Jana Novotna, 1998 Wimbledon champion, dies at 49

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005

She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2005

Tennis great Martina Navratilova labelled Jana Novotna "a true friend and an fantastic woman" after the Czech died of 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.

Olympic rowing champion Matthew Pinsent tweeted: "No better demonstration of the emotion of sport than Jana Novotna".

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.

Novotna started crying when presented with the loser's trophy before the Duchess of Kent put a comforting arm around her and gave her a shoulder to shed her tears on during emotional scenes on Centre Court. But it was the highlight of her singles career that came to define her.

Novotna said the Duchess had told her "she would do it" when she went to collect her trophy.

Novotna appeared in the Wimbledon's singles final three times and became a Wimbledon champion when defeating Nathalie Tauziat in the final 1998. Wearing her distinctive headband, she won doubles titles at all four Grand Slam tournaments - triumphing 12 times in the women's doubles and on a further four occasions in the mixed event.

"Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her", Steve Simon, WTA CEO, said in a statement.

Czech player Petra Kvitova wrote in an Instagram post: "Today we lost a wonderful person, a Czech who played lovely tennis, who inspired me and supported me". I can't believe she is gone this soon. She will be always the champion for me. "Thoughts and Prayers with Jana's family".

"Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA".

Novotna also won the Fed Cup with the former Czechoslovakia in 1988, as well as two Olympic doubles silver medals, and a bronze in singles at the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

Barabara Schett also played alongside Novotna in invitational events and she wrote: "What a wonderful person, handsome soul tennis player and role model we have lost today".

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