Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pelota on the Web, 30th April-2nd March: Manomanista Group A

This weekend we return to Group A in the Manomanista Championship. Martinez de Irujo will be the hot favourite in his match against Asier Olaizola at Labrit tomorrow, but the underdog is talking a good game and will attack Irujo, gloves off. He may also be buoyed by the presence of his injured brother Aimar as botillero. Sunday’s game at Eibar is harder to call. Barriola looked rusty in his opening match against Irujo, and while Bengoetxea lost more narrowly to Olaizola I, he has failed to spark of late. A win is crucial for both and they will both fight to the death.

Friday 30th April, Sestao


23:35 (CET) BERASALUZE IX v URRUTIKOETXEA 2nd Tier Manomanista

Saturday 1st May, Pamplona


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v OLAIZOLA I Manomanista Group A

Sunday 2nd May, Eibar

16:50 (CET) BARRIOLA v BENGOEXTEA VI Manomanista Group A

These matches can be viewed at

Can Asier Olaizola challenge Irujo?

Can Asier Olaizola challenge Irujo?

Image from Noticias de Navarra

Injured Gonzalez out of Manomanista, replaced by Retegi Bi

Aspe have announced that Sebastien Gonzalez sustained an injury to his right leg in his match against Xala on Sunday which will rule him out of the remainder of the Manomanista Championship. Following on from the serious injury to Aimar Olaizola, Gonzalez becomes the second pelotari from Group B to bite the dust. His place will now be taken by Retegi Bi, who had already reached the semi finals in the second tier championship. Retegi Bi’s will be replaced by Merino.

He was taken to the San Miguel Clinic in Pamplona for an MRI scan which revealed a grade I-II thigh injury involving broken fibers. He will be treated initially with rest, cryotherapy and taping. Physiotherapy and physical rehabilitation will follow, and it is hoped that he will return to the fronton in five to six weeks.

Source: Aspe

Gonzalez: on the sidelines

Gonzalez: on the sidelines

Image from: Diario de Navarra, by Eduardo Buxens

Successful surgery for Zubieta

Pairs champion Aitor Zubieta yesterday underwent an arthroscopic operation on his left knee to remove two small fragments of bone which had lodged there as a result of a previous injury. According to Aspe’s chief medical officer José María Urrutia, the recovery period could be shorter than previously expected, and Zubieta could return to the fronton within a month.

Debutant Lemouneau to replace Arretxe II

Asegarce have today announced that French Basque Stephane Lemouneau will make his debut on Monday in Tolosa after signing a contract with the empresa for the next two years. He will take the place of Iker Arretxe in the Second Tier Manomanista championship, after the announcement that Arretxe will move into the Manomanista spot left open by Aimar Olaizola.

Source: Asegarce

Manomanista: Imperious Xala destroys Gonzalez

Sunday 25th April, Eibar


Manomanista Group B

The fans at Astelena surely expected something better. Yves Salaberry and Sebastien Gonzalez were two pelotaris on form, two reigning champions in various formats, and on paper this looked like a good tussle. Xala took the scalp on Gonzalez in the Pairs Final earlier in the month and one might have expected the Cuatro y Medio king to be out for revenge. Aitor Zubieta, Xala’s co-victor in the Pairs, was in the chair as his colleague’s botillero, but this time the forward needed no help; 35.12 minutes later it was all over and Gonzalez appeared as a man broken.

Xala’s power in the opening spell left his opponent reeling, and he never recovered from the blow. The former raced to an 8-0 lead, partly through his own nous, and partly thanks to an error prone opponent. Xala served like a man possessed, giving Gonzalez little room for manoeuvre, and tested his rival with the long ball to great effect. When Gonzalez broke his duck with a gantxo to move to 1-8, there was a palpable sense of relief; perhaps he could make a fist of the tie. However, Xala continued to pile on the pressure and Gonzalez’ subsequent four points arrived in a slow, painful trickle.

Xala’s most impressive weapon was undoubtedly his serve. The statistics tell us that he accrued seven of his points through service winners, including four in a row, but in reality he netted more for even when Gonzalez returned the serve on several other occasions, he was already playing catch up. He also demonstrated the ability to work Gonzalez in open play, commanding points with calmness while his opponent was forced to cover the whole fronton in defence. The pressure was too much to bear for the man from Azkaine, who committed six errors to Xala’s two. To his credit, Gonzalez did not give up, and tried manfully to break the stranglehold, but like his attempted dos paredes at 5-19, his would-be winners were found wanting.

