|NEW YORK -- Surrounded by teenagers with booming serves and
ground games to match, Jana Novotna decided Monday to leave tennis,
announcing her retirement at the U.S. Open.
Novotna, who will be 31 next month, said she would keep her
tournament commitments for the remainder of the year and then put
away her rackets.
"I've been thinking about this for a very long time," she
said. "It's really difficult to point out one thing. I just feel
the time for it is right."
Novotna's decision comes less than a month after longtime rival
Steffi Graf announced her own retirement.
"It is very ironic, actually," Novotna said. "When I was 14
years old, when I started my career, when I traveled for my first
international tournament, I happened to play Steffi Graf in the
first round. It is pretty incredible that we are retiring in the
Novotna said a nagging ankle injury had nothing to do with the
"Physically, I'm fine," she said. "There is really no
problem, My ankle injury doesn't have anything to do with the
But after losing in the third round of the Open last Friday to
Anke Huber, Novotna expressed doubts about her future.
"If I feel I can no longer compete with these players or I
cannot physically be out there and stay in the top 10 and play on
the level I would like to play, then I will think about leaving,"
she said. "But for right now, I want to take time to think about
everything and don't make any emotional statements."
It took just three days for her to make the decision.
Novotna won her 24th WTA Tour event this season at Hannover,
beating Venus Williams in the final. She has earned more than $10
million in a career that began in 1986.
Novotna said the new generation of women players is more
physically fit than ever before. One of those baseline boomers is
Serena Williams, who said she would miss Novotna's voice.
"It's the sweetest voice I've ever heard," she said. "It's so
light. You'd think someone with her stature, her size, how long
she's been around the tour and stuff, I never realized that her
voice was like that."
Novotna said her victory at Wimbledon a year ago fulfilled her
greatest ambition in tennis and made her decision to leave the
sport less troubling.
"Winning Wimbledon last year and having the wonderful year that
I had just made everything much easier," she said. "I said
throughout my career that winning one Grand Slam tournament would
be very fulfilling and it would be a dream come true for me. It
finally did happen. That was the greatest thing that ever happened.
"I can just look back and be very happy and very thankful for
the career that I've had. I'm very happy with this decision."
It was at Wimbledon in 1993 that she suffered her greatest
disappointment. Leading Graf 4-1 and 40-15 in the third set, five
points away from the championship, she came apart.
Graf rallied to win the title, leaving Novotna in tears as she
accepted the runner-up trophy from the Duchess of Kent. It was one
of the most emotional moments in the tournament's history.
In 1997, Novotna was No. 2 in the world and made it back to the
finals at Wimbledon again, this time beaten by Martina Hingis, left
again to accept the runnerup trophy and the Duchess' sympathies.
Finally, last year came the breakthrough when she defeated
Hingis in the semifinals and Natalie Tauziat in the finals.
Given her frequent meetings with the Duchess, Novotna was asked
whether she had discussed the retirement decision with her.
"Yes, I called her last night," Novotna said. "She said,
'Don't do it.' I said, `I have to. I'm still going to come (to
Wimbledon) because I have the little badge.' "
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