BBK Masters: Irujo and Olaizola II reach the final by frontonnews
December 24, 2009, 10:12 am
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

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.

Irujo vs Olaizola

Image from: Diaro de Navarra



Cuatro y Medio Final: Gonzalez Txapeldun! by frontonnews
December 19, 2009, 12:29 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

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



4 1/2: Gonzalez triumphs but must play the waiting game by frontonnews
November 23, 2009, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

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: Gonzalez upsets Irujo in Zarautz by frontonnews
November 11, 2009, 1:22 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

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



4 1/2: Gonzalez completes ASPE clean sweep as Pablito falls to injury by frontonnews
November 3, 2009, 9:53 pm
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Monday 2nd November, Beotibar, Tolosa

GONZALEZ beat BERASALUZE VIII 16-10 (match abandoned)

Sebastian Gonzalez yesterday booked his place in the Cuatro y Medio semi finals when Pablo Berasaluze sprained his ankle with the score at 16-10 in his favour. Up until that point, it had been a game full of quality in which Berasaluze had fought back from early problems before Gonzalez increased the pace and with it his scoreline. Berasalzue attempted to continue after his untimely injury, his ankle strapped, but could not and retired to warm applause.

Gonzalez therefore completes the all-ASPE semi final quartet, which is completed by Juan Martinez de Irujo, Titin III and Julen Retegi. The semi final round robin commences this weekend: Gonzalez and Irujo play in Zarautz on Saturday while Titin and Retegi play in Eibar on Sunday.

Source: Asegarce

Pablito: down and out

Image from: El Correo Digital



4 1/2: Gonzalez shows his extra gear in Zeanuri by frontonnews
October 24, 2009, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

Saturday 23rd October, Zeanuri: GONZALEZ beat LEIZA 22-12

It fell to the small Bizkaian town of Zeanuri to host the first second round tie of the Cuatro y Medio championship and an enthusiastic but not overly large audience clearly relished the favour. The players in question were 32 year old Sebastian Gonzalez from ASPE and Asegarce’s 29 year old Inigo Leiza. On paper, Gonzalez was the favourite here but Leiza must have been brimming with confidence after an excellent win over Asier Berasaluze last weekend. Leiza, on body language alone, looked more alert to the task while Gonzalez appeared, as he often does, rather cool and lackadaisical, serving ten pasas in the course of the game. However, it was the latter who displayed the necessary extra gear when the going got tough.

For the first eight points it seemed as if we would witness the close battle for which all had been hoping. Leiza opened proceedings (after the first Gonzalez pasa that is) with a gantxo winner which seemed to signal some intent and the pair traded blows in turn. A fabulous tactical play from Leiza left Gonzalez totally out of position and led to stalemate at 4-4, at which point the same player called a time out which perversely seemed to disrupt his flow, for despite continuing service problems, Gonzalez surged ahead. The man from Lapurdi took the next seven points with such commanding ease that it looked like a light had been turned on somewhere inside him. He hit crosscourt winners in both directions, a txoko winner straight from a masterful second serve, and airez and two dosparedes in a demonstration of his full attacking armoury. Leiza’s second time out, which came at 4-9, was born of a need to avert meltdown. However, the delantero from Lemona somehow managed to haul himself out of the black hole and gradually clawed his way back to touching distance. Leiza, in contrast to his opponent, was in command of his serve and it was this which gave him much of his success. This was especially the case with the txoko winner which took him to 10-13, set up purely by a strong serve which left Gonzalez stranded far too far back. Gonzalez though, sensing the encroaching danger, once again moved up a level and cruised to 18-10, barely breaking a sweat. From this position of strength conceding two further points to Leiza was of no matter. Ironically, after his ten pasas, Gonzalez took the match with a masterful serve to the right which Leiza could not even reach.

This tie did not live up to the high expectations of some but Gonzalez was a clear and worthy victor, outshining Leiza in every aspect of the game bar the serve. He will now face the terrier like Pablo Berasaulze in the quarter finals on November 1, when he can expect a far tougher challenge.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4, 11-4, 11-6, 12-6, 12-7, 13-7, 13-10, 14-10, 18-10, 18-11, 19-11, 19-12 and 22-12.

Sebastian Gonzalez: through to face Pablito

Sebastian Gonzalez: through to face Pablito

Image from larioja.com