Daily Archives: 16 March, 2009

Mano pairs: Aimar leads defending champions to the final

Sunday 15th March
Atano III, San Sebastian

As the curtain fell on the last semi final match of the 2009 championship, San Sebastian seemed to resound with song. This was not the passionate swell of sound from the home of Real Sociedad, nor was it the celebrated Orfeon Donostiarra choir in rehearsal; indeed, it was not homegrown song at all. Oier Mendizabal was born in San Sebastian but he had seemingly brought a fan club from his adopted home of Hernani, all of eight kilometres to the south of the Gipuzkoan capital, for the noise came from the upper reaches of Atano III, where the local Azeri dance was in full cry. Their municipal hero was in the final and they meant to let everyone know it. Whether a similar contingent had made the trip from Goizueta in honour of Aimar Olaizola was harder to tell but it was the Navarrese master striker who turned this game in the blink of an eye. Aimar, or more precisely, his fabled left arm, ensured the champions a chance to defend their crown.

Facing Aimar and Oier in the melting pot of Atano III was a pair who might, but for Martinez de Irujo, already have booked their place in the final. Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ruben Beloki had the chance to qualify outright last weekend but lost out to a combination of errors and an opponent on fire after a game which had balanced on a knife edge. The first phase of this match, their second and final chance, must have given them an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu; not even a hair’s breadth could split the two sides. In a proverbial war of attrition, point was traded for point in a grinding stalemate of long and gruelling points. It took 476 strikes of the ball to reach 11-11, after the pairs had found themselves locked together, all square at 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 10 apiece. This period was characterised by the duel of the two defenders. Bengoetxea knew he could count on the best defender in the tournament thus far in Beloki and set about attacking Mendizabal with abandon but to no avail; Oier played an excellent match last week against Berasaluze VIII and Begino and here stepped up to yet another level. He and Beloki traded blow after blow, sending the ball like a rocket to the frontis from seemingly impossible positions. Neither seemed willing or likely to crack.

The early battle between the forwards was every bit as absorbing, pitting as it did two outwardly very different characters into conflict. Bengoetxea is like a whirlwind on the fronton, never resting, always bustling both in play and in respite. Seeing that Mendizabal would not break, the manomanista champion threw all his attacking power at the door of Olaizola. Particularly impressive was the low skidding ball which took the score to 2-2 and a pair of hook winners, the second of which sent Aimar sprinting headlong into the a cameraman. Olaizola, in contrast, appears as the clinical destroyer. Only occasionally does he let his emotions show through his facade of control. While Bengoetxea looked fit to burst with fight, Olaizola displayed a quieter but no less obvious determination, hitting a succession of winners to nullify those of his rival. Bengoetxea looked to have the slight edge in their early fight, although the score remained in deadlock.

With the score at 11-11, the game moved into a new and different phase which spelt danger for the defending champions. A combination of two winners from Bengoetxea, and an error apiece from Oier and Aimar meant that the pair in blue found themselves four points adrift. Although no sense of panic was evident in their demeanour, something clearly had to be done. Step forward Aimar Olaizola. Although brilliant at times, Aimar has rarely been at his exalted best in this tournament. The Goizuetan was dangerously close to pulling out of the Cuatro y Medio championship in December owing to a painful right shoulder and the fact that he stayed and went on to win it is testament to both his wide armoury of skills and his determination. He may however have paid the price, having played with tendonitis in that same shoulder ever since. His right arm is therefore not as potent a weapon as it should be and has in all likelihood contributed to his rather less than vintage form. However, his left arm, his most feared attribute, worked at Atano III like the hammer of Thor and there was nothing Bengoextea could do to stop it. In a masterclass of hooks, peppered with drops and smashes, Aimar ripped the prize from the hands of his oppoents and beat them into submission. While he cut loose, the pressure on Beloki told as he made four errors, a blot on an otherwise textbook game. When Bengoetxea struck too high, the game was up, and Goizueta, like Atano III, surely burst into song.

So, we return to Atano III on March 29th for a final which promises much. Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni, both of whom have been in white hot form of late, await the defending champions who will do everything within their power to contain and better them. If Oier Mendizabal can maintain his stellar run, the defensive battle will be enthralling and any match which pits Aimar against Irujo is enough to set the juices racing. Who has the nerve to strike for glory on the biggest of all stages only time will tell.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-3, 3-3, 3-5, 6-5, 6-7, 7-7, 7-8, 10-8, 10-10, 10-11, 15-11, 15-15, 16-15 and 16-22.

