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

Manomanista Championship: Pascual triumphs as Astelena is treated to the two faces of Zubieta by frontonnews
April 6, 2009, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , ,

Sunday 5th April
Astelena, Eibar

Inigo Pascual was forced to come from behind last night in his defeat of Aitor Zubieta. This was expected to be a close run thing and in the end, the score tends to suggest that this was the truth. However, that would be a drastic over simplification of a strange match which Zubieta lost as much as Pascual won.

The early signs were that Zubieta would find himself home and dry at a canter. The 25 year old from Etxarri Aranatz stormed to a 12-2 lead and in the process showed what an exciting and skillful pelotari he can be. He dominated with both hands and was especially impressive when volleying. His defence was every bit as good as his attack. Pascual seemed a broken man. However, having seen the good side of Zubieta, we were now to see the bad. Possession of all the shots in the pelota armoury is half the battle but this is nothing without consistency. Zubieta appeared to flick a switch and change in the blink of an eye. 12-2 became 12-9 as Pascual made the most of his opponent’s new found waywardness. In the next point, Zubieta, with the entire frontis at his mercy, somehow contrived to hit too high; he seemed incapable of hitting the green part of the wall at all. Pascual passed his rival with ease, and although he handed the lead back momentarily at 14-15, Zubieta could not capitalise. 22-18 was the final score but numbers alone cannot tell the story of such a capitulation.

Zubieta will leave the competition and rue an opportunity missed. Pascual on the other hand will prepare for his next contest, against Xala on Friday.

Inigo Pascual

Inigo Pascual

Manomanista: Koka and Zubieta to play off for championship place by frontonnews
March 24, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , ,

On Saturday at Labrit, Juantxo Koka from Asegarce and Aitor Zubieta from Aspe will play each other to decide which will gain a place in the draw for the Manomanista Championship. Koka is no stranger to the individual championship, having been runner up to Mikel Goni in 1997. Last year however, he lost to Aritz Begino at the second stage. Zubieta was also an early loser last year, going down to Martinez de Eulate in the opening round. Each will relish his chance to reach the championship and gain the chance to do better this year. The match will not be webcast but will be broadcast on Telecinco in Spain.

In other news, reigning Manomanista champion Oinatz Bengoetxea was in imperious form on Monday in Tolosa. The 24 year old from Leitza was the best performer on show as he and Oier Zearra defeated fellow Asegarce pair Patxi Ruiz and Inigo Leiza 22-10.

Juantxo Koka

Juantxo Koka

Image from: http://www.diariodenavarra.es/actualidad/20080218/fotos/2008021802395810_375.jpg

Mano pairs: win for Xala and Zubieta sends Bengoetxea VI and Beloki through by frontonnews
February 25, 2009, 12:22 am
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Monday 23rd February
Beotibar, Tolosa

The final scoreboard tells us that Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz lost once again at Beotibar on Monday. This in itself was hardly important, or startling, news. However, the result of this match meant so much more and a seemigly pointless encounter between two pairs, already eliminated from the championship, took on the status of one of the strangtest and most important matches of the year so far. The fate of two couples, Bengoetxea VI/Beloki of Asegarce and Gonzalez/Barriola of Aspe hung on this evening; a Xala/Zubieta win would see the former qualify for the semi finals and an Olaizola I/Patxi Ruiz win would see the latter pair go through. Whatever happened, a win for either side would result in elimination for a pair from their own empresa. Certain elements of the press spent the week discussing the potential ramifications of this situation; could either pair be tempted to play at ‘worse than their best’ for the good of their own empresa? In the end however, fair play was the only sporting option and there was nothing remotely suspect about the outcome as Asier and Patxi were once again outplayed by a better pair. Xala and Zubieta have won their last three matches in commanding style and Monday was no different. Xala must consider himself unlucky to be leaving the tournament at this stage given the recent exalted level of his play. Despite being one of the players of the competition, he has never quite had the defender to back him up and head to head record against the other pairs in contention was his undoing in the finals standings. He did however bid farewell with a flourish to which Asier Olaizola, who gave everything he could muster, had no answer. Zubieta, on this occasion, supported him consumately, outplaying Patxi Ruiz with ease.

