Xala and Zubieta grab a point in battle royal

Sunday 7th March, Logrono


Pairs Semi Finals

The second semi final in the Pairs Championship saw the second upset as Yves Salaberry and Aitor Zubieta defeated Augusto Ibanez and Inigo Pascual in a tight and suspense filled encounter at Adarraga. The main thrust of the action took place at the rear of the fronton, as Pascual and Zubieta battled for supremacy through the lengthy and punishing rallies which characterised the match. Pascual pummelled his opposite number throughout, with power in defence and attacking verve but the excellent Zubieta held him off with aplomb. He spoke afterwards of his pair’s plan to target Pascual, and while his rival would not be bowed, Zubieta fought and survived. The forward game was not of the same quality, with Titin largely squeezed out, but Zubieta’s support gave Xala an excellent platform and it was he who did the majority of the damage.

In the post match analysis, much of the talk, at least from Titin and Pascual, centred on the balls, which they claimed showed excessive flight. Despite a resignation about the supposed state of the playing material, the losing pair remained upbeat. Next week they face Irujo and Beroiz in a do or die encounter after which the losers will go home, but the reputation of their opponents notwithstanding, Pascual emphasised their belief in their game. If anyone can fight to the death, it is he and the dogged Titin.

Xala and Zubieta, with their precious point pocketed, face Gonzalez and Laskurain in the next rotation. Zubieta spoke of the ‘unbelievable’ play of Pascual and was under no illusions as to the defensive battle he will face against Laskurain, who is in excellent form. Xala focussed on the atmosphere of the evening, characterised by a hugely partisan Riojan crowd which never ceased in its vocal support for Titin. A minority whistled the winning pair but instead of denting their fight, this served only to spur Xala on in greater courage. As the forward stated, any game against Gonzalez and Laskurain will be ‘complicated’ but he declared he and Zubieta ready for ‘work and sweat’. From here on, every point matters.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 3-1, 5-1, 5-4, 8-4, 8-7, 13-7, 13-13, 14-14, 16-14, 16-15, 17-17, 17-20, 18-20, 19-21, 19-22.

Xala: work and sweat

Xala: 'work and sweat'

Sources: Aspe, Diario La Rioja; Image from: Manista

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