Friday 3rd April
BERASALUZE IX beat EULATE 22-11
The television cameras at Zeanuri last night seemed far more interested in the fact that Pello Martinez de Eulate’s botillero was none other than Juan Martinez de Irujo, than in the fact that this was a championship match of huge importance to the protagonists. The big players do not enter the draw until the third round but for Asier Berasaluze and Eulate, both from ASPE, this was their chance to prove themselves and to keep alive their hopes of being there to face the likes of Irujo himself in two weeks time. Berasaluze is on something of a high, having recently won the second division pairs title with Xabier Urberuaga, and his surge of confidence was to serve him well.
The match began with Eulate strutting his stuff. Twice pairs champion, the man from Lizarra-Estella signalled his intent by rendering Berasaluze flat on his stomach as the latter struggled to recover from a masterly long serve. Two miscues from the native of Berriz took Eulate’s lead to 3-0 as Berasaluze yelled in self reproach. However, this was not to be the pattern of the remainder of the game. In the very next point Eulate committed the same error as his opponent had in the point before, mistiming a driving volley, and ceded the service. And service was to be to key. Berasluze’s first serve was a pasa, not the confidence boost for which he might have wished, but from there on there was no stopping his stinging right arm. The 25 year old served fast and hard. In taking the score to parity at 3-3, he unleashed a 122kmph monster against which Eulate had no hope. This was to be the fastest of the evening but he lost no potency, regularly hitting the 116kmph mark.
It took Berasaluze some time to impose himself, despite his gargantuan serve, as Eulate’s tactical nouse held him at bay. In this sense, the point which took the score to 8-6, reducing Berasaluze’s deficit to two points, must be seen as a turning point. Eulate repeatedly pushed his opponent back, controlling him like a puppet on a string as he ran back and forth for over 20 shots. But he would not succumb and broke Eulate’s control with a combination of a drop into the corner and a crosscourt flick which appeared to break his spirit. Berasaluze never looked back. His aforementioned serve took him to a 12-8 lead in quicktime. Eulate hung onto his coat tails and was only two points adrift at 13-11, but then the elastic snapped in catastrophic fashion. Four errors did not help matters for the afflicted pelotari but it was the pressure exerted by Berasaluze which told, as 13-11 became 22-11. In the dying points, Eulate appeared to have given up, and there was nothing Irujo, sitting stony faced in his chair, could do to raise him.
An so, a dejected Eulate leaves the championship while the ever smiling Berasaluze IX marches on. His next opponent is Inigo Leiza, who will no doubt be practising his return of serve.
Scoring sequence (Eulate first): 1-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-3, 3-4, 3-5, 4-5, 5-5, 8-5, 8-6, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 11-13 and 11-22.