Manomanista quarter final preview: Bengoetxea VI v Patxi Ruiz by frontonnews
April 30, 2009, 11:09 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , ,

Saturday 2nd May
Labrit, Pamplona

On Saturday night this already enthralling Manomanista Championship enters into orbit with the entry of the defending champion into the competition, when Oinatz Bengoetxea takes on Patxi Ruiz in Pamplona in the first of the quarter finals. Both parties chose their playing material on Wednesday in front of a large crowd at Labrit with Bengoetxea selecting balls of 105.6 and 105.8 grams, and Ruiz balls of 104.7 and 105.1 grams. A large audience is also expected at the historic fronton for the match between these two past champions.

Bengoetxea, young, charismatic and popular, was a surprise winner of the 2008 txapela, which he won with a 22-11 triumph over favourite and fellow Leitzarra Abel Barriola but was no less deserving for this. He dominated Barriola, who rarely found his stride, like a tidal wave of movement and power to claim his first championship at the age of 23. Barriola, who also lost in the final in 2007, had hoped to make amends this year but his dreams were dashed by a torn knee ligament sustained in a recent doubles match; the town of Leitza will not have to struggle with their divided loyalties this time around. The champion is one of the fastest men on court, bustling in attack and seemingly unbreakable in defence. He also appears to possess the mental strength necessary to thrive on this greatest of all stages, for the weight of the txapela seems to sit lightly upon his head. Speaking to Diario de Navarra, the 24 year old seemed at ease, declaring that he feels no pressure to repeat his triumph of last year, and will treat the 2009 edition as a different tournament in which he must take his opportunities and grow afresh. It is nine years since a Manomanista Champion has defended his title, the last to achieve this feat being Patxi Eugi who won in 1999 and 2000, but despite his opportunity here, Oinatz is determined not to look beyond the first hurdle, declaring it ‘inappropriate’ to be in a hurry.

Bengoetxea’s opening challenge comes in the form of Patxi Ruiz, who won this title in 2003, defeating Aimar Olaizola in the final. Although the defender from Estella has failed to win a txapela of any kind in the intervening six years, he has always been there or thereabouts, causing problems for the big hitters. This year, Ruiz has been, and will likely remain, an enigma. His physical problems began last year and resulted in a back operation which was carried out in the autumn and since his return to competition, pain has continued to dog him. Though the pain is doubtless very real, many commentators have become irked by his relentless brand of pessimism and his insistence on dwelling on his physical state. In an interview prior to his first match in the championship, he stated in no uncertain terms that he was not enthralled that he was having to play at all and suggested he had agreed only for the good of his empresa. Despite a comfortable victory over Inigo Leiza in the third round, he is still not optimistic. Interviewed at the presentation of material on Wednesday, the Navarrese pelotari declared himself to be less than one hundred percent. His hip, he stated, feels good but his back causes him pain as he moves to strike the ball. Ruiz has not trained at full intensity this week and at one stage cast doubt on his own participation on Saturday. However, his claims as to the seriousness of his condition were repudiated by Asegarce doctor Inigo Simon who declared that he would play, his problem being no worse than that experienced by Aimar Olaizola, who played through his injury in the pairs.

Oinatz Bengoetxea, who remains champion until June 7, will run out at Labrit the clear favourite. The defending champion’s mental will is not unbreakable, as Mikel Olazabal demonstrated as he pulled off a massive upset in the Cuatro y Medio Championship at his expense last October. The wounds of that defeat have, according to his botillero Asier Garcia, been slow to heal. However, if his recent demeanour is any indication of his state of mind coming into this year’s championship, Oinatz is in rude health. He has had a good build up to this weekend, capitalising on a solid and occasionally masterful display in the pairs championship with some impressive performances since. It is never easy to enter a championship at the quarter final stage, having to take on an opponent who has had the time to work himself into the competition, but Bengoetxea looks set to hit the floor running. Patxi Ruiz, although certainly more that capable of pulling off an upset, looks to be making excuses for losing before he has lost. This may be a harsh analysis of his current state but he seems keen to talk up Bengoetxea’s game at his own expense. Ruiz has described him this week as ‘a fly who is always hovering around you’ and as the overwhelming favourite, while talking of the difficulties he faced against Leiza and the fact that Oinatz will present a challenge in a totally different league. The impression is of someone who wishes to cover his back. Bengoetxea, for his part, seems unfazed by his opponent’s words, declaring that he stands outside such discussions. The defending champion’s mental strength and physical presence should see him through, but which Patxi we will see come Saturday is the unanswerable question.

