Jana Novotna, the Czech tennis star who famously cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder after losing a Wimbledon singles final and then triumphed at the same tournament five years later, has died. She was 49.
Ms. Novotna, died in her native Czech Republic on Sunday, the Women’s Tennis Association said in a statement. The cause was cancer.
She won 17 Grand Slam titles over her career, including 16 in doubles and mixed doubles, as well as three Olympic medals. But it was the highlight of her singles career that came to define her.
Ms. Novotna had for years sought to dominate the lawn at Wimbledon. In 1993, she appeared to be on the verge of just such a victory. Up 4-1 in the final set at against Steffi Graf, Ms. Novotna lost the match, 7-6 (8-6), 1-6, 6-4.
As the trophies were being presented, the Czech tennis player cried on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder. “Jana, I believe that you will do it, don’t worry,” the royal told her, according to Ms. Novotna’s telling of the story.
Five years later, she did.
Ms. Novotna, then 29, defeated Nathalie Tauziat of France 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) to lift the Wimbledon singles trophy for the first — and only — time.
“Jana was an inspiration both on and off the court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” said Steve Simon, the W.T.A.’s chief executive. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the W.T.A.”