British royal the Duchess of Kent has paid tribute to former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna following the Czech player’s death from cancer, saying the tournament “will not be the same without her”.
Novotna captured hearts in Britain in 1993 when she featured in one of the most enduring images in the long history of Wimbledon as she was consoled by the royal after losing the 1993 final to Steffi Graf, having seemingly been on course for the title.
She was in floods of tears as she received her runners-up prize and, in a moment of unusual emotion, the Duchess embraced the Czech, telling her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”
Novtona, who died on Sunday aged 49, proved her right by winning the crown in 1998, after another final defeat in 1997.
The Duchess said on the royal family’s official Twitter feed: “Jana Novotna was a brave, courageous sweet lady with a wonderful sense of humour.
“I am very saddened by the news of her death and all my feelings are with her family. Wimbledon will not be the same without her.”
Novotna’s Wimbledon success was her only Grand Slam singles title but she was prolific in the doubles, winning 16 Grand Slams.