Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna dies aged 49 after battle with cancer

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Novotna with the Wimbledon title in 1998.

Former Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna has died from cancer aged 49.

The Czech player, who won the 1998 singles title at SW19, lost her battle with the disease on Sunday, the WTA announced on its website on Monday morning.

A statement read: “It is with deep sadness that the WTA announces the passing on Sunday, November 19, of Jana Novotna.

“After a long battle with cancer, Jana died peacefully, surrounded by her family in her native Czech Republic, aged 49.”

At the peak of her powers in the 1990s, Novotna features in one of the most enduring images in the long history of Wimbledon after famously being consoled by the Duchess of Kent after losing the 1993 final to Steffi Graf.

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.

That ended up being her only grand slam title in singles, though she was prolific in the doubles, winning 12 grand slams in the women’s doubles and ticking off the full set of Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open and the US Open. She also won mixed doubles titles at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and the US Open.

Novotna also represented her country with success, claiming silver medals at the 1988 and 1996 Olympics as well as a bronze in Atlanta.

She was the world number one ranked player in doubles in 1990 and got as high as number two in the singles in 1997.

WTA chief executive officer Steve Simon said: “Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her.

“Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA. Our condolences and our thoughts are with Jana’s family.”

Former British number one Jo Durie paid tribute to Novotna’s spirit on court.

She said on Twitter: “Oh no how terrible sad. All thoughts to her family and friends. So glad Jana won Wimbledon. Such a fighter on court & a wicked sense of humour.”

Former American doubles star Pam Shriver added: “Jana was as kind as she was athletic, as smart as she was competitive. I can’t believe she is gone this soon. Her smile lives forever young.”

Former British player Andrew Castle, now a commentator for the BBC, said: “What a terrible shame. She was good fun of an evening, a champion on court, so tough to play against. And her smile was wonderful.”

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Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro ready for dream final meeting at Swiss Indoors

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Cruise control: Federer.

Roger Federer and Juan Martin del Potro crushed opponents in quick-fire wins on Saturday to set up their third final in six years at the Swiss Indoors.

Top seed Federer, bidding for a record eighth title at his hometown event, was merciless with third seed David Goffin, dismissing the Belgian 6-1, 6-2 in one hour as he reached his 13th Basel final and eighth of the season.

The victory was his third straight-set rout from four matches this week at the St Jakobshalle and propels him to 6-0 over Goffin.

Del Potro fought off fatigue to win a battle of former champions 6-4, 6-4 over Marin Cilic.

Del Potro won his previous titles in 2012 and 2013 at the expense of world number two Federer.

“I’m surprised to be in the final, it’s my fourth week in a row after many years,” Del Potro said. “My body is still there.

“I’m doing well, but in the final, anything can happen. I need to play better against Roger than I did today.

“I’m having a good end of year, it’s giving me motivation looking forward to next year. Roger is the favourite to win – but I will see what I can do.”

Federer has been powering through the week as he tries to overhaul rival Rafael Nadal to finish the year as world number one.

The battle is provisionally scheduled to continue next week at the Paris Masters, but the 36-year-old Swiss will make a late decision on whether or not to take up his second-seeded position at Paris Bercy after the Basel final.

Del Potro, who played a Shanghai semi-final a fortnight ago and won the Stockholm title last weekend, admits that he is tiring, but intends to carry on.

“I’m tired and that is a little bit of a factor, but the only way to play Roger is to be aggressive all the time. Sometimes, even that is not enough to beat him.”

The Argentine claimed his 10th win in 12 meetings with Croatian Cilic, the reigning champion who had spent just over three hours on court on Friday in putting out Hungarian qualifier Marton Fucsovics.

Del Potro has now won his last seven meetings with Cilic, who was the losing finalist to Federer at Wimbledon in July.

“I’m happy to be in the final, I hope to play good Tennis for the crowd and for myself,” added Del Potro.

“Not many players can beat Roger, the greatest in history. It’s always a pleasure to play him, and to do it in his hometown is amazing.”

The Argentine took 45 minutes to win the opening set against Cilic, the second seed.

A break in the penultimate game of the opener followed by a hold from 0-30 down gave Del Potro the lead.

In the second, the South American broke early but lost his serve in the sixth game, as Cilic levelled at 3-3.

But Del Potro gathered his resources to break straight back, finishing off victory with his seventh ace of the afternoon.

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Venus Williams defeats Caroline Garcia to set-up WTA Finals decider with Caroline Wozniacki

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Williams has enjoyed a vintage season.

Ageless Venus Williams continued her remarkable renaissance with a three-set semi-final victory over Caroline Garcia to set-up a mouthwatering WTA Finals decider with in-form Caroline Wozniacki.

Williams, 37, came from a set down to triumph 6-7 (7/3), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours and 29 minutes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. She will be aiming to end a nine-year WTA Finals title drought when she plays Wozniacki on Sunday.

Garcia, playing in her WTA Finals debut, looked gassed at times, having played a two hour and 19 minute marathon against Wozniacki on Friday.

Williams claimed the decisive break in the eighth game of the third set before her clutch serving saw her overcame three break points and claim a memorable victory.

Williams said she was able to come to terms with Garcia, an opponent she hadn’t played since 2014. “I think in the second and third (sets) I was able to figure it out a little more,” she told reporters after the match. “I haven’t played her in a long time. She’s improved her game so much.”

The American has a commanding 10-1 record over Wozniacki but they haven’t clashed for three years. “I haven’t played her in ages,” Williams said. “I have to gauge how it goes and try to figure out the solution.”

Garcia admitted she battled fatigue as the match wore on. “I was missing a little bit of energy in the second and third set,” she said. “It was very intense this match. The match from yesterday was very difficult physically and mentally.”

Williams looked in grave trouble when she faced two break points in the first game of the second set but she fought back to hold serve and then broke Garcia in the next game.

Williams’ trademark serve and her powerful groundstrokes started dictating, as she stormed through the second set in just 41 minutes.

The seven-time grand slam winner will be the oldest finalist in WTA Finals history when she plays Wozniacki. Even though she had a stellar season reaching two grand slam finals, the world number five will be seeking her first title of the year.

Earlier, a tireless Wozniacki stormed into the final with a straight sets victory over Karolina Pliskova, ending the Czech’s dreams of finishing world number one.

The world number six prevailed in a rollercoaster match 7-6 (11/9), 6-3 in one hour and 57 minutes to reach the decider of the WTA Finals for the first time since 2010.

Wozniacki said she kept “fighting” through a marathon 82-minute first set, where she held off three set points in the 10th game and almost blew a 6-1 lead in the tieback.

“It went back and forth,” she told reporters after the match.

“It was very important to win the first set. I think that broke her a little bit. I think it was important for both of us to get that first one.”

Pliskova said she would not stew over missing out on the top ranking. “I’m absolutely fine with that,” she said. “This is the last thing that I’m thinking about now.”

Wozniacki seemingly had a stranglehold of the match with an early break in the second set only for Pliskova to storm back.

But she had a decisive break in the eighth game and then served it out to book her spot in the final.

Pliskova needed to lift the trophy on Sunday to overtake world number one Simona Halep in the rankings.

Even though she didn’t make the semis, Halep has now secured the year-end world number one ranking.

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