4 1/2: Irujo storms into the final by frontonnews
November 23, 2009, 5:51 pm
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Sunday 22nd November, Astelena, Eibar

MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat TITIN III 22-11

Sebastian Gonzalez must have girded up his loins for a tense afternoon on Sunday, as the result of the match between Titin III and Juan Martinez de Irujo had a direct bearing on whether he himself would reach the final. As things turned out, by game’s mid point, he may well have been relaxing contentedly with a cup of tea as Irujo’s dominance was never in doubt. For Titin it was victory or quits and the latter was, emphatically, his destiny.

Astelena was packed to the rafters for what many believed would be one of the matches of the championship. Irujo and Titin are both renowned for the intensity both of their play and of their demeanour and with so much at stake matters seemed set to be white hot. The crowd, who bedecked the arena in banners and Riojan flags, were primed for a fight but were left unfulfilled, for there was nothing Titin could do to quench Irujo’s fire. For at least the first four points, affairs were close as the players traded both blows and errors to find themselves locked at 2-2. From that point on however, Irujo located the accelerator and went. The man from Ibero moved from 5-4 to 17-4 with seamless ease. This period of play was peppered with errors by Titin, including a moment of clouded judgement when he left a ball he thought was long. Irujo for his part hit winners at will, mixing powerful hooks and deft drops in a display of breathtaking pace and utter confidence. Titin, who usually appears furious and incredulous when under the cosh, could muster only disbelief and resignation.

However, Titin would not be Titin without the stomach for a battle and the Riojan mustered a fightback of sorts. He broke Irujo’s incredible run of points when the latter could not scoop up a dipping ball close to the frontis, and won the next two in quick time with a dosparedes and a long service return from Irujo. Irujo took back the initiative and advanced to 19-7, almost within touching distance of the final, but his opponent was not yet done and reacted with four points in a row courtesy of a string of uncharacteristic errors from his opponent. But any doubts about Irujo’s ability to close out the match were swiftly dispelled. Titin rallied impressively but in reality the die was cast; two more errors from Titin followed by a signature hook and the game was up.

This was an impressively clinical display from Irujo who knew precisely what he had to do and did the job without a flicker of self doubt. While Gonzalez must be delighted with his final ticket, part of him must be quaking at the thought of playing an Irujo in such rampant form. Irujo finds himself in his third major final of the year and Gonzalez is the only man between him and a clean sweep. The two will meet at Atano III on 8th December.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 5-2, 5-4, 17-4, 17-7, 19-7, 19-11 and 22-11.

Irujo: clinical

Image from: El Correo Digital



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: Retegi junior fails to fell Titin in semi final duel by frontonnews
November 14, 2009, 11:35 pm
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Sunday 8th November, Astelena, Eibar
TITIN III beat RETEGI BI 22-13

It is twelve years since the famous Cuatro y Medio final of 1997. The epic duel between Retegi II and Titin III has gone down in history as one of the greatest games of all time and its shadow was never far from Astelena on Sunday. Retegi II and Titin met again but in very different circumstances, as the former coached his son, Julen, against the player he once defeated. Titin, now aged 40, has withstood the test of time and succeeded against the son where he failed against the father.

Julen Retegi looked tight and nervous from the off, a pale imitation of the player who had so spectacularly thwarted Aimar Olaizola in the quarter finals. Titin raced to a 6-1 lead while Retegi failed both in direction and positioning on the fronton. The young forward pulled two points back by way of two errors from Titin but at 13-3 to the Riojan legend, the game appeared to be up for Retegi. However, much to the delight of the Tolosa faithful, Retegi rallied, showing flashes of his quarter final dominance. In the course of the game’s middle section, in which Retegi closed to 13-16, Titin committed six errors, some more unforced than others, but Retegi also displayed some dazzling shot making prowess. This was nowhere more apparent than in the beautifully worked txoko at 13-4 and in the stunning dosparedes winner which took the score to 13-10. However, just as the game appeared to be shaping up for a battle royal, Retegi lost all his momentum after a falta which ripped into his confidence. The man from Pamplona failed to add to his score as Titin ran away with it, 22-13.

Retegi appeared utterly dejected and it is easy to see why. In his previous match he had pulled off one of the upsets of the year in totally outplaying the defending champion, the man who has dominated Cuatro y Medio in recent years. He showed tantalising glimpses of that form here but proved unable to sustain it. He needs to find an extra gear if he is to compete at this level on a consistent basis. Titin for his part played with impressive verve and his customary passion. He has the ammunition to make quite some mark on the remainder of this tournament; Irujo and Gonzalez must be on their guard when faced with the evergreen warrior from Tricio.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 6-1, 6-3, 7-3, 13-3, 13-10, 14-10, 14-11, 16-11, 16-13 and 22-13.

 



4 1/2: Titin III victorious in high quarter final drama by frontonnews
November 1, 2009, 9:54 pm
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Friday 30th November, Balmaseda

TITIN III beat OLAIZOLA I 22-21

In a game full of drama and emotion, Titin III used all his wiles to defeat Asier Olaizola, who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in Balmaseda. That the stakes were raised as the Cuatro y Medio Championship hit its quarter final stage was plain for all to see; both players are known to let their feelings show on the fronton but rarely is one taken so far into the heart of a human drama in the sporting arena. The crowd, for their part, hung on every second of the spectacle and lapped it up with relish and fervour.

Titin looked the more assured in the opening stages, running out to a 9-3 lead. His first three points came from mistakes by Asier, who clearly had initial problems finding his range, but Titin then let fly with three aggressive winners and an unreturnable serve. A strange bounce of the ball on 8-3 only served to bamboozle his opponent further. However, in the first twist of this remarkable match, Asier changed from puppet to puppeteer to draw level, both through some stunning striking of the ball and through a dogged tenacity in the long rallies. When Titin missed the ball completely, cursing both it and himself, the game was all square at 9-9. The middle part of the match was a topsy turvy rollercoaster in which nobody could take control. There was some incredible play, as characterised by Asier’s dosparedes on 12-10 which appeared to travel at the speed of light and in the scrap of a rally close in to the wall on 10-9 where neither protagonist seemed prepared to give an inch. At 15-15 the tension was palpable.

Asier then, for the first time in the match, asserted himself with true intent and although the gap between the rivals never grew larger than four points, the Goizuetan and his fans could sniff the semi finals. Curly hair flying and eyes bulging in pure concentration, he appeared imperious; at 17-21 Titin’s die was surely cast. Remarkably though, the Riojan whirlwind now whipped up the pace; for him the game was never up and what ensued was a nightmare for Asier as he lost five points in a row to throw away his golden ticket to the semi finals. Although Asier made a tragic miscue from Titin’s serve on 18-21, this turnaround was due more to the skill of Titin than his own lack of it. A gantxo from Titin tied the scores at 21-21. He then called a time out to gather himself, and both players, as they sat and pondered what was to come, gained the appearance of prize fighters about to put their entire beings on the line for this one final effort. The last point was a cagey affair which could easily have gone either way but it was Asier who cracked, under enormous pressure from his vanquisher, and hit the ball fractionally low. An extra inch of height and the losing shot may well have been the winner.

The evergreen Titin III then marches on. Asier will surely wish to block all memory of this encounter from his mind, for he was so close yet so very far.

 Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 3-1, 3-2, 8-2, 8-3, 9-3, 9-4, 9-9, 11,9, 11-10, 12-10, 12-12, 12-15, 15-15, 15-18, 17-18, 17-21 and 22-21.

Titin III: never say die

Image from: Wikimedia



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



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