San Sebastian round-up by frontonnews

Last night, Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino became the first pair to progress to the final of the Torneo Cuidad de San Sebastian. The Asegarce pair dominated proceedings at Atano III, defeating Xala and Fernando Goñi by 22 points to 12. The victorious partnership outplayed their rivals both in attack and defence; Begino was especially impressive, showing terrific strength, accuracy and range which put the usually unflappable Goñi in the shade. Berasaluze continued in his recent vein with some stunning forward play and all of the fiery defiance for which he is known. Xala was a contradiction, playing at times with mastery and at times with baffling carelessness, stinging airez winners mixing with too great a number of txapas. The result was never in serious doubt.

 The second semi final takes place this evening as follows:


 Sadly there will be no webcast.

 The first game, a ‘special’ match, of the festivities in San Sebastian was an unusual one, pitting as it did Juan Martinez de Irujo (playing with Titin III) and Aimar Olaizola (playing with Pablo Berasaluze) against each other as defenders. As one might expect, it was an extremely atypical encounter. Neither of the ‘defenders’ seemed terribly keen to play as such with all four pelotaris at times in the front portion of the fronton. This led to a fast and furious encounter with some highly entertaining points. However, Irujo did not appear entertained in any way, shape or form. The Manomanista champion looked like a fish out of water as he made error after error and constantly found himself out of position. Confusion reigned between him and Titin. In contrast, Olaizola and Berasaluze had a ball, perhaps ironically given Aimar’s reputation as a poor back court player in his junior days. They appeared relaxed and worked swimmingly together as a team, resulting in a crushing 22-7 victory. Despite being an encounter of little importance, Aimar will surely have been delighted with yet another score over his old rival this summer. The pair will meet again, rather more conventionally, in a mano a mano game on Saturday.

Begino and Berasaluze VIII

Begino and Berasaluze VIII

Torneo Villa de Zarautz Final: Aimar delivers a masterclass as Bengoetxea VI and Begino crumble by frontonnews
August 19, 2009, 7:49 pm
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Tuesday 18th August
Torneo Villa de Zarautz Final

Zarautz, which has the longest beach in Euskadi, is renowned more for surfing than pelota but for the past few days, the latter has ruled the town. Four pairs, two each from ASPE and Asegarce, arrived at the seaside for a tournament of great quality, featuring great pelotaris in flying form. Both of the partnerships who contested the final had won their first matches with ease and expectations were high last night for a gripping showdown. Much of the pre match talk was about a duel between Aritz Begino and Aimar Olaizola, both of whom have been scintillatingly good in recent weeks, but in the final analysis, it was the latter that shone, dismantling ruthlessly the game of the former in a show of breathtaking strength and tactical intelligence.

The match started as the fans would have wished; for sixteen points there was no clear favourite as both pairs traded blows. There were slight indications that Aimar’s form might not be holding as he hit low twice in the first three points, clearly disgusted with himself, but the forward battle turned into an enthralling one. Both Aimar and Oinatz took the ball with startling pace and went at each other with remarkable verve in a series of furious volleys. Such was the determination of each to break the other that when Aimar hit a txoko winner at 5-2, both were sprawled on the floor. As they traded winners, both clenched their fists and roared in delight. At this stage, the defenders also appeared much of a muchness. Both committed errors but also returned with aplomb from the back of the fronton. Oier was in part responsible for the ASPE comeback from 6-2 down to 8-6 up as he miscued on three occasions after the time out, which perhaps disrupted his rhythm.

