Manomanista Championship: injured Beloki forfeits semi final by frontonnews
May 26, 2009, 8:46 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , ,

After a test of his fitness this morning, Ruben Beloki has informed his empresa, Asegarce, that he will not be fit to contest his Manomanista semi final, which would have taken place on 30th May, against Aimar Olaizola. 34 year old, Beloki, the youngest ever Manomanista champion back in 1995, sprained his thumb in his quarter final match against Asier Olaizola on 9th May. Two time champion Aimar Olaizola will now proceed to the final against Juan Martinez de Irujo on 7th June.

Beloki: forced to withdraw

Beloki: forced to withdraw



Manomanista Championship: Beloki scrapes past Asier to set up semi final with Aimar by frontonnews
May 12, 2009, 10:47 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

Friday 8th May
Labrit, Pamplona
BELOKI beat OLAIZOLA I 22-21

Ruben Beloki, who at 20 was the youngest ever winner of the Manomanista title, will return to the semi finals of the tournament for the first time since 2006. He achieved his passage at Labrit on Friday, beating one of last year’s semi finalists, Asier Olaizola by the smallest possible margin. This victory sets up a tie against Asier’s younger and more decorated brother Aimar, to take place on May 23rd, again in Pamplona.

This was a topsy turvy encounter filled with drama. Olaizola, whose participation had been in some doubt owing to a leg injury, started badly, to the extent that one feared he may face humiliation. He seemed unable to counter Beloki’s opening surge which took the man from Burlada to a 4-0 lead. It was however to prove a false alarm as Olaizola turned his game to take the lead 6-4 by means of a solid serve and a right arm more powerful than that of his opponent. There followed a period when the two protagonists seemed evenly matched, each taking advantage of the other’s mistakes to bring the score level at 10-10. Although Olaizola was again to pull ahead to a two point lead, the next passage of play belonged firmly to Beloki who used his serve to excellent effect and passed Olaizola crosscourt with ease. He won eight straight points to wrestle the initiative from the Goizuetan. Olaizola again closed on his opponent but an error on his part allowed Beloki to move to the brink of victory. It was then that a potentially match changing incident occurred in which sprained his right thumb in an attempt to hit a forehand volley. Clearly in pain, he lost the next two points and retired to the dressing room for treatment but his fears of a fracture were unfounded and he was able to continue, albeit somewhat handicapped. Olaizola took advantage of his rival’s plight with ruthlessness to draw the game at 21-21, but Beloki did not waver and when Olaizola failed to retrieve a ball at the front, he leapt to the heavens in pure joy.

Although Beloki should be fit to play his semi final in two weeks, the younger Olaizola will surely pose a greater challenge. Aimar has won two of the last four editions of this championship and will be eager to make up for last year’s surprise quarter final defeat at the hands of Bengoetxea. He was made to work in his 22-16 quarter final victory over Xabier Urberuaga but logic indicates his firepower will be too much for Beloki. However, in sport nothing is certain and if Beloki can show the same fight as he displayed against Olaizola senior, and if Aimar has an average day, who is to say that the final might not beckon?

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-6, 5-6, 5-7, 8-7, 8-10, 10-10, 10-12, 18-12, 18-16, 21-16 and 22-21

An injured thumb could not stop Ruben Beloki

An injured thumb could not stop Ruben Beloki

 



Manomanista Championship: Asier Olaizola fit to face Ruben Beloki on Saturday by frontonnews
May 5, 2009, 10:58 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , ,

Asier Olaizola has completed his first training session since sustaining a tear in his left thigh without mishap. The pelotari from Goizueta, who is incidentally 34 today, played for 75 minutes with Pablo Urrizelki and felt no discomfort. Olaizola would doubtless have preferred to prepare for his Manomanista quarter final against Ruben Beloki on Saturday in the traditional way rather than through hours in the exercise pool and on the massage table, but he declared his intention to make the most of his chance. Olaizola reached the semi finals last year, where he was eliminated by eventual champion Oinatz Bengoetxea. If he were to reach the semi finals this time around, there is a theoretical chance that his rival could be none other than his younger brother Aimar, who is the hot favourite to win his Sunday quarter final against Xabier Urberuaga.

Source: Deia, via ASPE

Olaizola I: ready to roll

Olaizola I: ready to roll



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



Mano pairs: Aimar leads defending champions to the final by frontonnews

Sunday 15th March
Atano III, San Sebastian
OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II beat BENGOETXEA VI – BELOKI 22-16

As the curtain fell on the last semi final match of the 2009 championship, San Sebastian seemed to resound with song. This was not the passionate swell of sound from the home of Real Sociedad, nor was it the celebrated Orfeon Donostiarra choir in rehearsal; indeed, it was not homegrown song at all. Oier Mendizabal was born in San Sebastian but he had seemingly brought a fan club from his adopted home of Hernani, all of eight kilometres to the south of the Gipuzkoan capital, for the noise came from the upper reaches of Atano III, where the local Azeri dance was in full cry. Their municipal hero was in the final and they meant to let everyone know it. Whether a similar contingent had made the trip from Goizueta in honour of Aimar Olaizola was harder to tell but it was the Navarrese master striker who turned this game in the blink of an eye. Aimar, or more precisely, his fabled left arm, ensured the champions a chance to defend their crown.

Facing Aimar and Oier in the melting pot of Atano III was a pair who might, but for Martinez de Irujo, already have booked their place in the final. Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki had the chance to qualify outright last weekend but lost out to a combination of errors and an opponent on fire after a game which had balanced on a knife edge. The first phase of this match, their second and final chance, must have given them an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu; not even a hair’s breadth could split the two sides. In a proverbial war of attrition, point was traded for point in a grinding stalemate of long and gruelling points. It took 476 strikes of the ball to reach 11-11, after the pairs had found themselves locked together, all square at 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 apiece. This period was characterised by the duel of the two defenders. Bengoetxea knew he could count on the best defender in the tournament thus far in Beloki and set about attacking Mendizabal with abandon but to no avail; Oier played an excellent match last week against Berasaluze VIII and Begino and here stepped up to yet another level. He and Beloki traded blow after blow, sending the ball like a rocket to the frontis from seemingly impossible positions. Neither seemed willing or likely to crack.

The early battle between the forwards was every bit as absorbing, pitting as it did two outwardly very different characters into conflict. Bengoetxea is like a whirlwind on the fronton, never resting, always bustling both in play and in respite. Seeing that Mendizabal would not break, the manomanista champion threw all his attacking power at the door of Olaizola. Particularly impressive was the low skidding ball which took the score to 2-2 and a pair of hook winners, the second of which sent Aimar sprinting headlong into the a cameraman. Olaizola, in contrast, appears as the clinical destroyer. Only occasionally does he let his emotions show through his facade of control. While Bengoetxea looked fit to burst with fight, Olaizola displayed a quieter but no less obvious determination, hitting a succession of winners to nullify those of his rival. Bengoetxea looked to have the slight edge in their early fight, although the score remained in deadlock.

With the score at 11-11, the game moved into a new and different phase which spelt danger for the defending champions. A combination of two winners from Bengoetxea, and an error apiece from Oier and Aimar meant that the pair in blue found themselves four points adrift. Although no sense of panic was evident in their demeanour, something clearly had to be done. Step forward Aimar Olaizola. Although brilliant at times, Aimar has rarely been at his exalted best in this tournament. The Goizuetan was dangerously close to pulling out of the Cuatro y Medio championship in December owing to a painful right shoulder and the fact that he stayed and went on to win it is testament to both his wide armoury of skills and his determination. He may however have paid the price, having played with tendonitis in that same shoulder ever since. His right arm is therefore not as potent a weapon as it should be and has in all likelihood contributed to his rather less than vintage form. However, his left arm, his most feared attribute, worked at Atano III like the hammer of Thor and there was nothing Bengoextea could do to stop it. In a masterclass of hooks, peppered with drops and smashes, Aimar ripped the prize from the hands of his oppoents and beat them into submission. While he cut loose, the pressure on Beloki told as he made four errors, a blot on an otherwise textbook game. When Bengoetxea struck too high, the game was up, and Goizueta, like Atano III, surely burst into song.

So, we return to Atano III on March 29th for a final which promises much. Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni, both of whom have been in white hot form of late, await the defending champions who will do everything within their power to contain and better them. If Oier Mendizabal can maintain his stellar run, the defensive battle will be enthralling and any match which pits Aimar against Irujo is enough to set the juices racing. Who has the nerve to strike for glory on the biggest of all stages only time will tell.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-3, 3-3, 3-5, 6-5, 6-7, 7-7, 7-8, 10-8, 10-10, 10-11, 15-11, 15-15, 16-15 and 16-22.

Aimar Olaizola turned the match

Aimar Olaizola turned the match

Image from: http://www.diariovasco.com/prensa/noticias/200811/16/fotos/1977287.jpg



Mano pairs: Irujo and Goni into the final after thriller at Astelena by frontonnews
March 10, 2009, 12:06 am
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sunday 8th March
Astelena, Eibar
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – GONI III beat BENGOETXEA VI – BELOKI 22-18

What can one write about a match which had it all? At stake in this titanic struggle in Eibar was none other than a place in the final of the Pairs Championship for 2009, the culmination of a tournament which started in January and is still going strong. Both pairs wanted the prize more than they could express. Even as the players were presented to the crowd and the coin was tossed to determine serve, the protagonists looked liable to explode with tension, variously jumping and flexing their muscles like prize fighters preparing for mortal combat. But passion and desire must meet with composure and nerve to produce a winning formula and the partnership who found a way to create this mixture would win the day.

In Juan Martinez de Irujo and Oinatz Bengoetxea, this game featured two of the most volcanic and fearless forwards in the game and the two Navarrans went for each other hell for leather from the first service to the last. The first four points were a flurry of attacking brilliance featuring all four players in mesmorising harmony. When Irujo hit low from close in to the frontis, he appeared to curse the world and everything in it; that one point could elicit this reaction indicated the path the match would take. Tension boiled over again with the score at 3-2 to Bengoetxea and Beloki when a ball from the former appeared high. An enraged Irujo protested mid point with arm waving fury before remembering the need to play on. The point was won when Bengoetxea hit low; open warfare may well have ensued had it gone the other way. Bengoetxea too was in a high octane state, both in his ferocious striking of the ball and his general demeanour, not least when a miscue led him to hurl the ball against the wall in abject frustration. The defensive battle, while less vocal, was every bit as intense with both Beloki and Goni pulling off miraculous long range strikes almost at will, to the thunderous applause of the Astelena crowd. Surely something had to give?

At 10-10 the pairs appeared glued in fierce deadlock and there was a growing sense that someone had to impose themselves on the game if glory were to come to them. Two Bengoetxea miscues gave Irujo and Goni an opening which one felt could have been the start of a surge of both confidence and points for the pair in blue but a low hook from Irujo and a beautifully executed smash into the corner from Bengoetxea dispelled that notion. Two points followed in which the defensive play of both sides was jaw dropping. As the forwards were forced out of position their places at the front were taken by Beloki and Goni who found themselves duelling at the frontis while Irujo and Bengoetxea chased and dived in a mesmerising ballet of action. When Goni slipped and failed to retrieve a long ball, some may have been led to believe that the gods of pelota would smile on Bengoextea and Beloki who eased ahead with the finishing post in sight. However, Irujo, sensing last chance saloon, stepped up to the plate. With the aid of a smattering of errors from his opponents, 14-16 became 18-21 and a brutal smash won the day. Irujo kept his head at the death while a desperately tense Bengoetxea let the victory slip from his grasp by attempting to hit winners too hastily. Perhaps experience told for Irujo, who has been here so many times before. Passion coupled with composure is indeed the perfect recipe.

So, Irujo and Goni are through to the final but will have to wait for next week to learn the identity of their opponents. Bengoetxea and Beloki may yet be there themselves, with the chance to overturn this result on the biggest possible stage; they have proved they have the potential. In their way stand Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal. The form of the defending champions has been rather less than consistent but Mendizabal was white hot on Saturday, and to quote Irujo, Aimar is Aimar. Everything is on the line.

Scoring sequence (Bengoetxea and Beloki first): 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4, 6-4, 6-5, 7-5, 7-6, 7-7, 7-8, 8-8, 8-9, 8-10, 9-10, 10-10, 10-11, 10-12, 11-12, 12-12, 13-12, 13-13, 14-13, 14-14, 15-14, 16-14, 16-15, 16-16, 16-17, 16-18, 16-19, 17-19, 18-19, 18-20, 18-21 and 18-22

Juan Martinez de Irujo triumphant

Juan Martinez de Irujo triumphant

Image from: http://www.eitb.com/multimedia/images/2008/11/23/29642/29642_irujo_dest_2.jpg



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

BENGOETXEA VI – BELOKI beat BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO 22-11

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

Image from: http://www.gara.net/Repository/Imagenes/Pub_3/Issue_1589/p047_01_148x140.jpg