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
OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEGINO 22-10

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 http://www.eitb.com/television/etb-sat

Aimar Olaizola has been on fire of late

Aimar Olaizola has been on fire of late



Virgen Blanco Final: Xala and Goni III weather the storm at Ogueta by frontonnews
August 9, 2009, 8:50 pm
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Sunday 9th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz
XALA – GOÑI III beat BERASALUZE VIII – MENDIZABAL II 22-17

Battles locked in attritional stalemate are wont to turn with sudden and brutal force. On 21st June 1813, Joseph Bonaparte found this to his cost as his French defences crumbled at the hands of Arthur Wellesley at the Battle of Vitoria, signalling a virtual British victory in the Peninsula War. Today another battle was fought in Vitoria, which though less deadly in a literal sense, followed a similar pattern. For an hour or more, four of the best pelotaris the Basque Country has to offer flew at each other hammer and tongs until one side cracked. For Bonaparte read Mendizabal and for Wellesley read Xala, who in an ironic twist, if our metaphor is to be played out, hails from the French side of the Pyrenees. In a match of searing quality, it was the forward from Lekuine who turned the tide.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1813

Both partnerships had won their respective semi finals with consummate ease and happily for the enthusiastic but not overly large crowd at Ogueta, all four players carried their excellent form forward to the showpiece match. Matters began in whirlwind fashion with Pablo Berasaluze unleashing a txoko and two hooks to stamp his authority. Xala could only stand by and admire. However, if this early dominance by the pocket dynamo from Berriz appeared total, his rivals had other ideas as from 0-3 down, Xala produced two hooks and a devastating smash on his way to a 4-3 lead. And so the battle proceeded, neither side ceding a significant advantage for point after point. Berasaluze and Mendizabal perhaps held the marginal upper hand for the majority of the game, but only by a proverbial hair’s breadth. Berasaluze in particular displayed white hot form. The Asegarce forward is nothing if not a fighter and time and again he rescued points when all seemed lost. On several occasions, he dug out what should rightfully have been txoko winners from Xala and turned defeat into victory. Focussed and indefatigable, he threw himself in all directions, even finding the energy to encourage his partner mid point, all taut muscles and pumped fists. Particularly extraordinary was his return of Xala’s hook in the point which took his pair’s lead to 10-6 and his stinging airez following a brief but vicious forward battle at 13-11. Oier Mendizabal too played his part, managing some towering returns from Xala’s considerable serve and showing tremendous willingness and skill in coming forward to cover for Berasaluze when it was required.

The scores drifted upwards in the favour of the pair in red but Xala and Goni were always in comfortable touching distance with the gap never growing beyond four points as the tally moved from 4-4 to 16-15. In style, Xala and Berasaluze are chalk and cheese. Berasaluze appears to play on pure adrenaline and desire, but Xala’s more measured, almost brooding approach is no less effective. Despite a pair of faltas, he served clinically, inducing two consecutive errors from Mendizabal, which brought the score to 7-6. His tactical intelligence led to perfect placement in the three points which brought his pair to parity at 11-11, two txoko winners and a whipped crosscourt volley leaving an out of position Berasaluze with no chance. Goni, as he was in the semi final and as he has been almost all year, was extremely solid. He was also marginally less error prone than Mendizabal, and proved once again the perfect partner in a battle where no inch can be lost.

Despite this near stalemate, the feeling persisted that the Asegarce partnership would come through, such was the firepower of Berasaluze. However, as with military warfare, one seminal moment is often all it takes for well founded conviction to be blown out of the water, and so it was when Xala stepped forward to serve with the score at 17-17. He had hinted at his growing confidence with a devastating dosparedes winner in the previous point and he now produced two long dipping serves just as required. Mendizabal swung and struck but could not make good contact. Twice he tried and twice he failed. All of a sudden, the ASPE pair was ahead for the first time since the score stood at 4-3. Mendizabal’s double failure triggered meltdown for the duo in red; Berasaluze hit wide and Mendizabal mishit completely before Xala caught him napping with an innocuous looking txoko while he loitered far too far back. When Beraslauze hit low the game was up. As the curtain fell on this modern Battle of Vitoria, blue was the colour of victory.

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Vitoria-Gasteiz, 2009

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-4, 4-4, 7-4, 7-5, 7-6, 8-6, 10-6, 10-7, 10-8, 11-8, 11-11, 13-11, 13-12, 14-12, 14-13, 15-13, 15-14, 16-14, 16-15, 17-15, 17-16 and 17-22.



Virgen Blanco Semi Final: Pablito and Oier finalists at Ogueta by frontonnews

Friday 7th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz
BERASALUZE VIII – MENDIZABAL II beat TITIN III – PASCUAL 22-10

The second semi final of the Torneo Virgen Blanco was significantly better attended than the first, in which only about 500 of 2155 seats were filled. Friday, in contrast, brought a near full house of enthusiastic fans who appeared torn in terms of allegiance between the master Titin and ‘Pablito’ Berasaluze, the terrier from Berriz. In the final analysis, it was the fans of the latter who left satisfied; Berasaluze produced a trademark performance of tenacity and drive, belying once again his small stature. Titin looked a shadow of the man we know he can be and it was only when the victory was as good as in the bag for the Asegarce pair that he showed any kind of convincing fight. Berasaluze in contrast chanced his arm and succeeded, bringing off some stunning hooks and returning everything his opponents could throw at him. In defence, Inigo Pascual seemed oddly off colour and never truly found his range. Oier Mendizabal, conversely, was at his metronomic best, the perfect bedrock for the attacking instinct of his partner.

