04-10-2001

By Vladimir Tax

Yes, it's the sports now and let's begin with football and the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup. The decisive matches are to be played this Saturday. In group three, unbeaten Denmark is just one victory away from the finals and is almost certain to beat Iceland in Copenhagen to top the group. But if the Danes slip up, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are waiting in the wings to grasp the chance. They are both on equal points but the Czech Republic lead Bulgaria on goal difference. The match is to be played in Prague and Czech book-makers have given the national team the edge. Win, lose or draw the Danes are guaranteed at least a runners-up place, so there will be little room for the faint hearted in Copenhagen or Prague. The group winners qualify automatically for the finals in Japan and South Korea, while the runners-up face a two-legged playoff in November, probably against Belgium or Croatia.

Turning to tennis and a quick look at the Kremlin Cup in Moscow. Czech qualifier Sandra Kleinova beat Spain's Angeles Montolio in the first round but was defeated by top seed Martina Hingis 7-5 6-2 in the second. Hingis, the defending champion, fell behind early in the match as she struggled with her usually reliable all-court game but, after drawing level at 5-5, the Swiss world number one finally broke 135th-ranked Kleinova in the 12th game to take the set. "I have never played her before and I didn't expect her to play that good," said Hingis about Kleinova after their first ever meeting.