In Sport News this Monday: the Czech women’s national hockey team reaches the world’s top-tier while the league playoffs continue; in football, Sparta Prague loses grip on lead in the top division; and in tennis, Czech Republic’s Radek Štěpánek and India’s Leander Paes win in Miami.
The Czech women’s national hockey team saw great success, winning the second-tier world championships in Latvia last week and booking a spot in the championships’ elite group for the first time ever. The Czech team only reached the second tier last year but stormed through the event, beating Latvia, Kazakhstan, Norway and Austria and losing only to Japan in their opening game. Martin Loukota is the team’s manager.
“It was really a tough tournament but I would say the team’s chemistry worked well, the atmosphere in the dressing room was great and we had a great goalie, hard-working defence and of course very good snipers.”
The Czech women will face the world’s best teams in the elite group of the world championships next year, and manager Martin Loukota hopes they will stay there in the following years, too.
“I can’t say we’ll be playing for medals. The strongest teams in the world will be there and we cannot compare to the US, Canada, Finland or Sweden in regards to the number of players. But we’ll be working hard and we will hopefully remain in the top division.”
Staying on the ice, the Czech hockey league playoffs’ semifinal series are in full swing. Pardubice on Sunday trashed Liberec 8:1 in the fifth game of the best-of-seven series, and are one win away from reaching the finals. Pardubice destroyed the visitors early when they found the back of the net three times within 61 seconds, and won the first period 4:0.
In the other semifinal series, the season’s dark horse Kometa Brno are also one win away from reaching the finals. But the last step is proving difficult as Kometa fell to Plzeň 3:2 in Brno on Saturday. Another opportunity for Kometa to play for the title in more than four decades comes later on Monday.
Moving on to football now: with seven rounds to go in the top Czech football division, Sparta Prague looked set to maintain a comfortable distance ahead of a pack – including defending champions Plzeň and Liberec. But on Sunday, Sparta suffered total collapse when they lost to outsiders Příbram 2:0 on Sunday, and lost the top spot.
Sparta put in a lot of effort in the match but proved highly ineffective, failing to convert some good chances against the outsider, as Sparta midfielder Marek Matějovský noted.
“I don’t think I have ever played a match like this. We had so many opportunities and I still can’t believe we did not score. We should have turned the game around after we conceded two goals but we just couldn’t. We are just making it harder for ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Liberec beat Dukla Prague 2:1 on Sunday and moved up to first place, two points ahead of Sparta. Titleholders Viktoria Plzeň in third place trail Liberec by nine points. But they can narrow the gap later on Monday if they beat outsiders Ostrava who are ranked penultimate in the table, just one point ahead of Viktoria Žižkov in last place.
And finally, in the sport of tennis, Radek Štěpánek with his Indian partner Leander Paes clinched the doubles title at the ATP event in Miami, after beating the second-seeded Belarusian-Canadian pair Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 on Saturday. The Miami win was the Indo-Czech duo’s second title of the year after winning the Australian Open in January and it was also the 50th title of the career for Leander Paes.
Speaking at the court after the final game, Radek Štěpánek said that given their success, he and his partner might reconsider their plans for this year.
“We started really well, winning a Grand Slam, and we have to look at our schedule. We were thinking of playing only 13 or 14 tournament but we’ve been doing fine so far. Maybe 13 tournaments would be enough but we’ll see.”
Radek Štepánek’s form will be much needed next weekend when the Czechs face Serbia in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup.
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