BBK Masters: Irujo crowns a spectacular year with victory by frontonnews
December 28, 2009, 9:22 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday 26th December, Atano III, San Sebastian

MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat OLAIZOLA II 22-16

The BBK Masters is the last hurrah of the pelota year, a jamboree in which the finest pelotaris of the past twelve months play for pride and a big cheque. As befits a tournament which aims to crown a ‘master’, the year’s final delivered a game between the best of the best, Juan Martinez de Irujo and Aimar Olaizola. Time after time this year, these two supreme competitors have fought each other but Irujo has held sway on the biggest stages, defeating Aimar in both the pairs and Manomanista finals. Aimar redressed the balance in the summer, displaying scintillating form in the merry-go-round of festivals, but who would have the last word of 2009?

From the off, this match had the makings of an epic. It was Olaizola who held sway in the early skirmishes. In taking out a 2-8 lead, the formidable Goizuetan offered a tactical masterclass. He aimed to expose Irujo against the high ball, repeatedly taking his shots fast and early, and striking the frontis high to pin his rival back. When that tactic did not produce an immediate result, he took the rally to the front of the court where he proved able to fox Irujo just as easily. Frustration surely led to two wild and wide strikes by the Manomanista champion on 2-3 and 2-4. Irujo tried to play Aimar at his own game on 2-7 but overcooked it, hitting the side wall high.

Aimar looked poised and polished but he then proceeded to let a determined Irujo back into the game, losing six points in a row to produce a tie at eight apiece. The first two of these points stemmed from Olaizola errors but he was then forced to give way to some brilliance by his opponent who had clearly employed his radar and found his range with dosparedes and drop winners. His serve, too, looked ominous. Irujo’s run ended when he hit too high to cede the lead once again, and Aimar surged forwards to a 9-13 lead, served up by a mixture of winners and Irujo errors. Again however, the fighter from Ibero clawed his way back and stalemate was reached at 15-15. The tensionwas palpable both in the demeanour of the protagonists and in the fever pitch of the large Atano III crowd; somebody had to give.

Whether a loss of focus from Aimar or a gear shift from Irujo provided the turning point is hard to say. When Irujo lauched the ball over Aimar’s head to take the lead at 16-15 however, one sensed a sea change, encapsulated in a hard won point which Irujo may have wanted more. There was little Aimar could have done about the two excellent serves which followed, both long enough to allow Irujo nonchalant drop winners as his opponent raced forwards from the return of serve, but in the next point one sensed that he may have lost his way; Aimar clearly thought he had the point with a drop but he was far too casual and underestimated the speed of Irujo. What could easily have been 18-16 if Aimar had chosen to go wide became 19-15, and one sensed Irujo had him in his death stare. One more error from Irujo notwithstanding, it was one way traffic from here on in, Irujo even managing to play Aimar at his earlier game of hitting high and long. When Aimar failed to scoop a low ball from the floor it was game over.

This was a fitting result. Doubtless Aimar would have wished to put an end to his 2009 habit of finishing second in major finals but Irujo is the year’s number one and this prize was the cherry on his considerable cake. With the exception of his blip in the Cuatro y Medio final where he lost out to Sebastien Gonzalez, Irujo has been nigh on unstoppable this year and has played at a pace, and with a verve, that barely seems possible. The champion once again proved that against even the toughest opponent, he has the ability to call on an extra gear, fuelled both by raw talent and by imagination. Zorionak Juan Martinez de Irujo, txapeldun.

Scoring sequence: 2-0/2-2/ 2-8/ 8-8 / 9-13/ 10-13/ 14-14/ 15-15/ 16-15/ 20-16/ 22-16

Martinez de Irujo: Number One

Image from: Gara



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



4 1/2: Retegi Bi pulls off massive upset to oust Aimar by frontonnews
November 1, 2009, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday 31st October, Labrit, Pamplona

RETEGI BI beat OLAIZOLA II 22-11

In what must count as one of the shocks of the year, 24 year old Retegi Bi has defeated defending champion Aimar Olaizola in the quarter finals of the Cuatro y Medio Championship. Olaizola has been the king of this format in recent years having won the championship on four occasions, equalling the record set by Retegi Bi’s father. The man from Goizueta has been in storming form for the majority of the past few months, notably beating Martinez de Irujo to take the Navarrese Cuatro y Medio title, but here he had no answer to the masterclass of the undoubted underdog. Unfortunately, as this was such a seminal point in the championship, I am not able to bring you an eyewitness report as there was no webcast, but reports state that Retegi Bi was simply superior in every facet of the game. Aimar, a shadow of his usual self, was out of the game from the word go, finding himself down 0-8 in quicktime. From there, there was no way back as the young forward hit his way to victory. Retegi Bi won the second tier pairs championship in both 2007 and 2008 but he now has a shot at something infinitely bigger; he takes his place in the semi finals by right.

Retegi Bi played the match of his life

Image from: El Correo Digital



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:

 c. 23:00 (CEST) TITIN – EULATE v BENGOETXEA VI – MENDIZABAL II

 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
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

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
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

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



Aimar gains his revenge on Irujo in mano a mano rout by frontonnews
August 10, 2009, 12:55 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , ,

Saturday 8th August
Ogueta, Vitoria-Gasteiz
OLAIZOLA II beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO 22-9

In a repeat of the Manomanista final, Aimar Olaizola played Juan Martinez de Irujo in a mano a mano match at Ogueta on Saturday, as part of the Virgen Blanco festival. Although an inconsequential game in terms of championships or the history books, this encounter had been talked up in the Basque press as something of a grudge match, with Aimar determined to avenge his 22-12 defeat to his great rival and prove his doubters wrong. There was no webcast so I cannot bring you a proper match report, but it is clear that Aimar reminded everyone of his status as a great champion in fairly emphatic style, racing to a 7-0 on his way to a 22-9 win. It is the second consecutive win over Irujo for the forward from Goizueta, following on the heals of his triumph in the final of the Navarrese Cuatro y Medio Championship last month.

Scoring sequence: 0-7, 4-7, 4-13, 5-13, 5-14, 7-14, 7-17, 9-17 and 9-22.
Match time: 40 minutes and 28 seconds
Stirkes of the ball: 195

Winners on serve: Olaizola 7, Irujo 1
Faults on serve: Olaizola 0, Irujo 0
Winners in play: Olaizola 10, Irujo 5
Errors: Olaizola 3, Irujo 5

Statistics from Diario Vasco: http://www.diariovasco.com/20090809/deportes/pelota/donde-toman-200…

Rivals: this time, as here, Aimar was on top

Rivals: this time, as here, Aimar was on top