In this week’s Sports News, Czech preparations go smoothly for the Davis Cup clash with Spain; Šárka Záhrobská does what she does best in Aspen, Colorado, with another downhill slalom World Cup victory; and Sparta Prague catch up to Teplice at the top of the football league, although the flu-struck league leaders were allowed to make an early start to the winter break.
The build up has begun for what is unquestionably the biggest sporting event for the Czech Republic this week, the Davis Cup final against Spain starting on Friday. The Czechs go into the match as underdogs with the formidable Spanish team playing on home ground in Barcelona.
But while the full Czech team starring Radek Štěpánek and Tomáš Berdych assembled in Spain with very few worries, the Spanish preparations have been overshadowed by doubts. The first doubt is whether Fernando Verdasco will be able to overcome an injury which will allow him to play in one of the opening singles and in the later doubles. The second doubt focuses on the form of Spain’s star player, world number two Rafael Nadal. His pre-final preparations included a miserable run of straight set defeats at the season ending Masters’ tournament in London. But although Nadal appears a shadow of his storming self, Czech captain Jaroslav Navrátil is certainly not underestimating him.
“A player such as Nadal, who is used to winning tournaments in the second half of the year, has not even won a single one. He has just lost three matches in just two sets. That will not do much for his confidence, but he is still the world’s number two. We will not be playing on a fast surface but clay, they will be playing in front of a home crowd and that crowd will play a role. He is an experienced player and I think he will be 100 percent prepared.”
The first of the five matches starts on Friday.
Meanwhile, there is certainly something about the US ski resort of Aspen that smiles on Czech skier Šárka Záhrobská. She won the World Cup slalom for the second straight year on Sunday. Šárka was ahead after the first run with a slightly slower time in the second allowing Austrian Marlies Schild to close the gap to just 58-hundredths of a second. The win on treacherous icy conditions confirms the 24-year-old Czech skier as one of the country’s main medal hopes for the fast upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In the domestic Czech football league, Sparta Prague have joined Teplice at the top of the table on 32 points after a 2: 0 away win over Bohemians 1905. Teplice have a game in hand after the swine-flu struck squad won an appeal to league bosses for its game against Pilsen to be postponed. Teplice had announced that its list of flu-struck players had increased by four with just six fully fit first team players available. Its appeal was accompanied by a letter from the regional health officer calling for the game to be called off. Teplice were ordered to play the previous league match even though swine flue had started to take its toll. They crashed 2:6 against mid-table Olomouc.
A hat trick by Slavia Prague midfielder Rudolf Skácel gave them a 3:1 home win against Brno. The win is the first following a run of two defeats and two draws for the current league champions. Although still only seventh-placed and with an eight point gap on the league leaders, the win has allowed manager Karel Jarolím to proclaim his hopes of hanging onto the title when the winter break is over and matches resume at the end of February.