Jana Novotna to renew rivalry with Martina Hingis at Liverpool International tennis tournament
May 7 2008
by David Prentice, Liverpool Echo
JANA NOVOTNA was called many things throughout a celebrated career at the very pinnacle of world tennis.
She was labelled an artist, a champion, a throwback – even, cruelly, a choker.
But after her installation into the tennis Hall of Fame in 2005 she is now officially classed a tennis legend.
But there’s one word she doesn’t want attached to her name.
“I don’t mind all that,” she laughs. “As long as they don’t call me a senior!”
Chivalry prevents a man printing a lady’s age. Suffice to say the Czech star who graced tennis courts for more than a decade with her artistry and elan hasn’t yet become a forty-something.
And she still keeps herself in shape ahead of this summer’s visit to the Liverpool International.
She spoke to the Echo straight after a training run in 28 degree heat in Florida, and said, in a voice described by Serena Williams as “the sweetest I’ve ever heard”, “I’m really looking forward to visiting Liverpool.
“I’ve heard a lot about the event and I love playing tennis in England period. I love the tennis fans over there and while I’ve heard Liverpool people are more passionate about football than tennis, that’s okay. I’m a big football fan myself and I love it when the crowd get involved in a tennis match. I don’t mind them shouting ‘Come on Jana’ and hopefully there will be plenty of that at Calderstones Park!
“I have high expectations of Liverpool and I can’t wait.”
Since retiring from the pro circuit almost a decade ago, after winning Wimbledon in 1998, Novotna has become a regular performer on the legends circuit.
“I still love playing and I keep busy playing plenty of exhibitions,” she added.
“I’ll be spending quite a bit of time in England this summer, doing commentary for British Eurosport, going to Liverpool and, of course, defending my Wimbledon Seniors title which I’ve won five times in a row now!”
Grass has always been Novotna’s favoured surface, and even a public park in a city centre sends a tingle of anticipation through her.
“It was always too bad we didn’t have more grass events on the circuit,” she said.
“I always played Birmingham, Eastbourne and, of course, Wimbledon. For many different reasons it was always my favourite.
“I’ve played in a public park before and actually I like it. It’s a very different atmosphere, more relaxed and I’m looking forward to it.”
The visit to Liverpool will see Jana renew an old rivalry with Martina Hingis, the girl who beat her in the 1997 Wimbledon final.
“I haven’t seen Martina since the US Open last year,” she added. “I’ve tried to keep in touch but it can be difficult. It’s been a difficult year for her and she’s trying to adjust.
“It will be like going back in time playing her again and I’m sure we’ll both enjoy it.”
So, too, will the Merseyside tennis fans.
The tournament runs from June 10 to 15 and tickets are on sale now.