Although Bengoetxea and Begino had all the momentum in the second quarter of the match, affairs were all tied at 8-8 and one sensed the game needed someone to grab it by the horns. It was Aimar, now sliding with ease into a higher gear, who stepped forward. In effect, two almost identical points turned the direction of the game on its head. Aimar is renowned for the brutal strength of his left arm and two successive crosscourt airez winners induced collective gasps from the large crowd; the man from Goizueta meant business. The Asegarce pair surged forward to a 9-8 lead and never gave their opponents a further look in. If the relentless march of Aimar and Oier was started by means of Aimar’s strength, it was maintained chiefly by the same player’s tactical skill. Olaizola has always been singled out as a superb reader of the game and he sensed Begino’s less than solid defence, which he set about exploiting by means of successive long balls and fast, spiralling serves. From 11-10, they won nine points in a row to take the title at a canter. The pressure on Begino, who made a string of errors, seemed to manifest itself in his partner too. Oinatz, in his usual fashion, fought to the death but was clearly rattled by his inability to make any inroads into the score line. While Aimar trapped him and swallowed him up at the front, Oier played the perfect foil, hitting freely and relentlessly. While the eventual victors formed an unbreakable team, the vanquished fell apart; as Aimar and Oier marched to 20-10, neither of their opponents ran for a ball which Aimar nonchalantly swiped into an empty court. Oinatz protested to Begino and the heavens but it was all in vain. Two more Begino errors and that was that.

Pundits and fans alike expected much of Aimar Olaizola here and he delivered on all fronts. The six time major championship winner has now won three titles since his defeat in the Manomanista Final and has beaten his conqueror there, Juan Martinez de Irujo, three times. He must surely wish the Cuatro y Medio Championship would come sooner for in this sort of form, defeat there would be an upset. Oier Mendizabal too is riding the crest of a wave, appearing as solidity personified. Bengoetxea and Begino will doubtless feel downhearted but they have acquitted themselves well. Bengoetxea appears to have cast off much of the ring rustiness of his finger injury and Begino must forget this final and remember his earlier achievements. There is little shame in defeat to a rampant Olaizola II and his brick wall of a partner in crime.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 3-2, 6-2, 6-3, 6-8, 7-8, 11-8, 11-9, 11-10, 12-10 and 22-10.

Oier and Aimar: dominant in Zarautz

Oier and Aimar: dominant in Zarautz

Torneo Villa de Zarautz Final, Tuesday 18th August by frontonnews
August 17, 2009, 9:13 am
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The final of the Torneo Villa de Zarautz will take place tomorrow evening and will be between Olaizola IIMendizabal II and Bengoetxea VIBegino. Olaizola and Mendizabal must surely be the favourites; Aimar is in hotter form than he has been all year. The man from Goizueta has beaten Irujo on each of their three meetings since the Manomanista Final and in the semi final here almost single handedly annihilated Gonzalez and Pascual in a 22-3 rout. With Oinatz Bengoetxea still not back to full match fitness after a month off with a finger injury, Aimar will be hard to tame. Bengoetxea and Begino did however win their semi final, against Titin III and Goni III, 22-14 at something of a canter. Oinatz outplayed a below par Titin while Begino had the best of the defensive play and they are a partnership capable of upsetting the odds.

The ETB-Sat television schedule is rather inconclusive when it comes to coverage. The match will take place at 18:00 (CEST) and while there is no pelota on at this time, there are two matches being shown at 22:55 (CEST) and 00:10 (CEST) respectively, the second one of which is likely to be a replay of the final. If this is the case, the first match will be the game between Arretxe II – Zearra and Aritz Lasa – Zubieta. To tune in, visit

Aimar Olaizola has been on fire of late

Aimar Olaizola has been on fire of late

Virgen Blanco Semi Final: Xala and Goni through after show of strength by frontonnews
August 8, 2009, 9:20 pm
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Wednesday 6th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz

Ogueta was strangely under-populated for the first Virgen Blanco semi final on Wednesday. Whether this was due to the lack of star attraction on the fronton or to more attractive happenings elsewhere at Vitoria-Gasteiz’s fiesta is anybody’s guess, but these pelotaris deserved better. However, despite the absent sense of occasion, Xala and Goni III put on a display worthy of the largest possible stage.

For nine points, the match was a tight affair, characterised by some superior play by Aritz Begino, who initially had the better of his opposite number, Fernando Goni. However, with the score at 5-4 to the eventual losers, the game blew apart with eight unanswered points from Xala and Goni. Begino suffered an all too obvious errosion of confidence and went on to commit eight errors. In contrast, Goni was unflappable and as solid as the proverbial brick wall, maintaining the form he showed in partnering Martinez de Irujo to pairs championship glory earlier in the year. Xala took some time to hit his stride but when an astonishing hook from the ASPE forward took the score to parity at 5-5, the die was cast for the remainder of the match.

