Sunday 10th May
OLAIZOLA II beat URBERUAGA 22-16
For many, Xabier Urberuaga has been the surprise package of this championship. Entering the competition in round one, the 27 year old from Aulesti defeated Retegi Bi and Begino to win his chance to compete for a place in the semi finals. Nobody gave him much chance on Sunday where he faced Aimar Olaizola, the formidable champion who has two Manomanista txapelas to his name, as well as a further five from other championships. Urberuaga is no slouch, having won the second tier title in 2007 and the second tier pairs championship this year, but his resume was no match for that of Olaizola, and neither was his reputation. However, the underdog proved once again his fighting spirit, and despite ultimate defeat, Olaizola was made to work for his win.
The match started in predictable fashion with Olaizola dominant. The native of Goizueta showed impressive spark with his right, which augers well given his ongoing problems with his right shoulder which earlier in the year looked to have robbed him of some edge. He also defended well and volleyed excellently with both hands. From 3-4 down, Aimar reached a 13-4 with ease and composure. As his supremacy continued, 13-4 became 17-6 and then 21-7 and Urberuaga, whose numerous supporters in the upper tiers of the fronton could do nothing to lift him, appeared down and out. However, the game changed when Urberuaga won the serve in the next point and, with his choice of ball, applied his own tempo to the match. He succeeded in producing a slower game, which suited his game rather than that of Aimar, and allowed him room and time on both sides. Aimar, unexpectedly rattled, called three time outs in an attempt to regain his composure, and regain it he did; the elusive 22nd point came his way.
Urberuaga’s supporters had sensed a miracle in the air but in reality, Aimar was never threatened to the point of panic. He returns to the Manomanista semi finals after last year’s quarter final defeat to eventual winner Oinatz Bengoetxea and will have his sites firmly set on title number three. His next opponent will be Ruben Beloki, whom he will face on May 23rd at Labrit. Beloki has won this tournament on four occasions but the last of these came eight years ago and by his own admission, he now needs to rely on guile to make up for waning speed and firepower. Olaizola, five years his junior, is by contrast very much a man of the moment and if their semi final goes to the form book, it is hard to envisage him failing to reach what would be his fifth Manomanista final.
Scoring sequence: 0-2, 3-2, 3-4, 13-4, 13-5, 14-5, 14-6, 17-6, 21-7, 21-16 and 22-16.
Playing time: 63 minutes and 54 seconds, with 16.18 minutes of actual play