June 8, 2005

Excerpt from history - Choker to Winner

June 08, 2005 Posted by Vijay 1 comment
Jana Novotna

One of the most painful moments I have seen in a sports game was when Jana Novotna had both her hands on the Wimbledon Crown in 1993 but yet let it slip away at the last moment. Born in Brno in the Czech Republic, predominantly a doubles player early on in her career, Novotna began distinguishing herself in singles under the guidance of 4-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova. In 1991, she broke through by reaching the final of the Australian Open, defeating Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario before succumbing to no.1 Monica Seles in 3 sets.

Her career-defining moment came two years later, in the 1993 Wimbledon final. Following a note-perfect performance, Novotna led top seeded Graf 6-7, 6-1, 4-1, 40-15. Only moments away from a convincing triumph, she went completely off, missing easy shots, sometimes by phenomenal margins (including an infamous overhead smash that hit the back tarp) to give Graf the final 5 games and the title.

During the trophy presentation, Novotna broke down in tears, soaking the Duchess of Kent's royal shoulder in what Adrian Mole might call a salty fluid of despair.For the remainder of her career Novotna carried an unfortunate, and probably undeserved, label of choker. However, the increased pressure on her at Wimbledon led to uninspired losses to Graf in the following couple of years.

It took 4 years for Novotna to reach another Wimbledon final, but after winning the first set easily against Martina Hingis, she succumbed to the Swiss teen's accurate passing shots. She finally had her moment of glory the following year, at age 30. After routing a young Venus Williams in the quarterfinal, she avenged the previous year's final by ousting Hingis in the semifinal, and completed the feat by angling past another veteran, Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat, 6-4, 7-6, in the final.

She retired from professional tennis in 1999. She was known mostly as a fast-court player, with her best results coming on the slick, fast grass courts of Wimbledon. Despite winning titles on all surfaces, Novotna would forever be identified with Wimbledon, the site of both her greatest failure and biggest triumph. Her name has also been entered in the Tennis Hall of Fame.


Aslan said...

Great! Awesome!! I'm a huge fan of Novotna. Yes, I do remember the Graf-Jana match- as usual, I was supporting Novotna (used to be quite anti-Steffi.. I had this thing about supporting underdogs. But I secretly used to love her) n' I was totally crushed when she lost. Used to support Seles also.. Yes, the History Channel is showing tennis greats on the "Biography at 10 pm" programme- its the build-up to Wimby. The day before y'day was Andre Agassi [never supported him, but love him all the same] n' y'day was Graf [WOW!] n' today is Jimmy Connors. Don't miss it. D*mn I'll never forgive myself for not plugging my Cable into the comp and recording the whole thing. If someone there has a Y-cord to connect both TV n' comp, please mail me IMMEDIATELY! :)