Sunday 9th May, Eibar
XALA beat PATXI RUIZ 22-6
Manomanista Group B
Patxi Ruiz arrived at Astelena full of confidence on Sunday. He had defeated Aritz Begino to take his place in the championship on merit and looked strong in his match against Aimar Olaizola until the latter’s injury caused proceedings to be abandoned. He talked a good game and believed he could back it up. However, 36 minutes and 7 seconds later and Ruiz was a shadow of the pelotari he wished to be as Yves Salaberry completed a performance of such brutal class that all future opponents must be quaking in their boots. With his 22-6 annihilation of Patxi Ruiz, ‘Xala’ became the first player to book a certain place in the last four. The second berth available to players from Group B will be taken either by Ruiz or by Retegi Bi, who play each other on May 22nd at Labrit.
The hapless Ruiz, although he made only three errors, was never afforded a look in by Xala, who struck fourteen winners to only one error. Before Ruiz could gather himself for an assault on the scoreboard, the dominant forward had scored ten points without reply. Xala directed the majority of his serves to the left wall, and gave them air, so that before Ruiz could counter, he had time to tap winners into the front court. He was unflappable, immovable, unstoppable, and appeared in a different league. Ruiz mustered three points before Xala surged again, moving from 10-3 to 14-3, and then to 21-4. Ruiz, who never gave up trying, saved two match points but the victory was only a matter of time for his opponent, who seized his place in the semi finals with the 163rd ball of the match.
The Eibar fans rose to Xala with sincere warmth and respect, for Patxi Ruiz was hit by a tidal wave of power and grace the like of which is seen rarely. Ruiz can still qualify for the last four however, and must find a way to restore his positive outlook over the next two weeks. This will be no easy task. The victor, on the other hand, appears on an express train bound for the final. Will this be the year of Xala?
Scoring sequence: 0-10, 3-10, 3-14, 4-14, 4-21, 6-21, 6-22.
Source: Diario Vasco
Image from Noticias de Navarra, by Ainara Garcia