Saturday 20th March, Pamplona
XALA – ZUBIETA beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – BEROIZ 22-21
Pairs Championship Semi Final
On many levels, this match did not matter in the slightest; Xala and Zubieta had already qualified for the final and pre tournament favourites Irujo and Beroiz were already out. Such dead rubbers can be hard to predict, with one side potentially taking a breather and the other perhaps having given up the ghost, but to their great credit, Saturday’s protagonists made quite a match of it. Irujo spoke in the press before the game about showing respect to the paying public, eager to see a contest and in truth, the man from Ibero is never one to lie down and surrender his pride. Xala and Zubieta clearly saw this as a confidence building exercise ahead of the final, which they now enter unbeaten in the semi final stage, the undisputed form pairing.
In fact, the finalists may be considered lucky in their win, for they were chasing the game right up until the final point, when they edged ahead for the first and only time. Irujo and Beroiz came out fighting, perhaps seeking to show that their semi final disintegration had not been total. They put eight points on the board without answer, and as Irujo loosened his arm, the red lead extended to 13-2. However, Xala, for many the player of the tournament, settled into the match and never allowed himself to be overawed by Irujo, who has proved himself fallible in recent weeks. He orchestrated a comeback which turned the match on its head and displayed for all to see the fighting spirit of his duo. This attitude to the game can only serve them well come the final showdown.
So, Irujo and Beroiz did indeed put on the show they promised and only the cold hearted could have left Labrit disappointed. If nothing else, this was a useful guide to form for us, the public, and a high octane workout for Xala and Zubieta, who will now seek to hone their skills and their senses to perfection ahead of their big day out in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The losers bow out with their heads held high, and will certainly be back for more come next year.
Scoring sequence: 8-0, 8-2, 13-2, 13-4, 14-4, 14-7, 15-7, 15-10, 16-10, 16-11, 17-11, 17-13, 18-13, 18-14, 19-14, 19-18, 21-18, 21-22.
Image from: Aspe