This weekend sees both a professional debut, and more from the Pairs Championship, which started with victory for Berasaluze VIII and Begino on Wednesday (report of this match to come). As far as the former is concerned, tonight sees the start of Inaki Larrinaga’s career at Aspe, paired with the experience of Gonzalez. We wish him well. There are two pairs championship matches to savour in addition; on Saturday, defending champion Martinez de Irujo, who plays with Beroiz rather than Goni III this time round, opens his account. He and his young partner should be favourites here, against last year’s bottom pair Olaizola I and Patxi Ruiz. On Sunday, runners up in 2009 Olaizola II and Mendizabal II taken on Titin II and Pascual. They too will be favourites but could have a fight on their hands.
Friday 8th January, Elorrio
22:30 (CET) APEZETXEA – UNANUE v CABRERIZO – GALARZA VI
23:50 (CET) GONZALEZ – LARRINAGA v ARITZ LASA – GONI III
Saturday 9th January, Labrit, Pamplona
18:00 (CET) MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – BEROIZ v OLAIZOLA I – PATXI RUIZ: Pairs Championship Quarter Final round robin
Sunday 10th January, Astelena, Eibar
16:45 (CET) BERASLAUZE IX – CECILIO v ARITZ LASA – LARRINAGA
17:50 (CET) TITIN III – PASCUAL v OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II: Pairs Championship Quarter Final round robin
Image from: Manista
The schedule for the Pairs Championship, which starts on Wednesday 6th, has been announced. The final will take place on Easter Sunday, 4th April, at Ogueta in Vitoria-Gasteiz. Visit Asegarce for the full timetable.
Filed under: Pelota Mano
ETB-Sat will be showing live matches every day over the coming weekend. Fixtures and times are listed below. To watch, go to http://www.eitb.com/television/etb-sat
Friday 1st January, Astelena, Eibar
22:25 (CET) RETEGI BI – GONI III v BERASALUZE IX – CECILIO
23:35 (CET) TITIN III – EULATE v XALA – GONZALEZ
Saturday 2nd January, Labrit, Pamplona
18:00 (CET) CHAFEE – PENAGARIKANO v ARRETXE – APRAIZ
19:10 (CET) BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO v OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II
Sunday 3rd January, Astelena, Eibar
17:00 (CET) RETEGI BI – ARRUTI v OLAZABAL – CECILIO
18:10 (CET) TITIN III – EULATE v ARITZ LASA – BEROIZ
Image from: Euskal Jai Alai
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!
Tomorrow, Thursday, Imanol Agirre will play his last game for Asegarce. The match will take place in Zeanuri at 17:00; Agirre, who is 35 and hails from Bilbao, will play with Ibai Zabala against Leiza and Iza.
Image from: El Correo Digital
The presentation for the 2010 Pairs Championship took place today in San Sebastian. In a new development, the coming tournament will see a trophy awarded for sportsmanship, to be given to the pair who show outstanding respect, and reflect the values which the empresas and tournament sponsors, La Kutxa, would wish to see reported. The tournament will feature a quarter final league in two rounds, the top four pairs progressing to a semi final league to decide the finalists. The participants, not including Fernando Goni, who won with Juan Martinez de Irujo last year, are as follows:
For Asegarce: Olaizola II-Mendizabal II, Olaizola I-Patxi Ruiz, Bengoetxea VI-Beloki, and Berasaulze VIII-Begino
For Aspe: Titin III-Pascual, Gonzalez-Laskurain, Martinez de Irujo-Beroiz, and Xala-Zubieta.
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: Atano III, BBK Masters, Donostia, Martinez de Irujo, Olaizola II, San Sebastian
Saturday 26th December, Atano III, San Sebastian
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat OLAIZOLA II 22-16
The BBK Masters is the last hurrah of the pelota year, a jamboree in which the finest pelotaris of the past twelve months play for pride and a big cheque. As befits a tournament which aims to crown a ‘master’, the year’s final delivered a game between the best of the best, Juan Martinez de Irujo and Aimar Olaizola. Time after time this year, these two supreme competitors have fought each other but Irujo has held sway on the biggest stages, defeating Aimar in both the pairs and Manomanista finals. Aimar redressed the balance in the summer, displaying scintillating form in the merry-go-round of festivals, but who would have the last word of 2009?
