Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died from cancer aged 49.
The Czech player, who won the 1998 singles title at SW19, lost her battle with the disease on Sunday, the WTA announced on their website on Monday morning.
A statement read: “It is with deep sadness that the WTA announces the passing on Sunday, November 19, of Jana Novotna.
“After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49.”
At the peak of her powers in the 1990s, Novotna features in one of the most enduring images in the long history of Wimbledon after famously being consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing the 1993 final to Steffi Graf.
She was known for her battling qualities, though, and overcame another final defeat in 1997, this time to Martina Hingis, to finally get her hands on the trophy in 1998, beating Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat.
That ended up being her only Grand Slam title in singles, though she was prolific in the doubles, winning 24 Grand Slams and ticking off the full set of Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open, and the US Open.
Novotna also represented her country with success, claiming silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics as well as a bronze in Atlanta.
She was the world number one ranked player in doubles in 1990 and got as high as number two in the singles in 1997.
WTA chief executive officer Steve Simon said: “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. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.”
Former British number one Jo Durie paid tribute to Novotna’s spirit on court.
She said on Twitter: “Oh no how terrible sad. All thoughts to her family and friends. So glad Jana won Wimbledon. Such a fighter on court & a wicked sense of humour.”
Former American doubles star Pam Shriver added: “Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competive. I can’t believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young.”
Former British player Andrew Castle, now a commentator for the BBC, said: “What a terrible shame. She was good fun of an evening, a champion on court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful.”
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