PRAGUE (Reuters) – Czech tennis player Jana Novotna, a Wimbledon champion in 1998 and 16-time grand slam winner in doubles and mixed doubles, has died at the age of 49 after a long battle with cancer, the Women’s Tennis Association said on Monday.
Novotna, who entered the tennis Hall of Fame in 2005, died surrounded by her family in the Czech Republic, the WTA said.
In a career spanning 14 years on the professional circuit that included 24 WTA singles titles and 76 doubles titles, Novotna finally won her only singles grand slam at Wimbledon in 1998 after losing in the final in 1993 and 1997.
She won the hearts of fans around the world when she burst into tears after throwing away victory against Steffi Graf in the 1993 final when on the verge of victory and was consoled afterwards by a British duchess.
“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her. Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA,” WTA Chief Executive Steve Simon said in a statement.
Novotna was a three-time Olympic medalist and a member of Czechoslovakia’s 1988 Fed Cup championship team.
“She always supported us from the stands when she could. We will miss her,” the Czech Fed Cup team said on its Facebook page.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet, Robert Muller and Ian Chadband; Additional reporting by Michael Kahn; Editing by Peter Graff)