4 1/2: Asier the victor as Saralegi is left to rue missed chances by frontonnews
October 26, 2009, 6:10 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday 25th October, Astelena, Eibar

Cuatro y Medio Second Round


For Ekaitz Saralegi, Sunday’s match against Asier Olaizola was a case of missed opportunity. Nobody seriously expected the man from Amezketa to be in this position, playing as he did Xala in his first round match, but he defeated the overwhelming favourite in that encounter, and he had his chances here too. In the end, Asier ran out the victor by 22 points to 17 but he was forced to survive a major scare along the way.

Saralegi began the match with promise, producing a serve which Asier could not return, to the delight of his extremely vocal fan club whose chanting became the soundtrack to the night. However, things then all went wrong as Asier took the next six points by virtue of three rather aimless Saralegi errors and three easy and nonchalant winners. Such was Saralegi’s demeanour that it was hard to imagine him winning another point, let alone the match. To his considerable credit, he did recover somewhat after a much needed time out; his botillero Aratz Mendizabal must have produced some wise words. However, he proved himself again and again unable to take any advantage of the chinks in Asier’s armour. Olaizola senior played a far from perfect game but Saralegi could not drive home the knife. The first instance of this came with the score at 6-2. Asier, perhaps resting on his laurels, had hit casually and low in the previous point but Saralegi threw away his foothold into the game with total miscue. Though the gap in points shrank gradually in the early period of the game, a similar important miss for Saralegi took place with the score on 11-7 following a sloppy attempt at a drop shot by Asier; Saralegi could have taken the point with a bit more care, but hit low when under little pressure.  

Despite his underwhelming play in the first half of the match, things swung with a vengeance when Asier failed to dig out a low ball on 17-7; it was the turn of the Goizuetarra to fall apart. Saralegi won nine points in a row in a staggering turn around. He served with brilliance and speed, touching 104kph and hitting his eighth service winner to come within one point of Asier at 17-16. He also forced his opponent into errors in open play and swiped two commanding winners in a whipped dosparedes and a crosscourt airez. Asier looked stunned and turned to the counsel of his younger brother, defending champion Aimar, in the hope of stopping the rot. Saralegi had a massive chance to pull level with Asier at 17-17 which would have represented a huge psychological knock, but he blew it with an ambitious overhead attempt. He knew, from his expression, that he had missed another opportunity, this time a golden one. Again he had a chance at 18-17 but hit just long. His momentum was lost and his spirit dissolved. He failed to win another point in the match as Asier, finally, romped home on the back of two further errors from Saralegi.

So, Asier Olaizola proceeds to the quarter finals, where he will meet the evergreen Titin III on Friday. He will hope for greater consistency there, and a reacquisition of the form he showed in the first round. Saralegi has acquitted himself well in this championship; his contract at Asegarce is up for renewal in February and his performance here will surely stand him in good stead. But for a handful of opportunities missed, he could have gone further.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 6-1, 6-2, 8-2, 8-3, 8-6, 11-6, 11-7, 17-7, 17-16, 18-16, 18-17 and 22-17.

Asier Olaizola: eye on the ball

Asier Olaizola: eye on the ball

Image from: Diario de Navarra

4 1/2: Super Saralegi shocks Xala by frontonnews
October 18, 2009, 9:41 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sunday 18th October, Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian

SARALEGI beat XALA 22-12

When 30 year old Ekaitz Saralegi crossed himself before unleashing his opening serve at Atano III today, it looked like a gesture of hope rather than confidence. Nobody seriously expected the man from Amezketa to trouble the might of Yves Salaberry. Saralegi, who has never won nor even reached the final of a major championship in his eight year career, is the 24th ranked player at Asegarce and lies 40th in the overall manista.com ranking. Xala on the other hand is the winner of two pairs championships and a past losing finalist in both the Manomanista and 4 ½ competitions, and is rated 15th by manista.com. Xala’s form has held steady throughout the summer and little suggested that Saralegi could seriously challenge the skill set of Lekuine’s finest. However, in a match where the baton of dominance passed back and forth in the early stages, it was the underdog who finally seized it for good.