Bengoetxea VI starts his title defence

Bengoetxea VI starts his title defence

Mano results roundup by frontonnews
April 27, 2009, 1:13 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , ,

The Manomanista Championship took a break this weeked ahead of the quarter finals which start on Saturday. However, the world of pelota mano barely ever stops and there is much to report upon from the past few days, including the second division manomanista, in which we are down to the last eight.

We start with the second tier competition, where things are a little complicated, with intra-emprea heats and quarter finals taking place on the same weekend. This tournament is structured differently to the main Manomanista Championship, with players facing competition from within their own empresas for the right to play in the knockout stages. On Saturday two ASPE pelotaris faced each other; talented 22 year old Mikel Olazabal defeated Xabier Galarza (Galarza VI) 22-11 to seal his place in the quarter finals The result was never in too much doubt, despite Olazabal letting his form slip in the middle portion of the encounter, which opened the door a fraction to Galarza. However, after a time out he regained his head to win at a canter. He will now play 24 year old Gipuzkoan Mikel Olaetxea in the last eight on Friday. Two quarter finals were also played this weekend. In the first, which took place in Pamplona on Saturday, Mikel Beroiz of ASPE beat Iker Arretxe of Asegarce 22-18. Over in Eibar on Sunday, Jokin Argote (Asegarce) defeated Inaki Larralde (ASPE) 22-20. The other quarter final, which will take place at Albelda de Iregua on Friday, pits Pablo Urrizelki (Asegarce) against Asier Arruti (ASPE).

In other news, three of the Manomanista quarter finalists were in action in doubles games, no doubt intended to hone their form. All three fared well. On Friday, Juan Martinez de Irujo teamed up with Xabier Urberuaga to defeat Aritz Lasa and Inigo Pascual 22-13 in Urretxu. On Sunday, Irujo plays Sebastian Gonzalez in San Sebastian for a place in the last four. Urberuaga has to wait until May 10th to play Aimar Olaizola in what is really a third round match owing to the withdrawal of Abel Barriola through injury. Despite this, the winner will progress to the semi finals, and will start next year’s tournament at the same stage as the other semi finalists. On Saturday, it was the turn of Aimar Olaizola himself to get in some match practice. The former double champion and Alexis Apraiz comfortably defeated Juantxo Koka and Aritz Begino 22-13 in Pamplona.

This weekend, the excitement of the Manomanista Championship returns with the following quarter final fixtures, including the start of the title defence of the defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea:

Saturday 2nd May, Pamplona: Bengoetxea VI v Patxi Ruiz

Sunday 3rd May, San Sebastian: Martinez de Irujo v Gonzalez

Jokin Argote

Jokin Argote

Mano on the web TONIGHT, Friday 24th April by frontonnews
April 24, 2009, 12:39 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano

Friday 24th April


Live on ETB-Sat

In this ASPE run programme, the Eibar based empresa gives a run out to Irujo and Urberguaga, who both play in the quarter finals of the Manomanista Championship next weekend (against Gonzalez and Olaizola II respectively). The match between Galarza VI and Olazabal is for a place in the quarter finals of the second division Manomanista Championship.

Mikel Olazabal

Mikel Olazabal

Manomanista Championship: Beloki’s experience tells in defeat of Agirre by frontonnews
April 20, 2009, 11:06 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday 19th April
Astelena, Eibar
BELOKI beat AGIRRE 22-11

Ruben Beloki can seem a quiet and rather unassuming character in comparison to the other past champions in the draw, about whom there is infinitely more fuss being made. However, of all 2009’s illustrious competitors, the 34 year old from Burlada is the most decorated, at least in manomanista terms, having been champion in 1995, 1998, 1999 and 2001. He also holds the distinction of being the youngest ever winner; he was all of 20 years old in 1995. He himself admits to the loss of some of his speed and power, but he makes up for these deficiences in his experience and guile, as Imanol Agirre was to discover to his cost.