And so, Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki will be back for more as the championship moves into the semi final stage. Gonzalez and Barriola suffer from Asier and Patxi’s failure to perform and leave the competition. They will be joined in the next stage by defending champions Olaizola II and Mendizabal II, Martinez de Irujo and Goni III, and Berasaluze VIII and Begino.

Bengoetxea and Beloki are through

Bengoetxea and Beloki are through

Image from: http://beta.eitb.com/multimedia/images/2009/02/01/59300/59300_bengoetxea_beloki_dest_2.jpg

Mano pairs: Saint-Jean-de-Luz treated to the Xala show by frontonnews
February 14, 2009, 12:56 am
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Friday 13th February
Fronton Maurice Ravel, Saint-Jean-de-Luz

On Friday the pairs championship travelled to the northern side of the Pyrenees for a match in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a resort of the Belle Epoque known more for its beaches, architecture and cuisine than for its contribution to the history of pelota. But as far as the four pelotaris were concerned there was little time to soak up the atmosphere as this competition has reached crunch time; every win must now be considered gold dust and every loss a monumental blow. This was a hard match to call given the fact that each side was forced to field a substitute, Leiza for Berasaluze VIII and Zubieta for Laskurain, but in a fronton named after that famous half-Basque composer Maurice Ravel, it was Xala who made sweet music.

In the early tantos, the encounter had the makings of a hard fought nailbiter. Contrary to the later flow of play, it was Zubieta who appeared error sticken, hitting low to cede each of the first two points in almost identical fashion. Xala showed glimpses of his excellent form before hitting wide and succumbing to a Leiza gantxo which put him on his back. Begino joined the party with two errors and the score was all tied at 4-4. However, it was then that the man from Lapurdi, playing in his home province, began to show his class to take the score to 12-4 in the Aspe pair’s favour. Although their opponents managed to eke out six more points in the course of the match, they were soundly beaten from the moment Xala cut loose. He baffled and bamboozled Leiza with his drop shots, which verged on the nonchalant, his gantxos, which travelled like bullets, and a pair of cross court hooks into the side wall which left his forward rival nowhere to be seen. In a masterful display, he has surely tightened his grip on the league which decides the tournament’s best player. Such was the magnetism of Xala that Zubieta was almost anonymous. However, although he hit no winners of his own and made four rather careless errors, he was an invaluable foil for his flashier colleague. Once the initial wobbles had passed him by, he hit fearsomly and solidly, providing a firm platform from which to attack.

Notwithstanding the excellent play of their opponents, the Asegarce pair made far too many errors to be competative. Begino persistently hit either low or high from the back, unable to match the consistency of his opposite number in defence. He even elicited boos from a small sector of the intermittently animated crowd when one such mistake opened up a twelve point deficit. Leiza, for his part, was simply outplayed by Xala. Although he managed a late flourish in the form of a gantxo winner, he was never on terms as the Aspe forward sent him darting right and left in an increasingly futile effort.

This result will have come as a stinging disappointment to a pair who have been very much on the up in recent weeks. Pablo Berasaluze sprouted wings to take them into second place overall last week but on this occasion he was forced to watch from the stands, dejectedly chewing gum, as his substitute lost the plot. Xala and Zubieta on the other hand, have given themselves a genuine chance. The plot of this extraordinary championship thickens….