The Asegarce victory here means that the final will be an inter-empresa affair; Berasaluze and Mendizabal will play Xala and Goni III of ASPE for the Virgen Blanco crown on Sunday. Catch it on ETB-Sat at 17:55 (CEST).

Mendizabal II: eye on the ball

Mendizabal II: eye on the ball



Mano results roundup: Ipar Kutxa Final and Cecilio’s debut by frontonnews
 
Ipar Kutxa Final

The Ipar Kutxa Tournament is a doubles competition involving some of the best pelotaris not entered, or no longer involved, in the Manomanista Championship. Each empresa entered two pairs as follows:

For Asegarce: Berasaluze VIII – Begino and Olaizola I – Mendizabal II
For Aspe: Gonzalez – Laskurain and Titin III – Pascual

In the first semi final, which took place in Villamediana de Iregua on 16th May, Asier Olaizola, a losing Manomanista quarter finalist, and Oier Mendizabal defeated Titin III and Pascual 22-15. The second was a tight affair which saw the victors escape the clutches of their opponents only in the dying points of the game. Those victors were Sebastian Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain, who triumphed over Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino by 22 points to 18 in Bermeo.

The final was held on Saturday 30th May at Beotibar in Tolosa and in a tough encounter, where the scores were tied at 15-15, the plaudits went to Gonzalez and Laskurain, who eventually ran out 22-16 winners over Olaizola I and Mendizabal II. In a match which lasted 73 gruelling minutes, fatigue set in for the losing pair as the skill of Gonzalez proved telling.

Cecilio delivers dream debut

Today (Sunday 31st May) saw the professional debut of the 21 year old Riojan Cecilio Valgañón in his home town of Ezcaray. The defender recently signed a two year contract with ASPE. Hailing from the Titin III Centre for High Performance, Cecilio is the under 22 World Champion and also won the Diario Vasco Tournament in 2008.

In his first match for his new empresa, he was paired with his fellow Riojan Titin III against Capellan and Goni III and he could not have got his career off to a better start. In a 22-7 victory, the debutant and his veteran partner crushed the life out of their considerable opponents. Titin was on sparking form, particularly ruthless in his aggressive hooks and beautifully delicate in his deft touches to the corner. Cecilio too showed impressive skill, especially from the back of the fronton from where he let rip with his powerful right arm. He displayed a young man’s lack of nerves as he entered into the tough new environment of professional mano, and on this showing he should thrive. He and Titin were aided by the errors of their adversaries; while Fernando Goni was for the most part his usual solid self, Capellan was a clear second best to Titin and appeared at sea. As the winning shot was struck, Cecilio’s sizable fan club erupted with a barrage of drumming and shouting, before the young man was hoisted aloft, the hero of the evening.

Cecilio Valgañón González
Date of birth: 28/09/1987
Place of birth: Ezcaray (La Rioja)
Weight: 92 kg
Height: 1.89m
Position: defender
Past results: Campeonato del Mundo, sub-22, 2008; Campeonato de España de Clubes, 2008; Campeonato Diario Vasco 2008; Campeón GRAVN sub-22 parejas, 2007

New pro Cecilio

New pro Cecilio

Image from: ASPE


2nd Division Manomanista Final: classy rookie Beroiz takes the title by frontonnews

Saturday 23rd May
Beotibar, Tolosa
BEROIZ beat ARGOTE 22-13

Mikel Beroiz has been a professional pelotari for all of nine months but yesterday the 19 year old from Navarre defeated Jokin Argote to lift the second division manomanista title in commanding style. Beroiz carried the slightly shorter odds going into the final but to beat a man five years his senior in his first major final, at this stage in his nascent career, is a significant achievement. The enthusiastic crowd at Beotibar was treated to an enthralling match in which both players displayed classic shot making prowess but it was the exciting youngster who brought the greater power to bear.

For the first half of the encounter, the pelotaris were deadlocked, reaching 6-6 and 8-8 after a sprightly start from Argote had netted him an early lead. Beroiz then advanced to 13-8 and had seemingly cut himself free, but once again the scores were levelled at 13-13. However, Beroiz now demonstrated his physical prowess, and after a total of eight service winners in a match lasting 55 minutes and 221 strikes of the ball, the young pretender was crowned. Argote began well and took the game to his opponent in the early stages but it was the strength of Beroiz, his violence in attack and his clever use of the walls which saw him through. Remember the name, for we will hear much more of Mikel Beroiz.

