Monthly Archives: January 2010

Defenders call the shots as Titin and Pascual record another win

Friday 29th January, Amorebieta-Etxano


On Friday night, the people of Amorebieta witnessed an enthralling match, which ebbed and flowed like the tide of the Bizkaia coastline. As is often the case, most eyes were on the forwards. Titin III has played in a way which has belied his years in this tournament so far and applies boundless determination to everything he does. Tenacity is the word which comes to mind at the name of Berasaluze VIII. Pablito is a compact cannonball of a player who throws himself at anything and everything. However fascinating the fight up front though, the defenders were the difference here. Their trade is not as glamorous, not as flashy, as that of their attacking partners. It is rarely left to defenders to fling pinpoint perfect gantxos across the frontis, or to make the crowd gasp, but without a solid defender there is no platform for attack. Rare is the defender who can make something positive out of a desperate rearguard action, and Titin must therefore give thanks daily for the presence of Inigo Pascual at his rear. Berasaluze had no such magic carpet to ride.

The match began positively for Pablito and Begino. The Asegarce pair had failed to fire in the tournament, as they did last year, and for a while it looked as if they had resurrected their touch, assuming a 1-7 lead. The ball was set in motion by two rather ring rusty errors from Titin, but winners abounded too. Berasaluze’s serve was a dominant weapon which set the scene for several beautifully worked set pieces, and Begino, showing a clear intention to test Pascual, managed a rebote which proved unplayable. However, the Aspe pair rallied with intent, drew level at 7-7, and then edged ahead. Begino committed his first two errors at this juncture and they could be seen as symptomatic of what was to come. Pascual’s long range hitting game swung into gear and Titin loosened his arm, outmanoeuvring Berasaluze easily before finishing him off by hitting into clear space.

The middle phase of the encounter was tight and edgy, with the pairs tied at 9-9, 10-10 and 12-12. There were impressive winners from both forwards, as well as, less positively for Berasaluze, a falta, and the battle of the gargantuan strikes from the defenders continued: Pascual sent a searing ball spiralling long and high at a hapless Begino on 9-9 and Begino managed another impressive rebote on 12-12. The Asegarce partnership fought their way to a three point lead at 12-15 and looked composed and set to battle to the death.

However, the game swung in the blink of an eye, and the sea change centred on Begino. In the last nine points of the match, which took the score from 13-15 to 22-15, Begino made seven errors. His misdemeanours came in all forms, from total miscues, to misdirected and mistimed strikes, to overambitious attempted winners. He continued to test Pascual with high bombs but the Aspe defender was more than up to the task, returning everything with interest. The miracle Pascual pulled off to take the score to 20-15 was the shot of the match; pinned to the back wall, he did well to return a long ball in the right direction. Few could have turned it into a winner. True, the losing pair assumed he would not make it until it was too late to get in position for the return, but it underlined both the skill of Pascual and the never say die attitude of his partnership. As Begino lost the plot, his opposite number took up the thread and created a masterpiece.

It is obvious from the mounting error count of Begino that the varying fortunes of the defenders decided the outcome of this match. Pascual, while not free from all error, was a tower of strength, whereas Begino, for all his clever early tactics, crumbled in an instant. Titin also played a blinding game, all swagger and fight. Berasaluze was almost Titin’s equal and deserves credit for some exhilarating play, but Begino became a millstone. This was the third win of the tournament for Titin and Pascual, who now go second in the table. Berasaluze and Begino need to initiate a winning streak if they are going to play a part in the semi finals.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-7, 7-7, 8-7, 8-8, 8-9, 9-9, 10-9, 10-10, 10-12, 11-12, 12-12, 12-15, 22-15.

Inigo Pascual had an excellent night

Inigo Pascual had an excellent night

Image from: Diario de Navarra

Pelota on the web this weekend

Friday 29th January, Amorebieta-Etxano



Saturday 30th January, Pamplona


Sunday 31st January, Eibar

16:45 (CET) DIAZ – OTEIZA*v RETEGI BI – CECILIO 2nd Tier Pairs


This week’s other Pairs Championship match is between OLAIZOLA I – APRAIZ  and XALA – ZUBIETA and takes place on Monday 1st February (Tolosa, 17:30). Patxi Ruiz is injured, hence the appearance of Apraiz in his place.

#Mendizabal replaces Urrutikoetxea, who is suffering from tendinitis in his left shoulder. He may miss three matches.

*Oteiza replaces Apraiz, who plays in the main Pairs Championship on Monday as a substitute for Patxi Ruiz.

^Otxandorena replaces Beloki, who is injured.

