Tributes pour in for former Wimbledon winner Novotna

The tennis world mourned the death of former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna, who died of cancer on Sunday at the age of 49.

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

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.

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.

Born on Oct 2, 1968, Novotna won 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. - AFP