At the front of the court, Xala moved the ball at will, toying with both the walls and his forward opponent Oinatz Bengoetxea. The former Manomanista champion has been absent through injury for the past two months and sadly for him, it showed. He fared well in the flow of play but lacked any kind of closing power when it came to striking winners, something which came naturally to his opposite number. There was also an apparent lack of teamwork in the play of the Asegarce pair, who have not played together at all in recent months. On several occasions, Bengoetxea left balls for Begino which he should rightfully have taken himself, resulting in confusion and mishits. All in all then, this was a night to forget for Bengoetxea and Begino, but one which will provide Xala and Goni with a massive boost ahead of Sunday’s final.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 4-3, 4-5, 12-5, 12-6, 14-6, 14-7, 17-7, 17-8, 20-8, 20-9 and 22-9.

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Xala on song in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Mano pairs: Irujo and Goni win the dead rubber and head to the final in style by frontonnews
March 16, 2009, 1:59 pm
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Saturday 14th March
Labrit, Pamplona

Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni have completed a clean sweep in the semi finals by defeating Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino at Labrit. The victors had already claimed their place in the final on 29th March but served to bolster both their confidence and their status as probable favourites. For the losers, this was their chance to leave the competition with their heads held high; instead, the pair who have illuminated this competition on more than one occasion finish bottom of the last four.

In a game where both forwards played with spirit in attack and competitive determination, it appeared as if the Asegarce pair would fold in all too dramatic fashion, finding themselves down 3-9. However, in an exciting run of play, they turned the scorecard on its head to lead 11-9, making the game more competative than the Pamplona public can have hoped. It was not to last; step forward Irujo, who pulverised his opponents with a startling display of winners to which the ever lively Berasaluze had no answer.

In the end, the Asegarce competitors could do nothing but salute Irujo’s mastery but although disappointed, they must take encouragement from the form which saw them qualify in first place at the end of the quarter final rounds. Their contribution to this championship has been as a welcome gust of fresh air. Irujo and Goni will both play next weekend as they aim to fine tune their game to face the defending champions in San Sebastian in the ultimate showdown.

Dominant: Juan Martinez de Irujo

Dominant: Juan Martinez de Irujo

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Mano pairs: Aimar and Oier show that defence is as good as attack by frontonnews
March 8, 2009, 10:25 pm
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Saturday 7th March
Labrit, Pamplona

Two Asegarce pairs entered the fray at Labrit on Saturday knowing that a loss would mean elimination. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino had already suffered heavy defeat in the semi final stage at the hands of Begoetxea VI and Beloki whereas the defending champions, Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal had lost slightly more narrowly to Irujo and Goni III. Such crucial encounters are rarely matches to write home about in terms of pure quality and so it proved in Pamplona, but it was Aimar and Oier, true big match performers, who survived this war of attrition and retained the golden chance of a final berth.

Many of the almost 1000 spectators in the Navarrese capital must have trained their eyes on Begino, whose Herculean strength had catapulted his pair into the semi finals two weeks ago. There are few pelotaris physically stronger from the back of the fronton and with direction added to brute force Begino had the potential to dominate here. However, that was to reckon without the guile of Oier Mendizabal who refused to be bowed. The young Gipuzkoan hit with strength and assurance everything that Berasaluze sent his way from the front and his relentless pressure began to tell on Begino, who kept pace initially but increasingly lost his way. Mendizabal committed only two errors in the 34.51 minutes of playing time; Begino hit eleven and by the closing stages looked shattered both mentally and physically.

Olaizola was not in vintage form. The Goizeutan’s normally lethal hook shot simply did not fire, for reasons best known to himself, but he was able to bring other strengths to bear. It is Aimar’s special gift to see the game from afar even when he is in the midst of it; he is unsurpassed as a reader of the game, a cool headed tactician who can judge a situation and act accordingly. Sensing his partner’s excellent form, Olaizola turned defender, both handing the initiative to Mendizabal and pressurising Begino until he cracked. It was a tactical master stroke on the part of the defending champions who did just enough to keep their hopes of overall glory alive.

The biggest loser in all of this was undoubtedly Pablo Berasaluze, who played like a man possessed. In hitting a succession of winners he demonstrated his full range of attacking skills and hit with impressive precision. Although he lacked a certain amount of presence at the tail end of the game, when it really mattered, his unceasing efforts earnt him the biggest cheers of the night. Ultimately though, defence rather than attack won the day; Aimar’s skills in this department combined with a Mendizabal who was at his very best snuffed the life both from Pablito and from the red pair’s championship dreams.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-3, 4-3, 4-4, 7-4, 7-5, 9-5, 9-7, 10-7, 10-10, 12-10, 12-12, 14-12, 14-16, 15-16, 15-19, 18-19, 18-21, 20-21 and 20-22.

Mendizabal II on fire

Mendizabal II on fire

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Sources: Diario Vasco, Diario de Navarra

Mano pairs: Beloki and Bengoetxea show their colours and go top by frontonnews
March 2, 2009, 11:38 pm
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Sunday 1st March

Atano III, San Sebastian


In what could be termed the battle of the Bs, Asegarce played Asegarce for the honours in San Sebastian on Sunday night. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino finished the quarter final stages with a flurry, taking a nailbiting win over Titin III and Pascual to qualify in pole position but their opponents last night were in no mood for compromise. Oinatz Bengoetxea, the 24 year old manomanista champion from Leitza, is known as one of the best defensive forwards in the game; many opponents have discovered to their cost his incredible tenacity and ability to produce attack out of dead ends. His current partner in crime is Ruben Beloki, ten years his senior, and the owner of six championship txapelas, the most recent coming in the pairs, six years ago. If this display was anything to go by, Beloki is back and hungry for more, for it was his dominance and mind-blowing accuracy which won the day in emphatic style.

In the early points, the two sides seemed even enough but at 5-4 to the eventual losers, the floodgates opened and there was no way back for Pablito and Begino. Bengoextea was entirely prepared to let Beloki dictate the game and his defensive partner payed him back by the bucket load. In a stunning display, the veteran made up for his undoubtedly diminished speed with guile, tactical nouse and unrelenting accuracy. In the process of this showcase of his talents, he made not one single error. Compare his efforts to those of Begino and the reason for the discrepency in the scoreline becomes apparent. Begino is possessed of on of the strongest right arms in the game but strength is nothing without skill and this was not to be his night. He chalked up eight errors in the course of the evening and Beloki, metaphorically speaking of course, ate him for breakfast. Berasaluze tried his best to lift the spirits of his flagging partner but to no avail.

Berasaluze for his part struck eight winners but could do nothing to stop the rot. Bengoetxea hit fewer winners but also made fewer mistakes and through his incredible energy and indefatigable spirit was able to prevent his counterpart from cutting loose. After 59 minutes and 55 seconds, Oinatz and Ruben raised their arms in both triumph and the quiet satisfaction of a job well done. They now lead the semi final standings on points difference ahead of Irujo and Goni. Berasaluze and Begino find themselves bottom, one place below defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-4, 4-4, 4-5, 15-5, 15-9, 17-9, 17-10, 21-10, 21-11 and 22-11

Ruben Beloki

Ruben Beloki

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Mano pairs: Saint-Jean-de-Luz treated to the Xala show by frontonnews
February 14, 2009, 12:56 am
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Friday 13th February
Fronton Maurice Ravel, Saint-Jean-de-Luz

On Friday the pairs championship travelled to the northern side of the Pyrenees for a match in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a resort of the Belle Epoque known more for its beaches, architecture and cuisine than for its contribution to the history of pelota. But as far as the four pelotaris were concerned there was little time to soak up the atmosphere as this competition has reached crunch time; every win must now be considered gold dust and every loss a monumental blow. This was a hard match to call given the fact that each side was forced to field a substitute, Leiza for Berasaluze VIII and Zubieta for Laskurain, but in a fronton named after that famous half-Basque composer Maurice Ravel, it was Xala who made sweet music.

In the early tantos, the encounter had the makings of a hard fought nailbiter. Contrary to the later flow of play, it was Zubieta who appeared error sticken, hitting low to cede each of the first two points in almost identical fashion. Xala showed glimpses of his excellent form before hitting wide and succumbing to a Leiza gantxo which put him on his back. Begino joined the party with two errors and the score was all tied at 4-4. However, it was then that the man from Lapurdi, playing in his home province, began to show his class to take the score to 12-4 in the Aspe pair’s favour. Although their opponents managed to eke out six more points in the course of the match, they were soundly beaten from the moment Xala cut loose. He baffled and bamboozled Leiza with his drop shots, which verged on the nonchalant, his gantxos, which travelled like bullets, and a pair of cross court hooks into the side wall which left his forward rival nowhere to be seen. In a masterful display, he has surely tightened his grip on the league which decides the tournament’s best player. Such was the magnetism of Xala that Zubieta was almost anonymous. However, although he hit no winners of his own and made four rather careless errors, he was an invaluable foil for his flashier colleague. Once the initial wobbles had passed him by, he hit fearsomly and solidly, providing a firm platform from which to attack.

Notwithstanding the excellent play of their opponents, the Asegarce pair made far too many errors to be competative. Begino persistently hit either low or high from the back, unable to match the consistency of his opposite number in defence. He even elicited boos from a small sector of the intermittently animated crowd when one such mistake opened up a twelve point deficit. Leiza, for his part, was simply outplayed by Xala. Although he managed a late flourish in the form of a gantxo winner, he was never on terms as the Aspe forward sent him darting right and left in an increasingly futile effort.

This result will have come as a stinging disappointment to a pair who have been very much on the up in recent weeks. Pablo Berasaluze sprouted wings to take them into second place overall last week but on this occasion he was forced to watch from the stands, dejectedly chewing gum, as his substitute lost the plot. Xala and Zubieta on the other hand, have given themselves a genuine chance. The plot of this extraordinary championship thickens….

Scoring sequence (Xala and Zubieta first):
0-1, 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 12-4, 12-5, 17-5, 17-6, 18-6, 18-7, 18-8, 21-8, 21-9, 21-10, 22-10

Xala ruled the roost

Xala ruled the roost

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Mano pairs: Don Pablo wins the laurels by frontonnews
February 8, 2009, 10:14 pm
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Saturday 7th February

Labrit, Pamplona


Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino last night gained a crucial point, beating Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni in an intense encounter of stunning quality. Early errors from Begino allowed irujo and Goni to race to a 5-1 lead but this was not to be the pattern of the game. Some great play on both sides took the score to 10-10, 11-11 and 12-12. This deadlock was broken thanks to Begino who began to dominate Goni. Despite the fact that his play tailed off as the players battled their way to the conclusion, all was not lost, for Berasaluze stepped into the breach. The Asegarce forward hit twelve winners in all and fought tooth and nail with Irujo, who lost no face in defeat. With the score at 20-20 and the match on a knife edge, Berasaluze stepped up to the plate with a gantxo winner which could hardly have been more timely. As they added the next point and the match, the Aspe pair, drained and dejected, faced defeat with a brave face, but at time when every point of every match is crucial they will be left to rue lost opportunities.

Source: Diario Vasco

Pablo Berasaluze

Pablo Berasaluze

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Mano pairs: Pablito and Begino victors in Tolosa by frontonnews
January 20, 2009, 10:47 pm
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Monday 19th January
Beotibar, Tolosa
Berasaluze VIII/Begino beat Xala/Laskurain 22-17

Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino of Asegarce earned a valuable point last night in Tolosa, defeating Yves Xala and Aritz Laskurain, who were unable to maintain the form which saw them vanquish the defending champions last week. Begino was the player of the match and dispelled any lingering doubts about the state of his right hand after an operation earlier in the winter. Laskurain, his opponent in defence, could not live up to the standards of his rival and committed a total of nine errors, six balls falling short and three landing wide. Pablo Berasaluze played well enough, although was not up to the level he achieved last summer, but he did sufficiently well to keep Xala at bay. Xala did however enjoy a better game than Laskurain, showing at least intermittent sparkle and doing his best to pin Begino to the back of the fronton. It was he who fuelled an Aspe recovery which saw the score move from 19-10 to 21-17 thus keeping the match alive, but he and Laskurain came up short and it is they who now languish in the bottom half of the table.

Sources: Asegarce, Diario de Navarra

Pablo Berasaluze

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