Sunday 3rd May
Atano III, Donostia-San Sebastian
MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat GONZALEZ 22-16
Two weeks after beating Yves Xala into submission with a 22-4 near whitewash, the whirlwind from Ibero was back on court on Sunday, this time to face Sebastian Gonzalez, a semi finalist last year. Irujo has appeared an impregnable wall thus far this year and nobody expected Gonzalez, an excellent player in his own right, to put up a very staunch fight. Nothing could be further from the truth, for Gonzalez shocked Irujo to his very core; he looked nothing like the pelotari who steamrollered Xala. Although he pulled the cat out of the bag to take the win with an astonishing comeback, this match will have given his rivals something of a boost, for the mercurial Irujo is far from unbeatable.
In the early exchanges, Irujo showed no signs for alarm, taking three points in a row to lead 3-1. However, in bafflingly quick time, he found himself trailing 16-7. Gonzalez exceeded his rival in every area: he was metronomically consistent, his volley was lethal and his tactics superior. Irujo appeared lacking in ideas or options, struck the ball badly and made a string of errors. Gonzalez must have thought he was home and dry, but Irujo is a fighter of the highest calibre and he refused to lie down. When he regained his serve at 8-16, there was no stopping the 2006 champion who won 15 straight points to eliminate his rival. His serve was his major weapon in this dramatic about turn but he also used the walls to great effect in open play; Gonzalez had gone from hunter to hunted in emphatic style as Irujo called the shots. Irujo was also aided by his rival’s errors, which were now numerous. Gonzalez lost this game as much as Irujo won it.
So, we have the semi final for which many had hoped; Irujo will play the defending champion Oinatz Bengoetxea at a yet to be agreed location on 17th May. This promises to be an explosive match, pitching against each other two of the most physical pelotaris on the scene. Irujo cannot afford to give Bengoetxea a nine point lead of he wishes to reach his first Manomanista final in three years.
Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-3, 6-3, 6-5, 10-5, 10-7, 16-7 and 16-22.
Source: Diario Vasco