15-01-2001

By Peter Smith.

Turning to the sport now and the American tennis player Andre Agassi began his defence of his Australian Open title by steam-rolling the Czech Republic's Jiri Vanek 6-0 7-5 6-3 in Melbourne. Vanek was on the back-foot from the outset, with Agassi taking the first set in just 19 minutes whilst allowing the Czech only a miserly 11-points.

Vanek fought back valiantly in the second, but it wasn't enough to halt the champions progress to the next round.

There were some Czech players fortunate enough not to be drawn against Agassi on the opening day. Michal Tabara - surprise winner of last week's Indian Open - came through a 5-set thriller with the Italian Andrea Gaudenzi. Slava Dosedel also progressed in five against Albert Portas of Spain, although Ota Fukarek fell in straight sets to the Russian Nikolay Davydenko.

Turning to ice hockey and the NHL team The Pittsburgh Penguins have announced that their veteran defenseman Jiri Slegr has been transferred to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for richer pickings from this year's draft. Slegr joined the Penguins from the Edmonton Oilers in 1997, and last season was the team's highest-scoring defender with 11 goals and 31 points.

Slegr wasn't the only Czech to leave the Penguins this week - the rookie centre Roman Simicek has joined Minnesota Wild in a player-exchange deal.

Finally football and the Czech international Patrick Berger flew to the United States at the weekend for further checks on his long-term knee injury. The Liverpool midfielder was operated on by a Colorado surgeon after severely twisting his knee during a Premier League match last November. "I don't feel any pain and my leg is strong," said Berger. "It's just that my injured knee is one centimetre in circumference smaller than my good one. I'll have to work on that."