Agirre, who is also 34, has also been around a while, having made his professional debut fourteen years ago. He is, however, far less decorated than his opponent here and on this occasion at least, far less assured. Things started positively for the man from Bilbao and the encounter was all square at 5-5. The early points were long and enthralling and the protagonists traded blows with equal venom. However, slowly but surely, Beloki exerted himself upon the game, winning the next six points at barely a canter. He served long and hard to put his opponent on the back foot from the off and then controlled the play with impressive composure. This was nowhere more apparent than in the point which took the score to 9-5, in which Beloki made Agirre run for sheer life before nonchalantly swiping to ball crosscourt while his rival was totally off the scene. Beloki also showed his prowess at turning defence into attack. For all his inability to impose himself, Agirre fought doggedly and managed to produce an exellent shot which used both walls in an attempt to bamboozle Beloki. Miraculously however, the latter reached it and broke Agirre’s spirit by producing a low crosscourt winner from a seemingly hopeless situation.

Beloki would not have everything his own way and there followed a passage of play in which Agirre showed signs of recovery, reducing his deficit to two points at 11-9. The underdog showed Beloki that he could play him at his own game by manouvering him around the fronton and rendering him out of place on three occasions. He also won a point with a barrelling serve. However, his stoical resistence was not to last and the former champion regained control to take six points without reply. Agirre, while still fighting, appeared now to be more prone to error, failing to retrieve two serves which he could not get under and miscuing two overhead volleys. Although Agirre managed to salvage two further points, the remainder of the match was all about Beloki, who composed the pattern and speed of the match before playing it to perfection. As Beloki showed his prowess in shot making and finishing points with a flourish, Agirre continued to miss when he attempted to volley and hit with unnecessary inaccuracy, a victim of his opponent’s relentless pressure.

This was a job well done by Beloki, who was not flashy but dominant nonetheless. In the fourth round he faces Asier Olaizola, who made the semi finals last year, in an encounter with no clear favourite. While Olaizola will come at Beloki with all guns blazing, his wiles could be his salvation. Beloki has not won a txapela of any kind since 2003; he has a long way to go here before another is in sight but his brand of quiet assurance could serve him well in the coming weeks.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 3-1, 3-5, 11-5, 11-9, 17-9, 17-10, 20-10, 20-11 and 22-11.

Ruben Beloki on top

Ruben Beloki on top

Manomanista Championship: Irujo destroys Xala by frontonnews
April 19, 2009, 8:48 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday 18th April
Labrit, Pamplona

Yves Salaberry, known in sporting terms as Xala, stood bodily in the path of a hurricane on Friday night. That hurricane originated in Ibero and made its way to Labrit to wreak havoc in the form of one Juan Martinez de Irujo, pelotari supreme. Xala must have come into this match with some confidence, despite the reputation of his opponent. The man from Lekuine played an excellent pairs championship, despite his lack of defensive support hindering his chances of making the knockout stages, and Irujo, while brilliant, can be eminently beatable. Nobody, least of all Xala, can have expected this.

Xala started well, his strong left arm winning him the first point, but Irujo, amazingly, won the next twenty. He was unable to do anything as Irujo served with aplomb, volleyed brilliantly and used the two walls as his play things. Only in the dying moments of the match did Xala manage to offer any kind of meagre resistance, winning three points in a row to save a little face. Irujo has won the Manomanista title on two previous occasions, in 2004 and 2006, and few would bet a large sum against him here. There will be sterner tests ahead but on the strength of this performance, he must surely be the man to fear. The only slight worry for Irujo came in the penultimate play of the match when he twisted his ankle. However, the injury is not thought to be serious and he hopes to resume training on Monday or Tuesday. He has until 3rd May to prepare for his quarter final against Sebastian Gonzalez, to whom he lost last year at the same stage. Gonzalez will need to muster all his resources if that result is to be repeated.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-20, 4-20, 4-22.

