Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna dies aged 49

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Czech tennis player Jana Novotna, a Wimbledon champion in 1998 and 16-time grand slam victor in doubles and mixed doubles, has died at the age of 49 after a long battle with cancer, the Women's Tennis Association said on Monday.

A statement from the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed that Novotna passed away after a long battle with cancer on Sunday, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic.

She won 17 Grand Slam titles over her career, including 16 in doubles and mixed doubles, as well as three Olympic medals.

She was known for her battling qualities, though, and overcame another final defeat in 1997, this time to Martina Hingis, to finally get her hands on the trophy in 1998, beating Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat. She will be always the champion for me. The raw display of emotion won her many fans.

"The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna". I can't believe she is gone this soon.

"She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory".

Jana Novotna
GETTYJana Novotna won 24 WTA singles titles in 14 years as a players

Czech-born Navratilova posted a tribute to Novotna on Twitter: "The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna.I am gutted and beyond words - Jana was a true friend and an awesome woman".

"It would be disgusting", she said of that prospect.

Jana was a celebrated tennis star and was once ranked WTA World number 1 in doubles and number 2 in singles. She was also a three-time Olympic medal victor.

She remained a strong supporter of the Czech Republic's Fed Cup teams, whose success in the past decade has matched the strong run of Czechoslovak teams in the 1980s.

"It was frightful to watch, but what nerve to actually win it five years later, and I think all of us in the tennis world were joyful and glad that she did it".

Barabara Schett also played alongside Novotna in invitational events and she wrote: "What a wonderful person, attractive soul tennis player and role model we have lost today. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana's family", WTA's CEO Steve Simon said.

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