Cuatro y Medio Final: Gonzalez Txapeldun! by frontonnews
December 19, 2009, 12:29 pm
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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.

Gonzalez: victory

Source: abc.es, Image from: La Rioja



Urrutikoetxea storms to 2nd Division 4 1/2 crown by frontonnews
December 6, 2009, 3:53 pm
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Saturday 5th December, Beotibar, Tolosa

URRUTIKOETXEA beat ARGOTE 22-10

The young Asegarce forward Mikel Urrutikoetxea last night became the 2nd Division Cuatro y Medio Champion, annihilating in form Jokin Argote 22-10 at Beotibar. The 20 year old has been a professional for all of six months but his confidence and the quality of his play utterly belied his meagre experience. The match was all but over for Argote as he found himself 0-10 down to his youthful opponent after 13 minutes. Urrutikoetxea was devastatingly strong off both arms and worked the angles deftly, making Argote appear one dimensional. He also served excellently, putting Argote on the back foot from the start of the rally. Argote lacked the dynamism and punch to stem the current, and although he persevered gamely, he was never able to come within seven points of his rival. Urrutikoetxea, who has handled himself with maturity and poise throughout this tournament, is now a champion at the first attempt. Next year, he will play in the main competition, against the modern legends of the game. All signs suggest he may, before too many years have passed, reach their exalted status.

Scoring sequence: 0-10, 3-10, 3-13, 4-13, 4-18, 6-18, 6-20, 9-20, 9-21, 10-21 and 10-22.

Source: Diario Vasco

Urrutikoetxea: dominant

 Image from: El Correo Digital



4 1/2: Irujo storms into the final by frontonnews
November 23, 2009, 5:51 pm
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Sunday 22nd November, Astelena, Eibar

MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat TITIN III 22-11

Sebastian Gonzalez must have girded up his loins for a tense afternoon on Sunday, as the result of the match between Titin III and Juan Martinez de Irujo had a direct bearing on whether he himself would reach the final. As things turned out, by game’s mid point, he may well have been relaxing contentedly with a cup of tea as Irujo’s dominance was never in doubt. For Titin it was victory or quits and the latter was, emphatically, his destiny.

Astelena was packed to the rafters for what many believed would be one of the matches of the championship. Irujo and Titin are both renowned for the intensity both of their play and of their demeanour and with so much at stake matters seemed set to be white hot. The crowd, who bedecked the arena in banners and Riojan flags, were primed for a fight but were left unfulfilled, for there was nothing Titin could do to quench Irujo’s fire. For at least the first four points, affairs were close as the players traded both blows and errors to find themselves locked at 2-2. From that point on however, Irujo located the accelerator and went. The man from Ibero moved from 5-4 to 17-4 with seamless ease. This period of play was peppered with errors by Titin, including a moment of clouded judgement when he left a ball he thought was long. Irujo for his part hit winners at will, mixing powerful hooks and deft drops in a display of breathtaking pace and utter confidence. Titin, who usually appears furious and incredulous when under the cosh, could muster only disbelief and resignation.

However, Titin would not be Titin without the stomach for a battle and the Riojan mustered a fightback of sorts. He broke Irujo’s incredible run of points when the latter could not scoop up a dipping ball close to the frontis, and won the next two in quick time with a dosparedes and a long service return from Irujo. Irujo took back the initiative and advanced to 19-7, almost within touching distance of the final, but his opponent was not yet done and reacted with four points in a row courtesy of a string of uncharacteristic errors from his opponent. But any doubts about Irujo’s ability to close out the match were swiftly dispelled. Titin rallied impressively but in reality the die was cast; two more errors from Titin followed by a signature hook and the game was up.

This was an impressively clinical display from Irujo who knew precisely what he had to do and did the job without a flicker of self doubt. While Gonzalez must be delighted with his final ticket, part of him must be quaking at the thought of playing an Irujo in such rampant form. Irujo finds himself in his third major final of the year and Gonzalez is the only man between him and a clean sweep. The two will meet at Atano III on 8th December.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 5-2, 5-4, 17-4, 17-7, 19-7, 19-11 and 22-11.

Irujo: clinical

Image from: El Correo Digital



4 1/2: Gonzalez triumphs but must play the waiting game by frontonnews
November 23, 2009, 5:04 pm
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Saturday 21st November, Labrit, Pamplona

GONZALEZ beat RETEGI BI 22-12

This weekend was a tense affair for at least three of the pelotaris involved in the Cuatro y Medio semi finals, for the two tickets to the final depended on a series of outcomes. Sebastian Gonzalez, having lost to Titin III last week, had to beat Retegi Bi at Labrit on Saturday to progress. However, even victory there was not a guarantee, for if Titin were to beat Martinez de Irujo a day later, the cause would be lost. Retegi Bi, for his part, had a mathematical chance of qualification but it would have taken the miracle of a 22-2 victory for this to come to pass. Realistically he knew this was a task beyond the herculean, but he was understandably determined to have at least one victory to show for his time in the semi finals.

Gonzalez delivered on his side of the bargain and there was nothing Julen Retegi could do to stop the rot. Within two minutes, Gonzalez had raced to a 3-0 lead and condemned his young opponent to a winless exit. The result was never in serious doubt as the man from Donibane struck cleanly and dominated with his well practised combination of deep serve followed by hook winner. The match suffered from predictability and only seriously caught fire when a collision between the two players sparked a three way protest between the two players and Julen’s father and botillero, Julian Retegi, leading to a replay of the point. But this was of transient importance as Gonzalez took the victory 22-12.

