Luxembourg’s own WTA standout Mandy Minella became the first recipient of the newly-renamed Jana Novotna Award, which was presented at last month’s BGL BNP Paribas Luxembourg Open.

In 2017, the tournament launched the ‘IWTP Award’, with a view to annually recognizing a player who displays special commitment to the indoor event. The inaugural prize went to Romania’s Monica Niculescu, singles champion in Luxembourg in 2016 and a popular regular visitor to the Grand Duchy. 

But just a few weeks after the presentation, former WTA World No.2 Novotna passed away at the age of 49 following a battle with cancer. Tournament director Danielle Maas and her team were keen to honor the Czech champion, a longtime friend with close ties to the tournament, and renaming the award seemed an obvious and natural fit.

Indeed, Maas attributes the ongoing success of the tournament to Novotna’s loyalty in its early days. 

“Jana was a personal friend of ours and also she was in fact the reason why we recreated the tournament,” Maas explained.

“It was 30 years ago – I met her as a journalist and I asked her: ‘Do you know Luxembourg?’ She said she didn’t but if there was a tournament, she would come. So to begin with we worked with Octagon for five years and created an exhibition, where Jana was the first winner in 1991 and 1992. Later, when she was working with Octagon, she was the owner of the tournament and she came almost every single year.

“She liked the small and close atmosphere and that she felt a part of the team. The last time Jana came here she was coaching Barbora Krejcikova. She wore many hats and we miss her, so therefore we wanted something in her memory so that she always will be connected with the tournament.” 

Minella has competed at her home event 14 times and received the Jana Novotna Award just under a year after giving birth to her daughter, Emma. The touring mom’s 2018 season was highlighted by reaching her first tour-level singles final at the Ladies Championship Gstaad in July, where it took Alizé Cornet to stop her.

The 2018 tournament was won by Germany’s Julia Goerges.