Jana Novotna dead: Former Wimbledon winner dies aged 49 from cancer

Ben Burrows

Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died aged 49.

Novotna, a former world number one in doubles and number two in singles, passed away peacefully on Sunday after a battle with cancer, the WTA announced.

A statement read: "It is with deep sadness that the WTA announces the passing on Sunday, November 19, of Jana Novotna, the former WTA World No.1 doubles and No.2 singles champion. After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49."

WTA CEO Steve Simon added: "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. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family."

Novotna won 24 singles titles in a glittering 14-year career on the professional circuit with her most famous and crowning achievement coming in 1998 when she finally lifted the Wimbledon crown after twice falling at the final hurdle.

Having been beaten in by Martina Hingis in the 1997 final, Novotna exacted her revenge a year later by downing the Swiss in the semi-final and went on to defeat Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat to lift the crown.

Novotna enjoyed a glittering career headlined by her Wimbledon win in 1998 (Getty)

It was a moment of redemption for fan favourite Novotna, who was in tears after losing the 1993 final to Graf and was consoled by the Duchess of Kent at the trophy presentation.

She won 17 Grand Slam titles in total including 12 in doubles and four in mixed doubles as well as claiming silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics as well as a bronze in Atlanta.

Former British number one Jo Durie paid tribute to Novotna's spirit on court. She said on Twitter: "Oh no how terrible sad. All thoughts to her family and friends. So glad Jana won Wimbledon. Such a fighter on court & a wicked sense of humour."

Novotna's greatest triumph came in 1998 (PA Wire/PA Images)

Former American doubles star Pam Shriver added: "Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competitive. I can't believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young."

Former British player Andrew Castle, now a commentator for the BBC, said: "What a terrible shame. She was good fun of an evening, a champion on court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful."