For the second year running, the Czech Republic's women's tennis players have been pipped for a place in the elite World Group of the Federation Cup. After losing narrowly to Italy in the final doubles rubber of last year's World Group play-off, the Czech ladies suffered a similar fate at the hands of France yesterday. Once again, they came agonizingly close to gaining a place among tennis's international elite. This year's French Open semi-finalist Nicole Vaidisova won both her singles matches to give the Czechs a 2-1 lead going into the final round of games, before the French rallied to eventually win the tie 3-2 after Tatiana Golovin and Severin Bremond won a hard fought doubles match 6-4, 7-6 over Kveta Peschkeova and Iveta Benesova in the deciding game.
"Naturally, we had a chance. I can't say we messed up really badly. We served well and yet there were always line-calls at important moments. We could possibly have risked more, but with strong counter attacks it's not easy. Unfortunately we weren't able to make it even though we had been leading."
Meanwhile, a number of the Czech Republic's leading football stars playing in Italy face an uncertain future today following Friday's enforced relegation of three of Italy's top clubs in the wake of a match-fixing scandal. Players such as national team captain Pavel Nedved may leave their clubs rather than spend at least a season in Italy's second division. One Czech player affected by the relegation is Fiorentina defender Tomas Ujfalusi. His team actually qualified for the Champions League last season, but will now have to content themselves with lower-league football for at least a year, prompting speculation that there will be a mass exodus of the team's stars such as Italy World Cup striker Luca Toni. Ujfalusi, however, is confident that the club's management can keep the team together despite this setback:
"They'll definitely keep the team together. I'm convinced about this because the players knew there was a risk [of relegation] when they signed their contracts. That means they'll hold on to the players with perhaps Luca Toni being the only possible exception. But then again he's under contract, so we'll see what happens..."
Motorcycling now, and 125 cc rider Lukas Pesek's good season continued when he finished third at the German Grand Prix on Sunday. It was Pesek's third podium finish of the season and most commentators reckon it is now only a matter of time before the talented rider actually wins his first Grand Prix.
Staying with motorsport and some less happy news: Speedway racer Ales Dryml is fighting for his life following a horrific crash at a race meeting in Oxford at the weekend. Dryml suffered severe head injuries in the collision and doctors have described his condition as critical but stable.
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