In Sports News this Monday: in football, Plzeň draws against Jablonec in one of season’s highlight matches; Jágrmania continues in Czech hockey extraliga; in tennis, Tomáš Berdych claims second title of the season, and in basketball, former NBA player Jiří Welsch returns home.
One of the highlights of the Czech football season this autumn came on Saturday in the 11th round of the Gambrinus liga when the two top scoring teams, Viktoria Plzeň and Baumit Jablonec clashed in front of some 10,000 fans. They enjoyed strong offensive football with nice combination play leading to a number of opportunities on both sides, a rare sight in the Czech division.
Defending champions Plzeň played to win and went ahead after 57 minutes. But with just five minutes to go, Jablonec managed to equalize thanks to a collapse of the home side’s defence. The draw prolonged Plzeň’s winless streak to four games while it kept Jablonec at the top of the charts. Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba was unhappy about the result but seemed confident that his team’s style of play will eventually bear fruit.
“I’m not sure if this is a crisis; it could also be the coach’s fault. Maybe the coach should even be dismissed. But if our play looked like we are in crisis, then I can only hope all the teams in the Czech top division ‘suffer’ such a crisis.”
In other games in the round, Sparta drew against newcomers Jihlava 1:1, Slavia beat Příbram 2:1, and Ostrava drew 1:1 with Brno.
Turning to hockey now where Jágrmania continues in the Czech extraliga despite the fact that Jaromír Jágr has been out of action due to injury. The 40-year-old Jágr suffered an unspecified injury in Thursday’s sold-out game between his own Kladno and Karlovy Vary. Kladno won the game 3:1 and on Sunday, Kladno also beat Liberec by the same score. On Tuesday, Kladno takes on Kometa Brno in Prague’s O2 Arena where over 17,000 fans of both teams are expected. But on Monday, Jaromír Jágr said he would most likely probably not appear on his team’s roster. With or without Jágr, Kladno is on the winning track; currently ranked third, trailing Kometa Brno by one point and Plzeň by five.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych defeated France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of the ATP event in Stockholm on Sunday, and won his second title of the season. In the first set, the 27-year-old Czech found no defence against the top-seeded Frenchman’s serve and was down 2-4 in the second. But then he won five games in a row to force the deciding set in which the Czech saved a break-point and took the match in two hours and 39 minutes.
The sixth-ranked Berdych has never won two titles in one season before, and he told the tournament’s website how much enjoyed his time in Stockholm.
“I’ve been on the tour for quite a while and I wasn’t able to win two titles in a single year. But now I’ve done it, here in Stockholm. I like the whole atmosphere here and the tournament is amazing. So I really enjoyed the whole week, it was great for me, and the title makes it even better.”
Stockholm’s title moved Tomáš Berdych a step closer to qualifying for the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London.
In women’s tennis, the leading Czech player Petra Kvitová has drawn the White Group of the WTA Championships 2012 which kick off in Istanbul on Tuesday. The defending champion will play Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, Russia's Maria Sharapova, and Sara Errani of Italy in the White Group; the Red Group includes Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, the US player Serena Williams, Li Na of China and Germany’s Angelique Kerber.
Moving on to basketball now, the reigning Czech basketball champions Nymburk have been dominating the top division when they won all six games of the new season although they had to push hard to defeat Ústí nad Labem 72:65 in their latest game on Friday.
However, Nymburk have seen mixed luck on the international scene when in the VTB League, Nymburk lost two of their three games. After losing to Russia’s Nizhny Novgorod earlier this month, they beat another Russian team, Lokomotiv Kuban. But on Sunday, Nymburk suffered a staggering defeat 52:89 by Triumph Lyubertsy, also of Russia.
Nymburk’s record might yet improve as the nine-time Czech champions have signed Jiří Welsch, a 32-year-old player who spent six years in the NBA before moving back to Europe. Jiří Welsch returns to the Czech league after 12 years abroad. Meanwhile, another Czech basketball player, Jan Veselý, will play in the NBA for at least two more years. His team, the Washington Wizards, offered him a contract until 2014.
In other basketball news, former Czech national team player, Kamil Novák, has been appointed the new secretary general of FIBA Europe. The 45-year-old Novák, who played 147 games for the Czech national team, has been the sports manager of the German club Fraport Skyliners for the past seven years.
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