Aimar Olaizola turned the match

Aimar Olaizola turned the match

Image from: http://www.diariovasco.com/prensa/noticias/200811/16/fotos/1977287.jpg

Jai Alai: Miami Report Monday 16/3

The first two games of the day were just dominated by Aitzol, who actually scored 16 dtraight points to start the day. He was using his left side rebote with great power and catching everything in sight. Guisasola also chipped in with some great picas in game two.

Aitzol started game three with two more ponts before getting defeated, then another eight team Cavier/Chaulderon finished the game in effortless fashion.

Game four was a long game filled with many game points, that ended up being won by the five Aragues/Airpirarte. I was on game point with the seven and one in that game, only to have my superfecta dreams dashed:( lol. Aizarna plays the game with a bulldog mentality but he gets hurt by dropped left sides. Conrado also got hit hard by the pelota in his back in that game, glad to see he is okay.

Game five was being controlled by Aritz who was eventually defeated by Aragues and then Aizarna ran six straight points and dropped a desperation rebote by Jon. A terrible drop. Jon ran the game out with some nifty right side catching and some well placed chic chacs. High cesta Jon, as I has the tri twice and that salvaged my day. 🙂

Games six and seven were also won by Aragues who had a great day. He does such a wonderful job controlling the pace of a point when he is on his game. I also seen he won the eighth game with Patrick so a very good day for the seasoned frontcourter.

Aizpitarte had his first feature game win of his career in game 10 with Goiko. High cesta!

Bereikua won game 12. He look very comfortable in singles but is struggling in doubles,I wonder why that is?

Jai Alai: Master Jai's results from Gernika


Duration: 78 minutes
Points on serve: 2 for Alberdi II and 2 points and one 1 fault for Treku

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-3, 5-3, 5-7, 6-7, 6-11, 7-11, 7-12, 8-12, 8-13, 11-13, 11-14, 13-14, 13-15, 15-15, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 18-20, 20-20, 21-21, 24-21, 24-23, 25-23, 25-24, 26-24, 26-25, 27-25, 27-27, 28-28, 30-28, 30-30, 32-30, 32-31, 33-31, 33-32 and 35-32

Exactly like in the previous tournaments where Alberdi II and Mugartegi have played together, they played brilliant today. They got the victory through hard work against todays opponents Treku and Felix, who last week won against Baronio and Mugartegi.

The blue team started out very well, and quickly worked their way to a 6-11 and later a 8 – 13 lead. After that followed a period of equal scoring, 15-15, 16-16,17-17, 18-18 and 20-20. At that point David Treku still played well and Felix guarded the court well, but the last fifteen points went better for the red team, which seemed to be a bit more inspired this last part of the game.

Luis Mari Alberdi played very well the whole evening, and threw some very spectacular rebotes. Aitor Mugartegi played at a good level, and tonight it simply was not enough that Felix worked hard throughout the game, and even threw a couple of dos paredes.

The results in the other two games were:



Source: Translated from Master Jai

Mano pairs: Irujo and Goni win the dead rubber and head to the final in style

Saturday 14th March
Labrit, Pamplona

Juan Martinez de Irujo and Fernando Goni have completed a clean sweep in the semi finals by defeating Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino at Labrit. The victors had already claimed their place in the final on 29th March but served to bolster both their confidence and their status as probable favourites. For the losers, this was their chance to leave the competition with their heads held high; instead, the pair who have illuminated this competition on more than one occasion finish bottom of the last four.

In a game where both forwards played with spirit in attack and competitive determination, it appeared as if the Asegarce pair would fold in all too dramatic fashion, finding themselves down 3-9. However, in an exciting run of play, they turned the scorecard on its head to lead 11-9, making the game more competative than the Pamplona public can have hoped. It was not to last; step forward Irujo, who pulverised his opponents with a startling display of winners to which the ever lively Berasaluze had no answer.

In the end, the Asegarce competitors could do nothing but salute Irujo’s mastery but although disappointed, they must take encouragement from the form which saw them qualify in first place at the end of the quarter final rounds. Their contribution to this championship has been as a welcome gust of fresh air. Irujo and Goni will both play next weekend as they aim to fine tune their game to face the defending champions in San Sebastian in the ultimate showdown.

Dominant: Juan Martinez de Irujo

Dominant: Juan Martinez de Irujo

Image from: http://manista.blogs.com/bitacora/images/2008/11/17/irujo_adarraga.jpg