Martinez de Irujo: unstoppable

Martinez de Irujo: unstoppable

Manomanista Championship: Patxi Ruiz too good for Inigo Leiza by frontonnews
April 18, 2009, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

Friday 17th April

The first of the third round matches saw the entry of the first former champion. Patxi Ruiz won the Manomanista Championship in 2003, beating an injury afflicted Aimar Olaizola in the final. In order to progress into the latter stages of this year’s competition, the Navarrese defender will have to overcome injury troubles of his own. This very week, he informed the world, through the medium of Radio Euskadi, that he is not sure how much longer his back, which was operated upon in the autumn, will allow him to continue in the sport. He even went as far as to say that he had only entered this championship for the sake of his empresa. What sort of Patxi Ruiz, we wondered, would be on show in Amorebieta on Friday night? In his path stood the 28 year old Bizkaian Inigo Leiza, whose only manomanista triumph came in the second division championship in 2005. Leiza appeared to be in good form, having defeated Berasaluze IX last week, a player who himself has seemed on fire of late. However, in a topsy turvy match, it was Patxi who would overcome.

The early exchanges were all about Patxi Ruiz, who appeared a changed man from the player who, along with Asier Olaizola, propped up the table in the recent Pairs Championship. There, the pelotari from Estella seemed constantly out of his depth and never found any rhythm or confidence. Although the first point in this encounter went to Leiza, Patxi stamped his authority in the course of the next six, his serve and volley working to perfection. His opponent on the other hand looked ill at ease, his three errors coming as a direct result of the pressure exerted by his rival. However, it was not to be one way traffic and Leiza did find his touch. The turning point came in the play which took the score to 2-6; Patxi Ruiz pulled off two excellent saves in defence but could not prevent Leiza from playing him like a puppet on a string. As he dived, Leiza sent the ball spiralling over his head. Leiza went on to take the next five points, aided by three misses on the part of Patxi and two volley winners of his own.

With the score tied at 7-7, the crowd, who were mostly rather subdued, sensed a fight and warmed to the occasion. However, the latent class of Patxi Ruiz began to tell and the former champion, solid rather than flashy, began to build a lead. As the score crept from 7-7 to 12-7, Patxi ground his opponent into the floor in the style of a master accumulator rather than going for the knockout punch, though there was no doubt as to who was the superior player. Patxi displayed strength in closing out points with a beautifully judged drop and a driven volley which confused Leiza to the extent that he did not even chase it, but his greatest strength was in forcing his rival to crack. This was nowhere more obvious than in the point which took the score to 9-7, in which he repeatedly pushed Leiza back, mercilessly testing his overhead volleying power until he could take it no more.

Leiza did find the power to retaliate but his comeback attempt fell short of achieving parity with his opponent and in reality, Patxi never looked like a loser. As he carried on in the same vein of consistency, Leiza looked like a man who knew he was in for a beating. The errors became more numerous and as he hit high, miscued, and sometimes missed altogether, Patxi bossed the closing points with abandon, tying his opponent to the frontis before daring him to fetch balls for which he had to hare backwards in hopeless desperation. Leiza managed to accumulate a handful of points, more through Patxi’s carelessness than his own skill.

So, it is the 2003 victor who progresses to the next round, where he will face the formidable obstacle of defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea, who showed good form in the curtain raising doubles match which preceded this manomanista encounter. There was little sign in the course of the play of discomfort caused by Patxi’s back, but he did use the rest periods to stretch, indicating that the problem is very much a reality. Only time will tell how much of an onslaught he can withstand, for there will surely be tougher tests ahead.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 6-1, 6-7, 7-7, 12-7, 12-8, 12-11, 15-11, 15-12, 18-12, 18-13 and 22-13.

Patxi Ruiz victorious

Patxi Ruiz victorious

Image from: Asegarce

Manomanista Championship webcasts this weekend by frontonnews
April 17, 2009, 12:46 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: ,

Friday 17th April
23:30 (CET) LEIZA v PATXI RUIZ (third round)

Live on ETB-Sat

Preceeded at 22:10 (CET) by a doubles match between Bengoetxea VI/Mendizabal II and Gonzalez/Laskurain


Sunday 19th April
18:05 (CET) BELOKI v AGIRRE (third round)
Live on ETB-Sat

Preceeded by a doubles match between Berasaluze IX/Goni III and Olazabal/Pascual at 17:00 (CET)

The other championship match this weekend, that between Martinez de Irujo and Xala on Saturday, will not be shown on the web.

Inigo Leiza

Inigo Leiza

Photo from: Asegarce