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.
Photo by JC Cordovilla, from Diario Vasco