Early this morning, Solozabal, using a crafty serve as a weapon, ran the table out from post position number 2, with a perfect game against the top frontcourt players in the world. There will be more to follow, but suffice to say, Solozabal has put the world on notice that when he wants to, he can dominate a game.
This encounter had all the makings of a procession for Titin and Pascual as they strode to a 7-1 lead in quicktime. Viewers could have been forgiven for slipping out for a cup of tea, or something stronger, to pass the time, for surely the efficient Aspe partnership were in cruise control and their opponents had permanently lost the plot. Not a bit of it. When Napoleon’s troops arrived in Amorebieta-Etxano in 1808 they were startled by the resisitance they encountered, and so it was for these modern day warriors who should surely know better than to rest on their laurels.
From the off Aritz Begino had a shocker, and notwithstanding the first point which was won by Pablo Berasaluze, the Asegarce duo threatened complete implosion. The defender from Auza mishit from close in to inaugurate a run of five errors. The game had hardly started and already he looked as if he would rather be anywhere else. The next point, which was lengthy and almost unfeasibly frantic livened things up somewhat but ended in much the same way; a leaping Begino was too far forward to make contact with a kicking ball and ceded the point. As the excitable crowd chanted his name, Titin punched the air with agressive authority. For Begino, the only way was up and to give him his due, he did improve. Points came the Asegarce pair’s way in ones and twos, largely curtously of Berasaluze who hit a deft dropshot winner and classy gantxo which had Titin sliding inelegantly towards the baying crowd on his front. But inroads could not be made into the Aspe partnership’s steadily rising total and the errors kept coming. Berasaluze and Begino proved unable to exert any meaningful pressure on their opponents at all; Titin went about his game in his own majesterial way while Pascual fielded balls which were too short and too straight to trouble him.
Nobody expected the pendulum to swing. With the score at 12-5, Pascual made an error. It almost came as a shock. In the next play, the Asegarce pair proved that they could win points without depending on the mistakes of others when Berasaluze flung himself at a Titin drop, setting Begino up for a clever shot which forced Pascual wide. Both players yelled with satisfaction, possibly tinged with a touch of relief; they had broken away from their self made mire. From 14-6, the score raced to 14-11. The trailing pair finally forced Pascual to the back wall from where he hit both wide and low in turn. When Berasaluze stuck a brutal crosscourt winner past a hapless Titin, their celebratory shouts lifted the roof. Titin and Pascual regained a modicum of control to take the score to 20-11. Begino miscued twice from the back to set this sequence in motion and a strong sense of deja vu prevailed. It seemed we had come full circle. At 18-11 the wheels appeared to fall off the Asegarce wagon completely in a farcical point where both players left the ball, assuming it was the responsibility of the other. But then, in an almost surreal turnaround, another fightback began. A supercharged Berasaluze, scrapping with the tenacity of a terrier, trapped both his opponents forward before hitting long and trumping them completely. Pascual, not usually prone to nervous turns, then made three errors as his opponents sent the crowds into a frenzy. When Titin hit too low from close in to reduce the Asegarce deficit to one point, what had hitherto seemed impossible stared him straight in the face; the upset was well and truly on the cards. However, in one last twist, Titin tamed the whirlwind. 20-19 became 22-19 in the blink of an eye and Berasaluze and Begino left the field of battle utterly dejected.
And so ended a draining, pulsating encounter, at times so frantic that one dared not move for fear of missing something big. Berasaluze and Begino must be congratulated for some astonishing play and for their indominitable spirit but in the end, the quality of Titin and Pascual was enough to see them through, though they would surely have preferred the whitewash which appeared at first to be on the cards. At a stage in the competition when every point is like gold dust, the Aspe pair gratefully received their prize. With three wins and one narrow loss, they are now well placed. Their opponents will not sleep as easily.
Scoring sequence (Titin and Pascual first):
0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1, 6-1, 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 8-3, 9-3, 10-3, 10-4, 11-4, 12-4, 12-5, 12-6, 13-6, 14-6, 14-7, 14-8, 14-9, 14-10, 14-11, 15-11, 16-11, 17-11, 18-11, 19-11, 20-11, 20-12, 20-13, 20-14, 20-15, 20-16, 20-17, 20-18, 20-19, 21-19, 22-19
Image from: http://www.fronton.tv/php/galeria_img/t5.jpg