Mano pairs: Xala's lightening strikes twice

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

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