Scoring sequence (Xala and Zubieta first):
0-1, 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 3-3, 4-3, 4-4, 12-4, 12-5, 17-5, 17-6, 18-6, 18-7, 18-8, 21-8, 21-9, 21-10, 22-10

Xala ruled the roost

Xala ruled the roost

Image from: http://www.elcorreodigital.com/vizcaya/prensa/fotos/200609/28/061D4RIO001_1.jpg

Mano pairs: Xala’s lightening strikes twice by frontonnews
February 8, 2009, 9:43 pm
Filed under: Pelota Mano | Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday 7th February

Yves Sallaberry and Aitor Zubieta defied all predictions in Tafalla last night as they defeated the defending champions by 22 points to 17. This was the second time in the championship that a pair containing Xala had achieved this feat (the currently injured Laskurain was his partner on the first occasion). Last time, the tactic of hitting long to pressurise Mendizabal and circumvent Olaizola worked like clockwork and this game saw a near repeat. Mendizabal, especially in the first half of the game succumbed to the onslaught, and was comprehensively outplayed by the substitute, Zubieta, who proved solid and accurate. He regained some composure as the game went on but the rescue job proved a step too far for the champions. Xala played his game to perfection and for the most part topped the efforts of Olaizola who was unable to impose himself as he has in recent encounters, despite hitting eleven winners.

This result puts a whole different complexion on the standings as week six draws to a close. A win here would have put Aimar and Oier through to the semi finals but, despite remaining top, they must gird up their loins for further battles. There are now seven pairs with a realistic chance of progressing and even bottom partnership Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz have a mathematical opportunity. The next two weekends will surely see high drama on the frontons.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 5-3, 5-4, 6-4, 6-7, 7-7, 7-10, 11-10, 11-14 13-14, 13-16, 14-16, 14-19, 16-19, 16-21, 17-21 and 17-22

Aitor Zubieta

Aitor Zubieta

Image from: http://www.diariovasco.com/Media/200706/27/068GENE27FOT1–200×261.jpg

Mano pairs: Bengoetxea and Beloki on top in Eibar by frontonnews
February 2, 2009, 11:33 pm
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Sunday 1st February
Astelena, Eibar

It took Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki 75 minutes to defeat Yves Sallaberry and Aitor Zubieta last night in Eibar, in a match where the ball was struck 687 times. When his partner Aritz Laskurain injured his hand last week, Xala was united with Zubieta for this encounter in which they needed a point as a matter of some urgency. On the evidence of the past few weeks, they were clearly the weakest of the Aspe pairs, standing as they did in seventh place. Bengoetxea and Beloki were just as hungry, needing wins to have any chance of a semi final berth. This urgency on the part of both sides put this hard fought match into some sort of context. In the rather sparsely populated stands, a pensive and slightly grim faced Laskurain looked on as his partner and his replacement failed to do the job.

In the early stages, the match was perfectly balanced with winners from Xala and Bengoetxea combining with errors from Beloki and Zubieta, who both had early trouble finding their range from the back. However, with the score on 4-4, the Asegarce pair, tentatively at first, began to pull ahead, through some clever tactical play and impressive hooks and smashes from the manomanista champion Bengoetxea. The Asegarce forward has appeared to lack a gameplan in his matches thus far but here was dominant, countering the volleys of Xala and demonstrating his speed and agility in both defence and attack. He and Beloki looked ordered and well drilled and clearly knew what they had to do at every given point. For their part, Xala and Zubieta did not play a bad match. Bengoetxea and Beloki tried at various times to put the replacement defender under pressure but he proved himself a tenacious opponent. He made several errors but was not as weak as his opponents had hoped and is clearly a bright prospect for the future. Xala fought doggedly with Bengoetxea but the inspiration lay chiefly with the latter.

Both pairs remain in a perilous position in this competition, lying sixth and seventh respectively in the table of eight, but the Asegarce pair took the point which gives them hope. They will take some confidence into their next match against former leaders Gonzalez and Barriola. For Xala and Zubieta (Laskurain remains on the sidelines for another week), Sunday brings the prospect of defending champions and current leaders Olaizola II and Mendizabal II.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 3-2, 3-4, 6-4, 6-5, 10-5, 10-7, 11-7, 11-9, 15-9, 15-13, 16-13, 16-14, 21-14, 21-15 and 22-15

Oinatz Bengoetxea

Oinatz Bengoetxea

Written with the partial help of Diario Vasco as I only saw half of the match!

Image from: http://sp1.fotologs.net/photo/1/62/116/filqe/1213600475481_f.jpg