net. Slugging away from the baseline was okay for some, and Novotná would happily trade groundstrokes with her opponent, but the Czech star wasn’t going to camp out on the baseline for long – she had places to be (the net) and things to do (end points quickly).
When Novotná won the Wimbledon Ladies Singles Championship in 1998 against Nathalie Tauziat, the match looked like it was played at 33 rpm speed. A sample point: Tauziat would serve; Novotná would chip a return back and storm the net. Tauziat would flick a return back and Novotná would pounce away a crosscourt volley for a winner. On some points Novotná would add a little spice to the action. The play would unfold in similar fashion, but instead of a winning volley, she would pound an overhead smash with torpedo-like speed and explosion.
Novotná was largely known for her doubles brilliance, winning 16 of her 17 major titles in doubles competition. She drew equal notoriety, however, for her pursuit of a major singles championship, three times a finalist before earning the 1998 Wimbledon crown at age 29. The victory made her the oldest winner of a first major singles title in history, a record since broken by Francesca Schiavone, the 2010 French Open winner. In 1997 at Wimbledon, it was obvious that Novotná’s time for a major singles title was near. She had advanced as the No. 3 seed to the championship against No. 1 seed Martina Hingis. In a terrific and well-played match, Hingis mixed up her game perfectly and grew more confident as the match progressed, earning a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. During the broadcast on BBC, analyst Virginia Wade provided a glimpse of the future, commenting, “Just look at Jana’s gracefulness, the athleticism, the agility, and balance, all those adjectives you can give to Novotná’s game. She’s always been a player blessed with inordinate talents, great mobility. She’s been a late bloomer, her best successes coming in the last few years, but how intimidating she is when she just keeps on coming to the net.”
Novotná heeded those words at Wimbledon the following year. Her 6-4, 7-6 victory over the Frenchwoman Tauziat was the biggest in a career that saw her win 24 WTA tour finals in 14 years. The victory also erased, in some part, the lasting effects of the 1993 Wimbledon final. Novotná led Steffi Graf 6-7, 6-1, 4-1 and was ahead 40-30 in the sixth game of the deciding set. She had service point at hand for a commanding 5-1 lead. An untimely double fault ensued, providing Graf the opening she needed to switch momentum, forge a huge comeback, and win the final set 6-4.
Novotná etched her place in tennis history with magnificent doubles play. 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, the first two with Suková, 1995 with Sánchez-Vicario, and the last with Hingis. The US Open was won three times (1994, 1997, 1998) – all with Sánchez-Vicario – and the French Open was captured in 1990, 1991, and 1998, once each with the aforementioned players. Novotná was named the 1998 WTA Tour Doubles Team of the Year with 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.
Novotná had one mixed doubles partner in her four major championships. She and Jim Pugh took the Australian in 1988 and 1989, the US Open in 1988, and Wimbledon championships in 1989. In total, she went 16 of 28 (57 percent) in major finals.
International competition brought out some of Novotná’s best tennis. She competed at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the 1992 Games in Barcelona, and the 1996 Games in Atlanta. She and Suková won the Silver Medal in doubles in Atlanta and Seoul, and in singles play, Novotná won a Bronze Medal at Atlanta.
When she arrived on the tour in 1985, she ended the year ranked 305th in the world. In 1997, two years before retiring, she had risen to No. 2. Novotná was ranked in the World Top 10 in singles seven times between 1991 and 1998, and spent 11 years as the year-end top-ranked doubles player in the world. In her career, she won more than 500 career singles matches, the 15th woman in the Open Era to accomplish that feat.
Australian Open: F 1991
French Open: SF 1990, 1996
Wimbledon: W 1998
US Open: SF 1994, 1998
Australian Open: W 1990, 1995
French Open: W 1990, 1991, 1998
Wimbledon: W 1989, 1990, 1995, 1998
US Open: W 1994, 1997, 1998
Australian Open: W 1988, 1989
Wimbledon: W 1989
US Open: W 1988