Source: El Correo

Victory for Mikel Beroiz

Victory for Mikel Beroiz

Other news

Earlier in the evening, the fans were treated to a high quality doubles match between Manomanista finalist Juan Martinez de Irujo and Asier Arruti, and Asier Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal. For Irujo this was a chance to maintain his barnstorming form of late as he prepares for his showdown with either Aimar Olaizola or Ruben Beloki on June 7th. However, things did not quite go to plan for him as Olaizola senior and Mendizabal took the win by a solitary point. Losing Manomanista semi finalist and defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea also went down by one point; at the Mañaria Festival, he and Alexis Apraiz lost to Pablo Berasaluze and Oier Zearra by 22 points to 21. Meanwhile, in the headline match at the Arbizu Festival, Titin III and Zubieta beat Gonzalez and Lasa III 22-15.

Olaizola I took on Irujo and won

Olaizola I took on Irujo and won



Mano pairs final: thrilling victory for Irujo and Goni III by frontonnews

Sunday 29th March
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – GONI III beat OLAIZOLA II – MENDIZABAL II 22-21

Stunning Aimar almost turns the tables but Irujo and Goni show themselves to be the consumate partnership as the championship goes down to the wire

This was the final to end all finals: for a championship three months in duration to come down one point in the final match in front of a packed audience in full cry is the stuff of Hollywood. That it as a close run thing was not wholly unexpected, pitting against each other as it did the two best pairs, containing some of the very greatest players, of the bunch. For two weeks, press and public alike have discussed the relative merits and weaknesses of the protagonists; Irujo’s passion? Olaizola’s tactical intelligence? Goni’s consistency? Mendizabal’s talent for the big stage? Which would win the day? In the end, none of the four deserved to lose, but as the tournament hovered in flux, the sword of Damacles had to drop for two.

The first two points of the final whetted the appetite for the forward battle to come as the great Irujo and Aimar locked horns from the off. The first point went to the former who used both walls to wrong foot Aimar and signal his intent. But the Goizuetan showed he would not be dictated to with a brutal airez of his own. In reality though, it was the duel at the back of the fronton which was to set the pattern for the majority of the game. It seemed to all the world as if the Aspe pair would waltz away with the prize as they consistently held their opponents at arm’s length, never closer than two points. This seeming air of inevitability was brought about largely by the rock solid play of Goni III to whom the very idea of the unforced error seemed anathema. No matter how hard Aimar tried to set him up for a fall, the man from Zubiri returned with interest. It took the defending champions 17 points to knock him, briefly, from his pedestal of perfection when Aimar manipulated him back and forth until he hit wide. In contrast, Oier Mendizabal creaked almost from the off; before Goni had made one mistake, his young opponent had failed four times. The discrepancy in the defensive play was clear for all to see, not least for Irujo and Goni themselves, who milked it for all it was worth. Aimar played with assurance but for the large part was totally unable to impose himself. Irujo played with all his usual fire and more in his expert partnering of Goni. He was not immune from the odd careless error, greeted as usual but furious incredulity, but with dominance surely applied these hardly mattered.

When three Mendizabal errors in succession took the score to 16-11 in favour of Irujo and Goni, the Aspe partnership must have smelt the finishing line. However, this was to reckon without a man by the name of Aimar Olaizola who was not in a mood to let a potential eighth txapela pass him by. The Asegarce botillero called time out for his pair and when they returned to the fray, the match was very nearly turned on its head. With Aimar slightly repositioned on the fronton, the trailing attacker cut loose. A drop, an airez and a trademark lethal left handed hook ensured that the gap in points edged down, gradually, but assuredly. With the score at 18-15 to Irujo and Goni, Mendizabal hit low from the back of the fronton and one sensed that it was now or never for the Asegarce pair.

When Irujo miscued close to the side wall, Aimar pounced and attacked full on. Another hook levelled the score at 19-19. The crowd, now at fever pitch, gasped in stunned unison. This had hardly seemed possible a mere half an hour previously. When Goni could not return a long ball from Aimar, the defending champions were ahead for the first time and all hell broke loose in the Oier Mendizabal fan club, which was sizeable and deafening. However, their hero once again hit too low from far out and the score was tied again. Now the Aspe pair inched ahead and claimed a match point when Irujo left Aimar unceremoniously sprawling with his legs above his head. Surely this was it? But 21-21 came; Irujo could hardly comprehend how his shot failed to find the frontis. And so, one point to win it all. Who had the nerve and who would fall? The final point was agonising in every conceivable way. One moment of brilliance, one mistake and sporting fate would be sealed. Nobody had deserved this, but there was Fernando Goni brilliant to the last, sending a ball of beauty, low and skidding to the frontis. Aimar ran, dived, hit and watched. One inch was all it took to kill a dream. Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni had won.

Points sequence (Olaizola II/Mendizabal II 1st): 0-1, 1-1, 1-3, 2-3, 2-5, 3-5, 4-5, 4-6, 4-8, 5-8, 5-10, 8-10, 8-11, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 10-13, 11-13, 11-14, 11-17, 12-17, 13-17, 13-18, 15-18, 15-19, 19-19, 20-19, 20-20, 20-21, 21-21 and 21-22.

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done

Juan Martinez de Irujo: job done