The Czech tennis number one Jiri Novak has had what he describes as the second best season of his career, after last year when he reached the world top ten for the first time. Novak has slipped in the rankings this season but he still managed to put Juan Carlos Ferrero out of the Paris Masters on Thursday, and knock the Spaniard off top spot in the world rankings. Novak then breezed past Hicham Arazi of Morocco 6-2, 6-1, to reach the semi-finals of a Masters Series event for the first time since Rome last year. Unfortunately, Romania's Andrei Pavel - who beat Novak in Paris last season - again proved too strong, and the Czech eventually lost 2-6, 6-4, 4-6. Speaking after the match, Jiri Novak said it had been a close thing.
"All that separated us was a couple of balls. It wasn't a question of physical fitness but state of mind, and perhaps skill. Pavel's excellent play surprised me a bit: he played great at the net and at the baseline, his serve was very good and he was just that little bit luckier."
It was an eventful weekend in the Czech football league, with champions Sparta losing 1:0 away to Zlin, who have proved something of a bogey team for the Prague club in recent seasons. League leaders Banik Ostrava are now six points ahead of Sparta, after a 2:1 home win over north Moravian rivals Olomouc. The city of Ostrava has reportedly gone football crazy with the success of their club and Saturday's game saw a record attendance of almost 18,000. Teplice lost 2:0 away to Plzen, while second-from-bottom Viktoria Zizkov scored their first victory in almost three months, when they beat Pribram 1:0. And Slavia Prague, who were due to play on Monday evening, are reported to have serious financial problems. To add to Slavia fans' woes, senior player Pavel Kuka has announced he is leaving the club after Christmas.
Czech "legionnaires" have also been in the news, with international striker Jan Koller netting two to help his club Dortmund to a 3:2 win over Hamburg, and midfielder Tomas Galasek converting a last minute penalty to give Ajax Amsterdam all three points against Alkmaar. Young Czech striker Vaclav Sverkos also made his mark, with a goal for Bundesliga strugglers Moenchengladbach. Meanwhile, the Italian press are saying Czech international captain Pavel Nedved, who shone for Juventus in their draw against leaders AC Milan on Sunday, is a sure bet to be named European Player of the Year.
Czech ice hockey Extraliga leaders Pardubice won their first game in five attempts on Sunday, when they managed to come from 2:1 down to beat Trinec 3:2 at home. Pardubice are now three points clear of Zlin and five points ahead of Sparta, with whom they drew 2:2 in the most closely watched of Friday's matches.
Not long after his return to the NHL, legendary Czech goaltender Dominik Hasek is going through a nightmare spell at the moment. Once again Hasek faces the possibility of standing trial, after the Czech Republic's supreme state attorney ordered the reopening of a case in which the player allegedly assaulted an opponent in a game of in-line hockey. Things aren't going so great for Hasek on the ice, either: his average of 2.44 goals conceded a game is not too impressive and, to make matters worse, he is currently out of action with a groin injury.
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