Czechs suffer Štěpánek blow
Davis Cup hero to sit out tie with Switzerland due to back injury
Posted: January 30, 2013
Radek Štěpánek, seen here celebrating his victory against Nicolás Almagro last year, will miss the tie with Switzerland.
The Czech Republic will be without Radek Štěpánek when they kick off the defense of their Davis Cup title against Switzerland in Geneva Feb. 1-3. The hero of last year's final victory over Spain has been struggling with a back injury, which will now require surgery.
"I cannot take part with the guys," Štěpánek said in a video posted on the Czech team's Facebook page. "Unfortunately, I have a problem with my disk that I have to have an operation on."
Štěpánek guided his country to its first title as an independent nation by beating Spain's Nicolás Almagro in a dramatic fifth and final rubber in Prague last November. The 34-year-old's place in the squad goes to Ivo Minář, who will join up with teammates Czech No. 1 Tomáš Berdych, Lukáš Rosol and Jiří Veselý later in the week.
Rosol is expected to slot into the No. 2 spot against a Swiss team that will be unable to call on 17-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer. The Czechs also have history on their side: They boast a 6-2 head-to-head record against Switzerland in Davis Cup ties.
Meanwhile, world No. 8 Petra Kvitová will spearhead the women's Fed Cup side in their clash with Australia in Ostrava Feb. 9-10. Captain Petr Pála has named an unchanged squad to the one that retained their title against Serbia, with Lucie Šafářová, Andrea Hlaváčková and Lucie Hradecká completing the lineup.
Ice hockey: Czech players hit ice for the Flames
Jiří Hudler and Roman Červenka made their long-awaited debuts for the Calgary Flames Jan. 26, as their new side beat the Edmonton Oilers at home 4-3 to pick up a first victory of the curtailed NHL season.
Hudler, who chipped in with a second-period assist, had taken a leave of absence following the death of his father in the Czech Republic, while Červenka had been suffering from blood clots in his leg. The 27-year-old was put on anti-coagulant medication after seeing a specialist in Phoenix, during which time he wasn't cleared to play.
Both men returned to the ice for full practice Jan. 24, with Červenka meeting his teammates for the first time. It was an especially poignant moment for Hudler - a Stanley Cup winner with the Detroit Red Wings in 2008 - who had to rush home to be by his father's bedside.
"It's been tough, but I'm happy to be back," he said. "I don't know if it makes it easier, but I know it's a lot better for everyone. I really appreciated the Flames organization for letting me go home and spend some time there."
Figure skating: Březina grabs European bronze
After several near-misses in major competitions, Michal Březina finally broke his medal duck by bagging a bronze at the European Championships in Zagreb Jan. 26. That was thanks largely to a superb display in the free skate, which he danced to Ennio Morricone's soundtrack from the 1987 film The Untouchables.
Despite taking a tumble in that routine, the 22-year-old edged France's Brian Joubert for the final podium place. Having had to content himself with four fourth-place finishes in the past, the former world junior silver medalist was determined to avoid a repeat performance.
"It's been six years of hard work since I began [my career], and I'm glad I was able to clinch a medal," a delighted Březina said afterward. "I'm very happy I could pull it off; even though I made a mistake at the beginning, things turned out very well in the end."
Spain's Javier Hernandez claimed the gold medal, giving his country its first-ever European title, while Florent Amodio of France - who had headed the field after the short skate Jan. 24 - slipped down into second place overall.
Football: Golda resigns as FAČR disciplinary chief
The alleged corruption scandal engulfing Czech football took another twist Jan. 23 as Jiří Golda resigned as head of the FAČR's disciplinary commission. Golda's move came in reaction to a decision made the same day by members of the executive committee to suspend the association's own investigation into claims of match-fixing, which he had been leading.
It means the FAČR will rely exclusively on a police inquiry into the matter and won't take any action until the results of that investigation are known. Golda said he was opposed to corruption being swept under the carpet, adding the association's bosses feared what would be revealed in his report.
However, FAČR Chairman Miroslav Pelta has denied that claim. He defended the decision to halt the internal investigation, saying his organization didn't have the means to deal with the process.
The allegations first came to light in September last year, when Sparta Praha owner Daniel Křetínský handed over a dossier of evidence that he said showed referees were throwing matches, mainly in favor of Sparta's rivals Viktoria Plzeň.
Jonathan Crane can be reached at