In Sports News this Monday: Czechs beat Romania to stay in the Davis Cup World Group; in football, Plzeň wins its first point in the Champions League; the Czech top hockey league begins; and Jaromír Jágr arrives in Philadelphia for yet another NHL season.
The Czech Davis Cup team beat Romania 5:0 in Bucharest over the weekend to retain a spot in the competition’s elite World Group. In Friday’s singles, the Czechs overcame the hosts without losing a set when Radek Štěpánek beat Romania’s Adrian Ungur 3:6, 2:6 and 0:6 while Czech number one Tomáš Berdych defeated Victor Crivoi 3:6, 3:6 and 6:7. Tomáš Berdych had to overcome cramps in his legs in the third set but was fit for Saturday’s double in which he and Radek Štěpánek scored the decisive third point when they beat Marius Copil and Horia Tecau 3:6, 6:3, 6:0 and 6:2. Radek Štěpánek spoke to the Davis Cup website after the win.
“It definitely means a lot for us players, for our fans and the whole country, to stay in the World Group. In the last two years, we were very close to achieving our goal which is to get the Davis Cup back in the Czech Republic after many years. It didn’t happen but we had two great runs. Now we’re obviously very happy to secure our spot in the World Group and to give ourselves a shot again next year.”
On Sunday, Czech substitutes Jan Hájek and Lukáš Hájek both won their singles, achieving an impressive 5:0 win for the Czech Davis Cup team.
In other tennis news, Barbora Záhlavová-Strýcová won her first WTA title after she beat New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic 4:6, 6:1 and 6:0 in the final of the Quebec City event on Sunday. The 25-year-old Czech, who had already won 14 WTA doubles titles, also rises by 26 places in the WTA rankings to 45th.
Czech titleholders Viktoria Plzeň last week began their Champions League campaign. In the first game of the competition’s Group H, the west Bohemian club drew 1:1 with the Belarusian champions Bate Borisov in Prague on Wednesday. Plzeň went ahead in the first half added time when the Slovak international Milan Bakoš converted a great pass from Petr Jiráček. However, the visitors equalised in 69th minute when Bate’s Brazilian striker Brenan Bressan nutmegged Plzeň’s goalkeeper from just outside the box. Plzeň manager Pavel Vrba was happy with a point but unhappy not to get three.
“It’s pity that we didn’t win 1:0 because that would have put up front. We made a number of mistakes in the game; you could see that both our team and Bate wanted to play safe as it was our first game, and focused more on the defensive. I take one point but I’m disappointed we didn’t get three.”
The Czech champions landed a fine from the European governing body after their fans put up an offensive banner criticizing UEFA for not allowing Plzeň to play at their home stadium. Plzeň will next play AC Milan in Italy on September 28.
In the seventh round of the Czech top division at the weekend, Plzeň beat Jablonec 4:2 on Saturday to moved up to 4th place of the league table with 13 points. Last season’s runners-up Sparta Prague are in the lead, with maximum points from six matches.
Turning to the world of ice hockey: the top Czech hockey league kicked off on Saturday, with a few days’ delay due to the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash disaster. The champions Třinec were disappointed in their first home game after they lost 3:1 to Kometa Brno. The visitors scored in the 6th minute; the titleholders then failed to convert a series of power plays only to equalize towards the end of the second period. In the third, however, Kometa produced two goals in just 34 seconds and won. The winning strike was the first top league goal for Kometa’s 21-year-old rookie, Hynek Zohorna.
“I think Tomáš Žižka shot the puck against the board behind the goal; it rebounded in front of the goal where I picked it up, and just closed my eyes and shot it in. Of course I’m happy; the first game is always tough. But we won, we got three points and it’s great.”
And finally, in the NHL, Jaromír Jágr left the Czech Republic for the US on Friday to join his new team, Philadelphia Flyers. After the first training session, the 39-year-old Czech veteran, who won the Stanley Cup twice in his early days in the NHL, told reporters about his motivation for the upcoming season.
“I’m not 21 and I won’t just try to prove something with my words. We’ll have to wait and see. I can promise you one thing: I'm going to give my best shot to play on a high level. I didn't come here for the money just to impress myself. I'm not saying I am going to be dominating. I'm not saying I'm going to be good. I can promise you I will do all the right things to play.”
For Jaromír Jágr, the NHL season starts on October 6 when his team plays the Boston Bruins.