In this week's Sports News, Petra Kvitová to play crucial fourth round match at Wimbledon; Czech players on the move in the NHL; two local ice-hockey teams form a business partnership; five medals for Czechs at the European Athletics Championships and the national women's basketball team qualifies at the eleventh hour for the London Olympics.
Twenty-two year-old Czech tennis player Petra Kvitová is set to take on Italian number 24 seed Francesca Schiavone at the Wimbledon championships on Monday afternoon. The number four seed and defending champion will be facing a player in the fourth round who defeated fellow compatriot Klára Zakopalová 6-0 6-4 in the third round and also knocked out Czech Kristýna Plíšková in the second round 6-4 6-4. Kvitová raised eyebrows with her previous 53-minute 6-1 6-0 victory over American Varvara Lepchenko in the third round. Her match against French Open champion Schiavone, however, is expected to pose a greater challenge, although the Czech holds a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over her rival in matches this season.
UPDATE: Kvitová defeated Schiavone after dropping the first set. The final score was 4-6 7-5 6-1; she will now face former Wimbledon champion Serena Williams in the quarter-finals.
The opening of a transfer window in the US and Canadian joint National Hockey League (NHL) sees nine Czech players with their contracts expiring. One of these, defenseman Filip Kuba, has already been signed up and is set to leave the Canadian team Ottawa Senators and return to the Florida Panthers for a two-year contract for a reported $8 million, having previously joined the team through a NHL Entry Draft programme back in 1995. The thirty-five year old remained with the Panthers for four years before he joined Ottawa; during his career he has also played for teams such as the Houston Aeros and Tampa Bay Lighting. He also led the Czech national side to gold in the 2001 World Ice Hockey Championships.
Staying with ice-hockey, the Czech Extraliga team HC Sparta Praha and HC Lev have entered into a joint business arrangement to form Sportovní Holding Praha, a company that enables them to exchange players and share facilities. HC Lev is a Czech member of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), which contains members from Russia and Eastern Europe and is widely considered to be the second strongest hockey league after the NHL. According to a press release about the formation of the holding group, the move was undertaken to create a synergy between both clubs, to train new players and to remain attractive to fans and business partners. HC Sparta Praha last won the Extraliga in the 2006/7 season, while HC Lev was founded only this year, although it existed in a previous form as Lev Hradec Králové.
The 2012 European Athletics Championships, held this year in Helsinki, concluded on Sunday with the Czech Republic coming in 7th in terms of the total medal count. Germany were the overall winners with six golds and sixteen medals, while the Czech Republic won three golds, one silver and one bronze with a total medal count of five. The Czechs won gold in the men’s 400m, with Pavel Maslák finishing in just over 45 seconds; Vítězslav Veselý won gold in the men’s javelin with a throw of 83.72 metres and Jiřina Ptáčníková won gold in the women’s pole vault. Other Czech medals came in the fields of women’s hurdles and women’s relay. The competition is a vital precursor ahead of the Olympics, which will be held in London from July 27th to 12th August. Barbora Špotáková, a former javelin-throwing Olympic gold medalist is expected to be one of several major Czech hopes at the tournament. In total, 130 Czech contenders are heading to the Games.
The Czech women’s basketball team has qualified for the Olympics beating Japan 53:47 at a match in Ankara, Turkey. Players Kateřina Elhotová, Eva Vítečková, Ilona Burgrová and Petra Kulichová brought the score to13:0 after a mere four minutes. The Czechs remained ahead until near the end of the match, with the Japanese then rapidly closing the gap. However, the Czech team managed to scrape through. Previously, the women’s basketball team reached the quarter-finals in both the Athens 2004 and Peking 2008 Olympic Games.
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