It isn’t often I will come back after writing to write the intro to the piece but writing this was actually very emotional. It’s the first post of my Pride posts but also very apt to release on the day Wimbledon 2020 was meant to begin.
Jana Novotna’s road to her Wimbledon title was truly inspiring.
Jana won 104 career titles the majority being doubles, she won 16 Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles titles most of which were won with Helena Sukova.
Despite major success in the doubles it was just the one singles Grand Slam victory.
I wasn’t born when this story to the Wimbledon title for Jana began but it’s one I’ve learned, researched and cherished ever since and for me Jana is an all time Wimbledon great!
In 1993, Steffi Graf was looking for her 13th Grand Slam title and it almost didn’t come. Jana led 4-1 40-30 in the final set, a point and a game from the title but lost. To lose from such a leading position is one of the toughest things in the sport and in a final the emotions take over.
Collecting her runners up trophy the Czech broke down in tears and found a shoulder to cry on and built a friendship with The Duchess of Kent who consoled Jana and told her:
“I know you will win it one day, don’t worry”
In 1997, Jana appeared in another Wimbledon singles final.
1997 was the year of the “Swiss Miss” as Martina Hingis rarely missed much that year winning three Grand Slam titles at the age of 16, Jana’s day at Wimbledon was on hold once again.
A meeting on court with the Duchess of Kent followed to collect the runners-up trophy and this time The Duchess told Jana:
“I am sure it will be third time lucky”
The third chance came in the following year in 1998 and it was third time lucky.
Jana defeated Nathalie Tauziat 6-4 7-6 in the final and it was a forehand return winner down the line from the Czech player as she fell to the grass onto her knees in tears of joy. The camera panned to the crowds where The Duchess of Kent was also emotional following a monumental win.
For the third time Jana and The Duchess of Kent met on the court but this time it was the winners trophy handed over and it brought an ending to a remarkable journey of heartache, friendship, tears and joy.
Jana had more history with Wimbledon, between 2000 and 2002 she was a commentator with the BBC but from 2006 played in the Ladies Invitational Doubles. She won it five times and one was with Martina Navratilova in 2010 in the same year she helped Martina through her treatment for breast cancer.
Sadly, in November 2017 Jana passed away after her own battle with cancer.
Jana was 49 when she passed away, she was surrounded by her friends, family and partner Iwona Kucynska who was also a tennis player.
Jana will always been an incredible champion, person, friend to many and a fighter.
Her story and smile will never be forgotten.