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Novotna Wins First Wimbledon Title

July 4, 1998

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) _ The Duchess of Kent was right. The third time was the right time for Jana Novotna.

Novotna, the losing finalist in 1993 and 1997, won her first Wimbledon title Saturday with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) victory over Nathalie Tauziat.

After Novotna hit a forehand passing shot to end the match, she dropped to her knees, held her arms in the air and covered her face with both hands as she wept with joy.

After embracing Tauziat at the net, Novotna ran up into the players’ box in the Centre Court stands, where she hugged her coach, Hana Mandlikova, and her mother.

Five years ago, Novotna wept on the duchess’ shoulder after blowing a 4-1 third-set lead in the final against Steffi Graf. Last year, after losing in three sets to Martina Hingis, the duchess encouraged her with the words ``third-time lucky.″

There were no tears Saturday when Novotna accepted the winner’s plate from the duchess. The two held each other’s outstretched hands and spoke animatedly for almost a minute.

``I’m so proud of you,″ the duchess told Novotna.

When she first took the trophy, Novotna let out a big sigh of relief.

``I don’t believe it,″ she said as she held the trophy over her head, then pressed it to her cheek like a pillow and kissed it gently.

Novotna circled the court and mouthed ``thank you″ as the 15,000 fans gave her a rousing standing ovation that lasted for several minutes.

While the players walked off, the duchess waved to Novotna, who responded by giving the thumbs-up sign.

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