Generations of tennis stars were united in grief on Monday following the death of former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna – perhaps best known for her tears in defeat on Centre Court – aged 49.
Novotna, who had cancer, won 16 Grand Slam titles in doubles and one in singles – a redemptive 1998 triumph at Wimbledon against Nathalie Tauziat following two previous losses in the final.
Her 1993 final defeat to Steffi Graf, having led 4-1 in the final set, moved her to her weep on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent in one of the most famous moments in the tournament’s history.
Former women’s No1 Martina Navratilova – like Novotna, born in what is now the Czech Republic – said she was “gutted beyond words”, adding: “Jana was a true friend and amazing woman.”
Chris Evert, another 18-time Grand Slam title winner, called Novotna’s passing: “A sad loss to the tennis world but a devastating loss to those of us who shared a deep friendship with her.”
Two-time Wimbledon champion and fellow Czech Petra Kvitova said Novotna “inspired and supported” her. “I remember our hugs and our tears,” Kvitova added.
Compatriot and world No4 Karolina Pliskova said: "So sad to hear about Jana Novotna. She will be always the champion for me.”
The Women’s Tennis Association said Novotna had passed away “peacefully, surrounded by her family” on Sunday in the Czech Republic.
She retired in 1999 after a 12-year professional career in which her serve-and-volley style and athleticism propelled her to a high of No2 in the world rankings.
Following retirement she worked as a commentator on Wimbledon for the BBC.