It took Xala a mere 137 balls to complete his demolition job on Gonzalez, who should have been a formidable opponent, and the form pelotari of 2010 has sent a clear signal of intent to all comers. With the injury to Aimar Olaizola, he must now be considered the outright favourite to take Group B and the leading lights of Group A should be fearful. Gonzalez, for his part, must attempt to rise again. No easy task.

Scoring sequence: 0-8, 1-8, 1-10, 2-10, 2-15, 3-15, 3-19, 5-19, 5-22.

Xala on fire

Xala on fire

Image from: El Correo




Manomanista: Iker Arretxe to replace Aimar Olaizola

Asegarce today announced that Iker Arretxe will replace their injured star Aimar Olaizola for the remainder of the Manomanista tournament. Arretxe’s replacement in the Second Tier competition will be revealed tomorrow (Tuesday).

In other Asegarce-related news, Alexis Apraiz has extended his contract with the empresa until 31 August 2014 (source).

Aimar faces a seven month lay-off

As predicted, the injury suffered by Aimar Olaizola in his opening Manomanista match against Patxi Ruiz on Saturday is a serious one.

Top orthopaedic specialist Mikel Sanchez today confirmed what Aimar and his connections feared, with the diagnosis of the so called ‘terrible triad’, a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament coupled with damaged lateral meniscus. He will undergo surgery within the next three weeks before embarking on a recovery period which is expected to last around seven months.

Manomanista: Serious injury to Aimar Olaizola

Saturday 24th April, Pamplona

PATXI RUIZ 8 OLAIZOLA II 5: Match abandoned

Aimar Olaizola, one of the leading lights of the 2010 Manomanista Championship, last night suffered a serious knee injury in his opening match against Patxi Ruiz. The twice former winner from Goizueta headed wide to cover the predicted gantxo from his opponent only for Ruiz to hit to the corner. When Olaizola changed direction abruptly, he felt something give on the outside of his right knee and fell to the floor. In obvious pain, he was attended to by Patxi Ruiz, his botillero Juantxo Apezetxea, Dr Jose Maria Urrutia and Roberto Garcia Arino, the head of Asegarce. He was then helped to the medical centre, bearing no weight on his right leg. Olaizola was later transferred to a clinic in Pamplona where an MRI scan was carried out. The results of this scan were not entirely conclusive. According to Asegarce they indicate a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, the same injury suffered last year by Abel Barriola, from which he has only just returned. However, it is unclear whether the tear is complete or partial. This will only be known after a further examination, probably on Monday, after the swelling has abated. If the tear is total, this will mean surgery, and a lay off of around six months. If a less serious partial rupture is diagnosed, he will still be out of action for a number of weeks, meaning a certain end to his Manomanista campaign.

The match itself was shaping into an interesting contest, with the underdog Patxi Ruiz taking the fight to Aimar. Olaizola made a clinical and efficient start with a service winner, but then showed a touch of unease by hitting high, somewhat over zealously. A similar error from Patxi gave Aimar a 2-1 lead, before his opponent again levelled the scores with a low, skidding crosscourt winner. Both hit wide in successive points, and then Aimar took the lead at 4-3 with a trademark gantxo, hinting that he had clicked firmly into gear. However, Patxi threw caution to the wind with three successive winners, one down the wall, a dos paredes and a crosscourt, to lead 6-4. An error allowed Aimar to claw back to 5-6 before another Patxi winner, this time into the corner, gave the man from Estella a 7-5 lead. It was then that the injury to the pre match favourite occurred.

Asegarce may now replace their star with another pelotari for the remainder of the tournament. The stand-in is likely to be Aritz Begino, who had played off for a place in the competition against Patxi Ruiz. The loss of Aimar Olaizola is a huge blow for the 2010 Manomanista. We wish him all the best for a swift and full recovery.

EITB video: Injury to Aimar

Photo by JC Cordovilla, from Diario Vasco

Pelota on the Web: 23rd-25th April: Manomanista Group B

After wins in Group A last weekend for Martinez de Irujo and Olaizola I, it is now the turn of Group B to take centre stage in the Manomanista Championship. Olaizola II, twice a former winner, will be the red hot favourite for his match on Saturday against Patxi Ruiz. Sunday’s game is rather harder to call as both Gonzalez and Xala have been highly impressive over the past weeks and months. Xala, winner with Zubieta of the Pairs crown on 4th April, may however have the edge. There is also a game in the 2nd Tier Manomanista Championship between Leitza and Retegi Bi.