From the off, this match had the makings of an epic. It was Olaizola who held sway in the early skirmishes. In taking out a 2-8 lead, the formidable Goizuetan offered a tactical masterclass. He aimed to expose Irujo against the high ball, repeatedly taking his shots fast and early, and striking the frontis high to pin his rival back. When that tactic did not produce an immediate result, he took the rally to the front of the court where he proved able to fox Irujo just as easily. Frustration surely led to two wild and wide strikes by the Manomanista champion on 2-3 and 2-4. Irujo tried to play Aimar at his own game on 2-7 but overcooked it, hitting the side wall high.
Aimar looked poised and polished but he then proceeded to let a determined Irujo back into the game, losing six points in a row to produce a tie at eight apiece. The first two of these points stemmed from Olaizola errors but he was then forced to give way to some brilliance by his opponent who had clearly employed his radar and found his range with dosparedes and drop winners. His serve, too, looked ominous. Irujo’s run ended when he hit too high to cede the lead once again, and Aimar surged forwards to a 9-13 lead, served up by a mixture of winners and Irujo errors. Again however, the fighter from Ibero clawed his way back and stalemate was reached at 15-15. The tensionwas palpable both in the demeanour of the protagonists and in the fever pitch of the large Atano III crowd; somebody had to give.
Whether a loss of focus from Aimar or a gear shift from Irujo provided the turning point is hard to say. When Irujo lauched the ball over Aimar’s head to take the lead at 16-15 however, one sensed a sea change, encapsulated in a hard won point which Irujo may have wanted more. There was little Aimar could have done about the two excellent serves which followed, both long enough to allow Irujo nonchalant drop winners as his opponent raced forwards from the return of serve, but in the next point one sensed that he may have lost his way; Aimar clearly thought he had the point with a drop but he was far too casual and underestimated the speed of Irujo. What could easily have been 18-16 if Aimar had chosen to go wide became 19-15, and one sensed Irujo had him in his death stare. One more error from Irujo notwithstanding, it was one way traffic from here on in, Irujo even managing to play Aimar at his earlier game of hitting high and long. When Aimar failed to scoop a low ball from the floor it was game over.
This was a fitting result. Doubtless Aimar would have wished to put an end to his 2009 habit of finishing second in major finals but Irujo is the year’s number one and this prize was the cherry on his considerable cake. With the exception of his blip in the Cuatro y Medio final where he lost out to Sebastien Gonzalez, Irujo has been nigh on unstoppable this year and has played at a pace, and with a verve, that barely seems possible. The champion once again proved that against even the toughest opponent, he has the ability to call on an extra gear, fuelled both by raw talent and by imagination. Zorionak Juan Martinez de Irujo, txapeldun.
Scoring sequence: 2-0/2-2/ 2-8/ 8-8 / 9-13/ 10-13/ 14-14/ 15-15/ 16-15/ 20-16/ 22-16
Image from: Gara
Fernando Goñi has signed a contract with Aspe to play for another year. The defender from Zubiri is, along with Juan Martinez de Irujo, the defending doubles champion. Aspe have also announced the contract renewals of Pedro Martínez de Eulate (for one year) and Íñigo Pascual (until 2014).
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: BBK Masters, Bengoetxea VI, Gonzalez, Martinez de Irujo, Olaizola II
The year ending BBK Masters final, which takes place on Saturday should generate enough festive excitement to melt all the snow which had buried the Basque Country in recent weeks, for in the semi finals, played last weekend, the two great rivals Juan Martinez de Irujo and Aimar Olaizola triumphed to set up another meeting on another grand stage.
Semi Final 1, 19/12/09: OLAIZOLA II beat BENGOETXEA VI 22-18
Labrit was treated to a cracker last Saturday as the two Asegarce stars put on a scintillating show of shot making. There was litte to choose between the protagonists but despite being pushed every inch of the way. The score was tied on 4, 5, 6 and 9, demonstrating the close nature of the duel. Bengoetxea inched past his rival at 7-9 and 9-12, deploying a stunning sotamano on several occasions, but in the final analysis, Aimar kept his nose in front both in terms of score and finesse. The multiple major winner looked in fine shape as he served well, played the tactical game with his customary skill and hit with force and imagination. There was genuine jubilation in his victory cry; as Masters triumph would crown the year nicely for Aimar, who has had a solid twelve months but has failed to win a major championship despite two final appearances out of three.