If Saralegi suffered any pre game nerves at all they were soon banished as he took out the first three points with quiet ease, capitalising on Xala’s waywardness. However, Xala banished his demons and pulled his game together to take the score to 5-3 in his favour and it appeared as if the predicted result was on the cards; under pressure from his more fancied opponent, Saralegi hit wide and short, and failed to scoop out two low volleys which he perhaps should have allowed to bounce. But Saralegi once again wrested the initiative with five straight points in which he showed beyond doubt that he was in this encounter for the long haul. He went beyond his earlier mere solidity and pulled off two airez winners of pure brilliance. Though Xala pulled back points in ones and twos, Saralegi never looked under pressure form either his opponent or himself for the remainder of the match. He showed the full gamut of shots, from the gantxo on 6-10 which sent his fans into a frenzy, to the nonchalant txoko which gave him an eight point lead at 8-16. Tactically Xala had few answers; as his confidence and inspiration grew, Saralegi proved adept at manoeuvring his opponent out of position, using his serve with intelligence to send him the wrong way before striking the killer punch. Xala did threaten to regain his rhythm, pulling off four authoritative winners in a row, and in doing so reduced the deficit to four points at 12-16, but he was once again undone by his own lack of direction in the very next point when he struck too low. A time out at 12-19 could not stop the rot for Xala, who committed four errors in a row to bury, once and for all, his chances of reaching the next round.

The small but enthusiastic crowd rose to Saralegi with warmth and enthusiasm and he deserved every plaudit. He outplayed his more fancied opponent in every facet of the game and will surely meet the second round head on and full of confidence. His opponent there will be Asier Olaizola, who was in sizzling form in his first round defeat of Mikel Olazabal last weekend. If Saralegi wishes to triumph there he may need to raise his game another level, but who is to say that he might not silence the doubters once again?

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 0-3, 1-3, 5-3, 5-4, 5-8, 6-8, 6-11, 7-11, 8-11, 8-12, 8-16, 9-16, 12-16 and 12-22

Saralegi: victor

Saralegi: victor

Matches this weekend by frontonnews
October 16, 2009, 12:45 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

There are three further first round matches in the 4 1/2 Championship this weekend. Tomorrow, Saturday 17th October, Oinatz Bengoetxea and Mikel Beroiz enter the fray. On paper, this should be Bengoetxea’s to lose. The 25 year old from Leiza was Manomanista Champion in 2008 and is a ferocious fighter close to the frontis. Despite a summer disrupted by a finger injury, he is sure to come out all guns blazing at Labrit. Beroiz however does have a shot at the prize, ever since winning the 2nd tier Manomanista title earlier in the summer, the 20 year old talent has been in excellent form. He is a star in the making and Oinatz will have to be on his guard. Also in the spotlight tomorrow are Mikel Olaetxea and Retegi Bi who play in Renteria.

Sunday 18th October sees the turn of Yves Sallaberry (Xala) and Ekatiz Saralegi, whose match will be live on ETB-Sat. Xala has proven 4 1/2 pedigree having been the runner up in this championship in 2005, and is experiencing a more than solid run of form. he should have the measure of Saralegi here. The 30 year old from Amezketa has little track record in the upper echelons of the 4 1/2 version of the game and there are few indictions of how he will cope. He will however surely be determined to prove his mettle on this exalted stage.

Saturday 17th October, Labrit, Pamlona: c. 19:00 (CEST) BENGOETXEA VI – BEROIZ

Saturday 17th October, Renteria: 17:00 (CEST) RETEGI BI – OLAETXEA

Sunday 18th October, Atano III, San Sebastian: 18:05 (CEST) XALA – SARALEGI Live on http://www.eitb.com/television/etb-sat, preceeded at 17:00 (CEST) by a doubles game between Titin III – Cecilio and Berasaluze IX – Eulate

Mikel Beroiz

Mikel Beroiz