Friday 23rd April, Estella


23:35 (CET) LEITZA v RETEGI BI 2nd Tier Manomanista

Saturday 24th April, Pamplona


Followed by: OLAIZOLA II v PATXI RUIZ Manomanista

Sunday 24th April, Eibar


18:05 (CET) GONZALEZ v XALA Manomanista

These matches can be viewed online at

Patxi Ruiz plays Aimar Olaizola

Patxi Ruiz plays Aimar Olaizola

Image from: Diario de Navarra




Manomanista: ominous Martinez de Irujo shows his extra gear

Sunday 18th April, Eibar


Manomanista Group A

The world of sport has been kind to Eibar in recent weeks. Earlier this month, the Bizkaian town hosted the queen stage of the Tour of the Basque Country, which finished atop its famous Arrate climb, and cheered Samuel Sanchez to victory. The win was important for home team Euskaltel Euskadi as it represented their first of the season in a year where performances are vital to secure future sponsorship. On Sunday, in a different sport, another man sought to pull off his first big victory of 2010 in Eibar; Abel Barriola had not played in the Manomanista Championship for two years due to injury and this was a red letter day for the man from Leitza. All eyes were on him as he took on reigning champion Juan Martinez de Irujo in a game which was seen by many as an exam, a test of his recovery, his fitness and his mettle. How would this former champion, so much missed, fare on his return to the biggest stage of all?

The crowd at Astelena was not what one could call a mighty throng, but there existed a palpable sense of occasion nonetheless. The cheer which greeted the protagonists in the headline match was infinitely louder than anything aimed at the players in the doubles encounter which preceded it, and the attendant pressure manifested itself in markedly different ways in each pelotari. Irujo came out as if determined to display his credentials to the world, a defending champion willing to lay his cards on the table. Barriola in contrast looked ill at ease, like a man feeling his way and sinking. Before he had time to breath, he found himself 0-5 down and all at sea. Barriola’s first point, surely met by a sigh of relief, came courtesy of a falta from Irujo and his subsequent service winner seemed to signal better times ahead. However, it was not to be as Irujo once again surged forwards, out maneuvering Barriola, out hitting him and slaying his spirit by turning defence into attack. With the score at 9-2, Barriola took his second time out, the act of a desperate man.

At this juncture, the outcome of the game appeared all but decided. The gulf between the players both in score and in demeanor was surely unbridgeable. However, Barriola, though an underdog here, is not a minnow and he saw fit to remind us of this fact. His fortunes shifted with the point which took the score to 3-9; Barriola mustered all his resources to retrieve a txoko from Irujo before a crosscourt strike snatched the point. The crowd, or at least his supporters and the neutrals, roared its collective approval. Barriola then forced two errors from his opponent, the first with an excellent serve and the second through a barrage of long, high balls which wore Irujo down. Irujo pulled a point back at 10-5 but Barriola pushed on again to level the scores at 11-11. The true Barriola shone brightly in this period of play. There were careless errors from Irujo, but the underdog served with brilliance and controlled his rival in the subsequent rallies, punishing him with his drop and sotamano. The game now appeared poised and the crowd expectant.

What followed, however, was a let down for all but diehard fans of Irujo. The champion, as champions do, stepped up a gear and found an extra level which flummoxed Barriola and left him for dead. Barriola’s rot started with a falta, which allowed Irujo to regain the lead at 12-11. In the next points, he hit wide and then low on return of serve before succumbing to a drop and a dos paredes from Irujo, who had regained his swagger. Barriola managed one more point thanks to his opponent striking the side wall too high, but in reality it was now one way traffic. Irujo, who finished Barriola off mercilessly with a lightening bolt to the wide court, was simply too good.

It would be easy to conclude that Barriola failed his exam, but that would perhaps be too harsh. He has recently returned from a serious knee injury which robbed him of a year of action, and while he performed well in his few matches leading up to the Manomanista, a game against a rampant Irujo is an altogether different proposition. He looked ring rusty, and his match readiness will improve with time. Time is of course not wholly on his side as he needs to find his mojo swiftly to progress beyond the group stages, but he can be encouraged by his performance in the middle third of this match; he showed that he is capable of bossing points, and he can mount a serious challenge if he finds his consistency. As for Irujo, he can reflect on a job very well done. He is back and hungry after a disappointing end to the Pairs Championship and it would be hard to bet against him. The show is on the road.

Scoring sequence: 5-0, 5-1, 5-2, 6-2, 9-2, 9-3, 9-5, 10-5, 10-7, 11-7, 11-11, 19-11, 19-12, 22-12.

Irujo and Barriola, rivals in Eibar

Irujo and Barriola, rivals in Eibar

Image from: Aspe