To watch any of these matches, visit

Alexis Apraiz (left) enters the fray in place of Patxi Ruiz

Alexis Apraiz (left) enters the fray in place of Patxi Ruiz

Image from: El Correo Digital

Patxi Ruiz injured, to be replaced by Apraiz

Patxi Ruiz will miss Monday’s Pairs Championship match in Tolosa after straining a gluteal muscle. He will be treated with a combination of rest, physiotherapy and anti-inflmmatories. Alexis Apraiz steps into the breach to partner Asier Olaizola against Xala and Zubieta. Jabier Otezia will substitute for Apraiz in the Second Tier Pairs, in which he plays with Inigo Diaz.

Source: Asegarce

More injury woes for Patxi Ruiz

More injury woes for Patxi Ruiz

Image from: El Correo Digital

Capellan’s last match

Aspe have announced that Miguel Capellan will play his last professional match on Sunday 14th February at his home fronton, Adarraga in Logrono. His will be the first match of the evening and it will be followed by a brief tribute to the 39 year old Riojan pelotari whose career has spanned over seventeen years. Capellan will play two matches before his last hurrah, on Monday in Tolosa and on 7th February in Eibar.

Image from: La Rioja

Pairs Championship wins for Titin III-Pascual and Gonzalez-Laskurain

Sunday 24th January, Logrono


This was a comprehensive thrashing by Titin and Pascual, who were superior to their rivals in every department. The fronton in the Riojan capital of Logrono bears a large portrait of Titin, watching down over the players like a patron. When the man himself is on court, his brooding double presence must prey on the minds of his opponents, especially when one factors in the particularly partisan crowd. Perhaps it was the Titin factor which got so badly to Bengoetxea and Otxandorena on Sunday, save for the period at the very beginning, they were never in the game. Naturally, Titin and Pascual focussed much of their attention on Otxandorena, standing in for the experienced but injured Ruben Beloki. In truth, the substitute did not play a wholly bad match despite several costly errors, and at least early on appeared unfazed by the pressure. However, he was up against a metronome of a hitter in Pascual who outplayed him with total aplomb and with no error until the game was all but won. Up front, the story was similarly one sided with home boy Titin full of vim and vigour, and bristling with determination. Bengoetxea, himself usually so full of drive, appeared lacklustre and showed off his enormous talents only sporadically. His timing and precision were both lacking. The result seemed inevitable as the image of Titin looked down approvingly at his own triumph.

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 2-2, 3-2, 3-3, 7-3, 7-4, 8-4, 8-5, 10-5, 10-6, 11-6, 17-6, 17-7, 19-7, 19-10, 22-10.

Monday 25th January, Tolosa


The final score at Beotibar fails to tell the full story of a match which could have been a total sporting disaster for the Asegarce pair of Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz. It appeared as if Cuatro y Medio champion Sebastien Gonzalez and his partner in crime Aritz Laskurain were poised to complete the biggest win of the tournament when they stood at 21-6. It is thanks to Olaizola that some face was saved as the trailing pair pulled back nine points, largely thanks to their forward who pulled off some glorious rearguard gantxos. However, it was too little too late for the man from Goizueta as Gonzalez and Laskurain were utterly dominant up until that point. Gonzalez took the first five points to wrest the initiative firmly away from his opponents and they never looked like coming back. The winning pair worked extremely well as a team with Laskurain especially dominant, allowing Patxi no quarter and reducing Olaizola to the role of defender. Gonzalez and Laskurain are warming nicely to the task in this tournament and showed with this their second win that they are a force to be reckoned with. Asier and Patxi will need to improve markedly if they are to be viewed as serious contenders. (source: Gara, via Aspe)

Scoring sequence: 0-5, 1-5, 2-7, 4-10, 5-14, 5-20, 6-21, 15-21, 15-22.

Adarraga fronton in Logrono

Adarraga fronton in Logrono

Image from: Wikimedia

Backs decide the outcome as rampant Aimar falls just short

Saturday 23rd January, Pamplona


Pairs Championship Quarter Finals

Federer v Nadal, All Blacks v Springboks, Real Madrid v Barcelona, Martinez de Irujo v Olaizola II. Such is the fervour surrounding any match between the two greatest players in the sport that countless column inches are devoted to their relative prospects, tickets are grabbed like hot cakes and the world of pelota descends into a combination of anticipation and ecstasy. Labrit, an atmospheric cathedral of the sport, was a swirling cauldron of passion last night as a full house greeted the two warriors with rapturous applause. In doubles however, there are four players. The stars really did come out to play in Pamplona, but it was with their respective partners that the destiny of the match lay, and their contrasting fortunes stood at the heart of the struggle.

Irujo and Olaizola delivered a battle royal on all fronts. A face off between the two is always a fascinating spectacle, as much for their differing styles and demeanours as for their stunning play; Irujo, all fist pumping and snarling, like a caged lion, and Olaizola calculating, clinical and only occasionally wearing his heart on his sleeve. Their defence was almost more impressive than their attack, with Olaizola showing incredible skill and resolve in chasing down each Irujo txoko and Irujo himself doing the seemingly impossible to counter Aimar’s stinging left arm. The match was close and tense for 18 points and there was little if anything to choose between the pairs.

