The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed the death of the Czech player in a statement that read: “It is with deep sadness that the WTA announces the passing on Sunday, November 19, of Jana Novotna, the former WTA World No.1 doubles and No.2 singles champion. After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49.”
During a glittering tennis career that spanned 14 years, Novotna claimed 24 WTA singles titles, including the coveted Grand Slam when she defeated Nathalie Tauziat of France in the 1998 Wimbledon final. It was Novotna’s third attempt to conquer Wimbledon, as she had previously been beaten by Germany’s Steffi Graf in the 1993 final, and by Martina Hingis of Switzerland in the tournament decider in 1997.
Novotna also reached the final of the 1991 Australian Open, but failed to lift the prestigious trophy as she was defeated by Monica Seles of Yugoslavia. She also played twice in the semi-finals of the French Open and US Open.
The Czech star collected a total of 17 Grand Slams, including 12 in doubles and four in mixed-doubles events. She was also a three-time Olympic medal winner. Novotna completed her 1988 Olympic run in Seoul with a silver medal, claimed in the women’s doubles event, and added two more Olympic awards to her account after finishing second in the doubles and third in the singles events at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.
She was a member of the 1988 Fed Cup-winning squad when Czechoslovakia got the upper hand against the Soviet Union in the final of the most prestigious women’s team tournament.
WTA chief Steve Simon expressed his condolences to Novotna’s family, adding that her star will never dim in annals of tennis history.
“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” he said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.”