Saturday 23rd October, Zeanuri: GONZALEZ beat LEIZA 22-12
It fell to the small Bizkaian town of Zeanuri to host the first second round tie of the Cuatro y Medio championship and an enthusiastic but not overly large audience clearly relished the favour. The players in question were 32 year old Sebastian Gonzalez from ASPE and Asegarce’s 29 year old Inigo Leiza. On paper, Gonzalez was the favourite here but Leiza must have been brimming with confidence after an excellent win over Asier Berasaluze last weekend. Leiza, on body language alone, looked more alert to the task while Gonzalez appeared, as he often does, rather cool and lackadaisical, serving ten pasas in the course of the game. However, it was the latter who displayed the necessary extra gear when the going got tough.
For the first eight points it seemed as if we would witness the close battle for which all had been hoping. Leiza opened proceedings (after the first Gonzalez pasa that is) with a gantxo winner which seemed to signal some intent and the pair traded blows in turn. A fabulous tactical play from Leiza left Gonzalez totally out of position and led to stalemate at 4-4, at which point the same player called a time out which perversely seemed to disrupt his flow, for despite continuing service problems, Gonzalez surged ahead. The man from Lapurdi took the next seven points with such commanding ease that it looked like a light had been turned on somewhere inside him. He hit crosscourt winners in both directions, a txoko winner straight from a masterful second serve, and airez and two dosparedes in a demonstration of his full attacking armoury. Leiza’s second time out, which came at 4-9, was born of a need to avert meltdown. However, the delantero from Lemona somehow managed to haul himself out of the black hole and gradually clawed his way back to touching distance. Leiza, in contrast to his opponent, was in command of his serve and it was this which gave him much of his success. This was especially the case with the txoko winner which took him to 10-13, set up purely by a strong serve which left Gonzalez stranded far too far back. Gonzalez though, sensing the encroaching danger, once again moved up a level and cruised to 18-10, barely breaking a sweat. From this position of strength conceding two further points to Leiza was of no matter. Ironically, after his ten pasas, Gonzalez took the match with a masterful serve to the right which Leiza could not even reach.
This tie did not live up to the high expectations of some but Gonzalez was a clear and worthy victor, outshining Leiza in every aspect of the game bar the serve. He will now face the terrier like Pablo Berasaulze in the quarter finals on November 1, when he can expect a far tougher challenge.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 3-2, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 5-4, 11-4, 11-6, 12-6, 12-7, 13-7, 13-10, 14-10, 18-10, 18-11, 19-11, 19-12 and 22-12.
Image from larioja.com