The decisive period of the game came in its middle spell and centred on Oier Mendizabal. Mendizabal can be a brilliant defender, solid and dependable. He knows what it is like to win this competition, having stood on the top step of the podium with Aimar two years ago, but his performance here was not that of a champion. The Aspe pair bombarded him with long, high balls, perhaps looking to nullify the impact of Olaizola, and the tactic worked a treat. Most had identified the young and inexperienced Beroiz as the weak link amongst the four but he proved them categorically wrong, putting his more seasoned rival in the shade. Where Mendizabal lacked direction, timing and power, Beroiz had them in abundance, and 9-9 became 20-11.

At this juncture, many fans could have been forgiven for heading to the exits, and many writers probably had their reports all but written, but this was to reckon without the Aimar factor. With little help from his waning partner, the man from Goizueta took the match by the scruff of the neck and almost took the spoils singlehandedly. His astonishing run began with two trademark gantxo winners and for what must have seemed like an eternity for Irujo, he utterly bulldozed his rival. The defence of both forwards had been textbook earlier in the game but here Aimar almost defied belief in his ability to return everything his opponents could throw at him. Irujo looked stunned and shook his head incredulously. When he miscued to take the score to 21-20, the shock comeback win was well and truly on. The Asegarce pair however, fell fractionally short, and perhaps fittingly, it was a Mendizabal error which sealed their fate. But for the sterling work of Beroiz, Irujo would have crumbled to defeat against a machine called Aimar Olaizola, who finished with twelve scintillating winners.

Olaizola and Mendizabal must surely have felt crushed by the nature of their defeat but they can take heart in the level of play of the former. If both can fire on the same day, their partnership will be an electric one, and there is a long way to go before semi final places are decided; they have the time and the resources to make it. The victors must thank their lucky stars for Beroiz, who was the difference between the sides. The young talent started the tournament nervously but is fast becoming one of its stars. This was a tussle worthy of a final; how many people will now pray for a rematch at Easter?

Scoring sequence:1-0, 1-1, 1-5, 5-5, 7-5, 7-6, 8-6, 8-8, 8-9, 9-9, 14-9, 14-10, 17-10, 17-11, 20-11, 20-17, 21-17, 21-20, 22-20

Another chapter has been written in the saga of Olaizola II and Irujo

Another chapter has been written in the saga of Olaizola II and Irujo

Image from: Gara

Xala and Zubieta rise from the ashes

Friday 22nd January, Irun 


Pairs Championship Quarter Finals

Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino entered the fray in Irun as clear favourites, having won their first match in convincing style and lost their second by only a slender margin to the formidable pairing of Irujo and Beroiz. Berasaluze, always a handful owing to his never say die approach to the game, had looked in fine form, backed up by a typically solid partner in Begino. In contrast, Xala and Zubieta had lost both their matches, the last a marathon encounter with Aimar Olaizola and Oier Mendizabal, which must have sapped their resources both physically and mentally. However, form is only a guide to likely outcome.

Almost from the outset, Berasaluze looked to be chasing the game against an opponent in Xala who appeared determined to put the trials of the previous week behind him. After the Asegarce pair had won the first two points, the man from Lapurdi found his touch with an innocuous looking dab into the corner which Berasaluze was ill placed to reach. He then stamped his authority with a pinpoint gantxo before Zubieta got in on the act with a winner of his own from long range. In the blink of an eye, the favoured pair was 2-7 down.

Berasaluze showed flashes of his accustomed class and a recovery looked to be on the cards for the beleaguered Asegarce pairing. The diminutive forward outmanoeuvred Xala before volleying a winner to the corner to cut the lead to four points, and followed this with an airez winner and an aerial bombardment of Zubieta which eventually yielded fruit. However, the respite was temporary and Xala was not to be halted. Berasaluze and Begino would never get within three points of their rivals. The chief bread winner for the Aspe pair was the aforementioned Xala, who fired off a total of nine commanding winners, but Zubieta was the rock on which the victory was built. Zubieta has played well throughout the early stages of this tournament but here he grew in stature as part of a formidable partnership and eclipsed Begino commandingly.

