The Duchess of Kent has paid tribute to former tennis star Jana Novotna, who sadly passed away on Sunday, aged 49. The Czech tennis player had been suffering from cancer.
The Duchess of Kent famously allowed Novotna to cry on her shoulder after she lost the 1993 Wimbledon final to Steffi Graf. As the Duchess presented Novotna with her runner-up trophy, the Czech player dissolved into tears and Katharine embraced her, a moment which created one of tennis’ most iconic pictures. Although Graf won the Championship, it was the image of Katharine and Jana which dominated the papers in the following days.
Jana Novotna then went on to win the Wimbledon Championship in 1998.
A statement on behalf of the Duchess was released today, on the Royal Family’s official Twitter account, @RoyalFamily. The Duchess said: “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.”
The Duchess of Kent said: ‘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.’ pic.twitter.com/q3FXwwkblc
— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) 21 November 2017
Katharine is well known for her compassion. In addition to comforting Notovna, she also helped to secure a visa for the mother of another Czech tennis player, Martina Navratilova, when she heard that Navratilova’s family were still living in communist Czechoslovakia and could not travel to Wimbledon to watch her play.
Both The Duke and Duchess of Kent began to present trophies at Wimbledon in 1969; however, Katharine has not presented a trophy since 2001, when she handed the Winner’s Trophy to Venus Williams. The Duchess of Kent, 84, has largely retired from royal life, although her husband still undertakes many engagements on behalf of his cousin, The Queen.
She does occasionally appear at family events, such as Trooping the Colour, or church services for national events, as well as Wimbledon matches.
The Duke is still President of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, and now The Duchess of Cambridge is their patron.