Semi final 2, 20/12/09: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat GONZALEZ 22-21
Lightening almost struck twice for Sebastien Gonzalez at Astelena on Sunday as he narrowly failed to beat Manomanista Champion Juan Martinez de Irujo for the second time in close succession. In contrast to the first semi final, this was a game strewn with errors as both players clearly showed the tension of the occasion. Irujo must surely have dreaded another defeat by Gonzalez and his desire for revenge manifested itself in some less than typically exalted play. The game was, however, no less exciting for the number of mistakes; it could have gone either way until the bitter end and the crowd warmed to the fight with notable enthusiasm. Gonzalez began the better of the two, racing to a 2-8 lead, which advanced to 9-12. From this point however, Irujo refound his game, winning ten straight points to take the score to 19-12. Gonzalez then took his turn to show his mettle, closing to 21-21 before Irujo eeked out the fatal punch.
The final takes place on Saturday 26th December at Atano III in San Sebastian at around 19:00 (CET), after the completion of two earlier doubles matches. There will be coverage at http://www.eitb.com/television/etb-sat from 18:00 (CET), also taking in the earlier doubles game between Gonzalez-Goni III and Saralegi-Beloki.
Image from: Diaro de Navarra
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: 4 1/2, Atano III, Cuatro y Medio, Donostia, Gonzalez, Martinez de Irujo, San Sebastian
Tuesday 8th December, Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian
GONZALEZ beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO 22-18
That Sebastien Gonzalez defeated Juan Martinez de Irujo in the Cuatro y Medio final last Tuesday is now rather old new; forgive me for the late telling of it, which has occurred due to foreign trips and singing work getting in the way!
This was a huge upset. Gonzalez had played excellently in the run up to the final, losing only to Titin III in the semi final rounds and indeed defeating his final opponent en route. However, the trumping of Irujo in a major final is a big deal. The man from Ibero adores the big stage and when his tail is up, to say that he is formidable is a gross understatement. Gonzalez had a mountain to climb and he scaled it with aplomb, holding his nerve and maintaining his belief to pull off by far the biggest win of his career.
Gonzalez could have become fatally disillusioned from the gun as Irujo roared to a 6-0. It looked like business as usual for the Pairs and Manomanista Champion. However, Gonzalez clawed his way back to 7-10 and seemed to pass his early nerves to Irujo, who became uncharacteristically rattled. When Gonzalez inched ahead at 12-11 it was very much game on. Irujo’s mental state was further dented by a disputed line call which sparked a heated protest, but he held his game and the players enetered deadlock at 16-16. When Gonzalez retook the lead at 18-19, the dream for the player from the Lapurdi province in the French Basque Country looked to be on. As he grew in stature, the great champion Irujo waned and with five straight points Gonzalez reached the pinacle of his career to date.
This was a first major title for the 32 year old, whose only previous championship win had come in the 2nd Division Manomanista in 2000. For Irujo it was a final hurdle failure to win all three major titles in one calendar year. He will be consoled by finishing the year with a commanding lead in the Manista.com rankings over nearest, and perennial rival Olaizola II, but this defeat surely hurt. Irujo was gracious as ever in defeat but it was Gonzalez’s evening; for this astounding coup, he deserves the freedom of Saint Jean de Luz.
Scoring sequence: 6-0; 6-1; 9-1; 10-2; 10-7; 11-7; 12-7; 12-9; 12-11; 14-11; 15-12; 16-12; 16-16; 17-17; 18-17; 18-21; 18-22.
Filed under: Pelota Mano
Firstly, apologies for my absence for the past couple of weeks; I was in Germany, hence missing the Cuatro y Medio final (more about that coming later) and then was rushed off my feet when I got back!
Secondly, we have some great pelota on ETB-Sat today in the form of a BBK Masters semi final between Aimar Olaizola and Oinatz Bengoetxea. Should be a cracker. Details below.
Saturday 19th December, Labrit, Pamplona
18:50 (CET) BERASALUZE VIII – PENAGARIKANO v URRUTIKOETXEA – BEGINO
19:50 (CET) OLAIZOLA II v BENGOETXEA VI (BBK Masters Semi Final)
The second BBK Masters semi final is on Sunday and is a rerun, in mano a mano format, of the Cuatro y Medio final, between Juan Martinez de Irujo and Sebastien Gonzalez. Gonzalez unexpectedly got the upper hand last week to take the txapela so Irujo will be hungry for revenge. The television schedule is as follows:
Sunday 20th December, Astelena, Eibar
16:55 (CET) BERASALUZE IX – BEROIZ v OLAZABAL – LASKURAIN
18:00 (CET) MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – GONZALEZ (BBK Masters Semi Final)
To watch, go to http://www.eitb.com/television/etb-sat
Image from: El Correo Digital