The body language of the protagonists mirrored the scoreboard, as the magic figure of 22 came ever closer for the Aspe pair. Berasaluze is under normal circumstances irrepressible, a man you would want at your side in a fight, but here he knew the game was up and showed it. Apart from the odd shout of encouragement in the direction of Begino, he gave way only to silent, muttered curses. In contrast, Xala and Zubieta appeared as prize fighters who relished every moment of the conflict. Their desire for victory was encapsulated in their fervent protest at 11-15 when an apparent crosscourt winner from Xala was called wide. Last week’s gruelling defeat had done nothing to dent their resolve. As winners flowed, Xala punched the air in sheer glee. To his credit, Berasaluze tried to break out of his malaise but his efforts were often tense and hurried, such as the over arm volley attempt on 13-17 which should have netted him the point but instead fell short. While Xala flowed, he stuttered, and the few points gained were too little too late.

Berasaluze and Begino have the potential to make an impressive mark on this tournament but they will have to put this stinging defeat behind them and remember how to play as they know they can. Xala and Zubieta, clearly and rightly delighted, can now march on in confidence. Their next opponents will be Olaizola I and Patxi Ruiz, who look in better shape this year than last. With the belief their trip to Irun must have instilled however, they will be firm favourites.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-7, 6-7, 6-11, 7-11, 7-14, 8-14, 8-15, 10-15, 10-16, 13-16, 13-21, 15-21, 15-22.

Aitor Zubieta showed his worth

Aitor Zubieta showed his worth

Image from:

Barriola on the road to recovery

On Tuesday, Abel Barriola held his first training session since rupturing a cruciate ligament in his right knee last April. He was able to play for an hour, alongside Mikel Olazabal and Ladis Galarza, without any adverse effects and is said to be able to run normally. There is no date set for his return to competition as a full recovery is the primary goal. The pelotari from Leitza visits Tolosa five times a week for physical rehabilitation exercises. He is also, apparently, riding his bike several times a week up Mount Lizarraldea in order to feed his dogs, who are kept there. It seems there is light at the end of the tunnel for a much missed player.

Source: Diario Vasco

Barriola is on the comeback trail

Barriola is on the comeback trail

Image from: Diario de Navarra

Matches on the web this weekend

Friday 22nd January, Irun

22:00 (CET) ARRETXE II – IBAI ZABALA v ARITZ LASA – MERINO 2nd Tier Pairs Championship

23:20 (CET) BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO v XALA – ZUBIETA Pairs Championship

Saturday 23rd January, Pamplona


Sunday 24th January, Logrono



*Inaki Otxandorena replaces Ruben Beloki, who has a knee injury. Beloki has been suffering from non-specific knee pain which has been diagnosed as a bone edema. He is expected to be out for two to three weeks, according to Asegarce.

This week’s other Pairs Championship match takes place on Monday 25th January at 17:30 in Tolosa, where OLAIZOLA I – PATXI RUIZ play GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN.

The pick of this round of matches in the Pairs Championship is undoubtedly Saturday’s encounter which pits Juan Martinez de Irujo against Aimar Olaizola. Matches between the two great forwards are always highly anticipated affairs, and many eyes will also be on young Mikel Beroiz, who made great strides last week, in his fight with Oier Mendizabal in defence. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino should start as favourites tonight in Irun, having run Irujo and Beroiz extremely close last week, while the focus in Logrono will be on the role of Inaki Otxandorena who stands in for the injured Ruben Beloki. Asier Olaizola and Patxi Ruiz will be buoyed by last week’s victory and have the potential to make life hard for Cuatro y Medio champion Sebastien Gonzalez, and Aritz Laskurain.

For live coverage, visit

Aimar and Oier victorious in pelota marathon

Monday 18th January, Mungia


Pairs Championship Quarter Finals

Both pairs who lined up for Monday’s match in Mungia were in desperate need of a point, having lost their first matches in the previous week, and were obviously prepared to fight until the death. This titanic match lasted only six minutes shy of two hours and involved 1112 strikes of the ball. For the losers, Yves Sallaberry and Aitor Zubieta, this does not spell the end for it is still early days in this competition, but the psychological blow may very well tell.

The game lacked pure brilliance from any party but it made up for this shortcoming with raw excitement and the drama of human battle. Xala and Zubieta made it their tactic to test Mendizabal’s mettle, showering him with long balls. He was bailed out by Olaizola who played a tactially astute game, doing his utmost to shoulder as much of his partner’s work as he could. Zubieta played an excellent role in the Aspe gameplan and gave so much that he fell to cramp with the score at 19-18. Aimar and Oier kept their noses in front for the whole match, aided by an excellent start which saw them take a six point lead on two occasions, but the match was a struggle from beginning to end and they never had it all their own way. Such a marathon must have left a physical toll on the victorious pair, but they survived the test and their morale will be sky high when they face favourites Irujo and Beroiz this weekend.

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-2, 8-2, 8-3, 9-3, 9-4, 10-4, 10-9, 12-9, 12-10, 14-10, 14-11, 17-11, 17-16, 19-16, 19-18 and 22-18

The 2008 champions came through

The 2008 champions came through

Source: Diario Vasco, Image from: Diario de Navarra