Saturday 18th April
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat XALA 22-4
Yves Salaberry, known in sporting terms as Xala, stood bodily in the path of a hurricane on Friday night. That hurricane originated in Ibero and made its way to Labrit to wreak havoc in the form of one Juan Martinez de Irujo, pelotari supreme. Xala must have come into this match with some confidence, despite the reputation of his opponent. The man from Lekuine played an excellent pairs championship, despite his lack of defensive support hindering his chances of making the knockout stages, and Irujo, while brilliant, can be eminently beatable. Nobody, least of all Xala, can have expected this.
Xala started well, his strong left arm winning him the first point, but Irujo, amazingly, won the next twenty. He was unable to do anything as Irujo served with aplomb, volleyed brilliantly and used the two walls as his play things. Only in the dying moments of the match did Xala manage to offer any kind of meagre resistance, winning three points in a row to save a little face. Irujo has won the Manomanista title on two previous occasions, in 2004 and 2006, and few would bet a large sum against him here. There will be sterner tests ahead but on the strength of this performance, he must surely be the man to fear. The only slight worry for Irujo came in the penultimate play of the match when he twisted his ankle. However, the injury is not thought to be serious and he hopes to resume training on Monday or Tuesday. He has until 3rd May to prepare for his quarter final against Sebastian Gonzalez, to whom he lost last year at the same stage. Gonzalez will need to muster all his resources if that result is to be repeated.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-20, 4-20, 4-22.