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The Duchess of Kent explains heartbreaking hug with Jana Novotna

The 85-year-old retired from royal duties in 2001

Emily Horan

In a rare interview, her first in seven years, the Duchess of Kent has opened up about the time she comforted a tennis player after they broke down in tears. The Duchess, who prefers to be known as Katherine Kent, is married to the Queen's cousin Prince Edward. Until 2001, Katherine's role saw her hand out trophies to the winners of Wimbledon; her husband the Duke is President of the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Speaking to the BBC's Simon McCoy about Wimbledon, the 85-year-old royal reflected on the memorable moment in 1993 when she presented the ladies runner up Jana Novotna with her prize. Jana broke down in tears after losing the final match against Steffi Graff, leading Katherine to put a comforting arm around the Czech player.

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"I just remember from the far side of the net, her face crumpled. It's the natural thing isn't it. You have built yourself up for this. You play the Wimbledon finals and you didn't make it," said Katherine, adding that she and Jana became "firm friends". When asked about her kind reaction, Katherine insisted: "That's what you do when people are crying. We are quite normal people. We do hug people who cry. It is a natural reaction!"

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The Duchess reflected on the memorable moment in 1993

During the interview, Katherine spoke about her love for the famous tennis tournament. "The atmosphere is electric, it's wonderful," she said, adding, "I don't think anyone in the world can quite beat the way Wimbledon is done. I'm privileged to have seen all that."

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Katherine also recalled another fond memory of Wimbledon. "Bear Grylls was sitting close to me at Wimbledon last year. I went close to him, but you are not allowed to take in mobile phones or cameras." When asked whether it was tempting to ask for a photo with the famous adventurer, the Duchess admitted, "It was." Katherine also praised the reigning men's champion. "Roger Federer is an extraordinary person. He is remarkable, charming, and plays with such grace," she said.

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