TENNIS

Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna dies aged 49

The Czech player passed away due to cancer on Monday. She won the 1998 Wimbledon title and a further 12 Grand Slams in doubles.

Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died at the age of 49 after a battle against cancer, the WTA confirmed on Monday.

Novotna, who won the Wimbledon title in 1998 when she defeated France's Nathalie Tauziat in the final, died on Sunday in her native Czech Republic surrounded by her family, a WTA statement said.

She played in two other Wimbledon singles finals, losing to Steffi Graf in 1993 and to Martina Hingis in 1997.

The picture of a distraught Novotna being comforted by the Duchess of Kent after losing the 1993 final when she had led 4-1 in the final set is one of the memorable Wimbledon moments.

Novotna also won four Wimbledon doubles titles with compatriot Helena Sukova in 1989 and 1990, with Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 1995 and with Hingis in 1998.

Wearing her distinctive headband, she won doubles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

"Jana was an inspiration both on and off court"

Former British player and now tennis commentator Andrew Castle said the news of Novotna's death was a "terrible shame".

"She was good fun of an evening, a champion on court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful," he tweeted.

"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.

Born on October 2, 1968, Novotna won a total of 24 singles tournaments and 76 doubles tournaments in her career that spanned from 1987 to 1999.

She also won the Fed Cup with the former Czechoslovakia in 1988.