Every year Jana Novotna returns to Wimbledon is another year she must return to her career’s most humiliating chapter, one that has superseded all other information remembered about her.
Novotna’s name does not invoke thoughts of the game’s most complete player, which she can be, nor has her made-for-grass style brought her any titles on the surface.
Whether it’s fair, Novotna is known for blowing five match points in the 1993 Wimbledon final against Steffi Graf and, after her loss, crumpling into the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent and crying.
Even as she prepared to play Martina Hingis - No. 1 in the world - in today’s Wimbledon final, Novotna had to answer questions about 1993.
“Well, I have talked about it a lot,” Novotna said evenly. “I think that in ‘93 it is still hard to prove not only to myself, but to everybody that I am a good player. I really wanted to do well and sometimes I wanted it just too much, and I was never able to play my best tennis.
“Over the years, my outlook toward tennis has changed a lot. I don’t mean from the point of view that I’m not working hard or that I don’t want to win. … But I have realized that tennis is not everything, that there is a life outside of tennis and that it is not the most important thing in life.”
Hingis is appearing in her third consecutive Grand Slam tournament final. She won her first title by defeating Mary Pierce in Australia and lost to Iva Majoli in the French Open final last month.
Novotna, 29, also has been in two finals at Grand Slam events but has lost both.
“We haven’t played that many times,” Novotna said of Hingis. “Definitely, it’s going to be an interesting contrast, No. 1 player in the world, and very young talented player, against me, a grass-court player. I think we will see two contrasts of styles and I think that always brings nice tennis. … It’s going to be my second time, I’m a bit older and I will enjoy it more.”
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