Gonzalez therefore was left in limbo, having done all he could. An Irujo victory on Sunday would put him through to the coveted final but a win for Titin would send him packing. Retegi must surely be disappointed at his performance in the semi finals but must take heart from the way he got there, beating a bafflingly off colour Aimar Olaizola with play worthy of his eventual position. There is surely more to come from the promising son of the famous father.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-2, 8-2, 8-4, 11-4, 11-5, 14-5, 14-7, 16-7, 16-9, 19-9, 19-12 and 22-12.

Written with the partial help of Noticias de Alava

Gonzalez won but was forced to wait

Image from Diario Vasco



4 1/2: Win takes Titin to the verge of the final by frontonnews
November 18, 2009, 10:48 pm
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Sunday 15th November, Astelena, Eibar

TITIN III beat GONZALEZ 22-17

Astelena was full to the rafters on Sunday evening for a game of high intensity between Augusto Ibanez and Sebastian Gonzalez. It was an encounter which had far reaching ramifications for the makeup of the championship final; had Gonzalez won, his place would have been assured, but it is Titin who now finds himself in the box seat in the fight to reach the endgame. Gonzalez and Irujo are squarely in the battle while Retegi Bi is all but out.

The game hung on a knife edge for the first eighteen points, after which the protagonists were tied at nine apiece. Both had appeared nervous in the opening plays, the first three points being won through rather unecessary errors. However, both found their stride and the crowd, many of whom had made the trip from Rioja to support Titin, was treated to some scintillating shot making. As befits a match where the stakes are so high, the tussle had its fair share of controversy as the players twice collided, sparking protests of obstruction from each in turn. The drama increased when Titin was forced to leave the fronton following a blow to the head as he dived. Far from knocking his confidence, the incident seemed to spur him on to greater things as he immediately pulled a crosscourt winner right out of the top drawer. For the rest of the encounter, Titin managed to keep his nose fractionally in front of Gonzalez, who missed some key chances to take control.

Titin, as is his wont, played with seething controlled aggression and will surely trouble Juan Martinez de Irujo when they meet on Sunday in the same arena. Expect a white hot evening.

Scoring sequence: 0-1/ 1-1/ 1-2/ 2-2/ 3-2/ 3-3/ 3-7/ 8-7/ 8-8/ 8-9/ 9-9/ 13-9/ 13-11/ 14-11/ 15-11/ 15-12/ 17-12/ 17-14/ 18-14/ 18-17/ 19-17/ 22-17

Titin rampant

Image from: Diario Vasco



4 1/2: Retegi junior fails to fell Titin in semi final duel by frontonnews
November 14, 2009, 11:35 pm
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Sunday 8th November, Astelena, Eibar
TITIN III beat RETEGI BI 22-13

It is twelve years since the famous Cuatro y Medio final of 1997. The epic duel between Retegi II and Titin III has gone down in history as one of the greatest games of all time and its shadow was never far from Astelena on Sunday. Retegi II and Titin met again but in very different circumstances, as the former coached his son, Julen, against the player he once defeated. Titin, now aged 40, has withstood the test of time and succeeded against the son where he failed against the father.

Julen Retegi looked tight and nervous from the off, a pale imitation of the player who had so spectacularly thwarted Aimar Olaizola in the quarter finals. Titin raced to a 6-1 lead while Retegi failed both in direction and positioning on the fronton. The young forward pulled two points back by way of two errors from Titin but at 13-3 to the Riojan legend, the game appeared to be up for Retegi. However, much to the delight of the Tolosa faithful, Retegi rallied, showing flashes of his quarter final dominance. In the course of the game’s middle section, in which Retegi closed to 13-16, Titin committed six errors, some more unforced than others, but Retegi also displayed some dazzling shot making prowess. This was nowhere more apparent than in the beautifully worked txoko at 13-4 and in the stunning dosparedes winner which took the score to 13-10. However, just as the game appeared to be shaping up for a battle royal, Retegi lost all his momentum after a falta which ripped into his confidence. The man from Pamplona failed to add to his score as Titin ran away with it, 22-13.

Retegi appeared utterly dejected and it is easy to see why. In his previous match he had pulled off one of the upsets of the year in totally outplaying the defending champion, the man who has dominated Cuatro y Medio in recent years. He showed tantalising glimpses of that form here but proved unable to sustain it. He needs to find an extra gear if he is to compete at this level on a consistent basis. Titin for his part played with impressive verve and his customary passion. He has the ammunition to make quite some mark on the remainder of this tournament; Irujo and Gonzalez must be on their guard when faced with the evergreen warrior from Tricio.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 6-1, 6-3, 7-3, 13-3, 13-10, 14-10, 14-11, 16-11, 16-13 and 22-13.

 



4 1/2: Gonzalez upsets Irujo in Zarautz by frontonnews
November 11, 2009, 1:22 pm
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Saturday 7th November, Zarautz: GONZALEZ beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO 22-19

The first encounter of the Cuatro y Medio semi-finals went against the head in Zarautz last Friday as Sebastian Gonzalez got the better of tournament favourite Juan Martinez de Irujo. It was a thrilling match, played in front of an enthusiastic and vociferous crowd. Both participants moved the ball with speed and power and played excellently in defence. Gonzalez, against expectations, managed to keep his nose ahead for the whole match, building up an excellent start which saw him take a 7-1 lead. Irujo ran him closer as the game progressed and played many excellent shots, but in the final analysis it was Gonzalez who showed the greater finesse.

Scoring sequence: 1-7/3-7/3-8/ 5-10/ 12-13/ 13-14/ 14-18/ 15-20/ 19-20/ 19-22

Source: ASPE

Irujo and Gonzalez did battle in Zarautz

Image from: Diario Vasco