Sports News

By Ian Willoughby

Today's big story - the Czech tennis player Jiri Novak has lost to the Swedish sixth seed Thomas Johansson in the semi-final of the Australian Open - his first ever Grand Slam semi-final. Novak, seeded 26th, lost the first set 6:7 but kept his composure and made light work of Johansson in the second, winning 6:0. Novak won the third set 6:4. The fourth went to Johansson 6:3. Novak battled on gamely but it wasn't to be - he lost the last set 6:4.

Novak was the first Czech to play in the semi-final of a major tournament since Petr Korda won the Australian Open three years ago. The 26-year-old father of three has been playing on the ATP tour since 1993.

On his way to the semi-final Novak destroyed Austria's Stefan Koubek 6-2 6-3 6-2 in their quarter-final clash. Novak beat Koubek convincingly in just 85 minutes.

With just over two weeks to go before the Winter Olympics begin in Salt Lake City the Czech biathlon team have been involved in a head-on motorway collision which has left two of them injured. The accident occurred on Wednesday as the team drove to Prague airport to fly out to Salt Lake City. Zdenka Vejnarova received a black eye during the crash while Eva Hakova suffered concussion. She was released from hospital on Thursday morning. Both Vejnarova and Hakova are now doubtful for the Olympics. For those unfamiliar with winter sports, the biathlon involves cross-country skiing and shooting.

The man who will captain the Czech ice hockey at Salt Lake City, Jaromir Jagr, is back in action after a five-game absence through injury. On Tuesday Jagr notched up one goal and one assist in the Washington Capitals 3:0 defeat of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Meanwhile the Czech coach Josef Augusta is in confident mood ahead of the Olympics. We've got players who have won the Olympics and several World Championships - we don't feel we could go out in the quarter-finals, he said.

In domestic ice hockey, there has been no change at the top of the Extraliga following the latest round. Sparta Prague stay on top following a 4:3 victory over Plzen. Sparta are now six points clear as second place Pardubice lost to Vitkovice - their first defeat at the club's new arena. Third place Zlin also lost - going down 4:2 to Vsetin.