Monthly Archives: August 2010

San Sebastian Final: Victory for the Leitzarras after injury to Xala

Friday 27th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


It was an anti-climactic end to a match which had everything. With the score on 10-12 in favour of Bengoetxea and Barriola, the latter raced forward to retrieve a txoko from Xala. He got there, and dived, but the ball hit him on the rebound, giving the point to the opposing pair. Such was the drama of the point, in much the same vein as every point in this absorbing encounter, that one could have been forgiven for missing the stumble of Xala as his knee went sideways in the execution of his winner. As he sat, slumped against the wall, a resigned shrug told the story. He was hurt, and departed for treatment. He returned to the fray, briefly, but to continue was not worth the risk of lasting damage. Two points later it was all up for the pair in red, and thus came to an end a game, which although only partially played, was as long as a complete match of average length. Nobody can say what might have been.

The match started with a whitewash by Bengoextea and Barriola, the men from the same small Navarrese town of Leitza. Bengoetxea was supreme, looking every inch the player who took the 2008 Manomanista by storm. The first point, which ended in the first of his nine winners, was a tactical tour de force. Apraiz took took it on and attacked his opposite number, but Bengoetxea wrested the initiative before whipping the ball into space in the wide court. Xala almost nailed the second point, but pushed his attempted winner wide, and the Asegarce forward continued his masterclass, with five winners in the next five points, showing the immense range of his skill. In the point which took the score to 3-0, he dealt Apraiz a merciless working over before barreling one above his head. The next was won with a drop before he flummoxed Apraiz again. A service winner stretched the lead to six, and a textbook long serve-gantxo-drop routine took it to seven. Barriola was faultless as Bengoetxea’s foil, and there was nothing their opponents could do.

However, the tide turned. Bengoetxea, who had been stretching throughout the game, left the fronton at 7-0 for attention, and when he returned, he found a changed opposition. The reds gained their first point from Bengoetxea’s first mistake, and the second came from a Xala serve. The leaders continued to score in ones and twos, but the real surge by Xala and Apraiz came at 4-10, upon which they added five points without reply. Notable here was the reverse in the fortunes of the defenders. Hitherto, Barriola had been irreproachable, but Apraiz was not intimidated by his reputation and seized the initiative. Barriola’s dip started when he got utterly mixed up close in to the wall and pushed one wide. He withstood some searing pressure in the point which followed, but subsequently cracked under Apraiz’s salvo, going short and low in consecutive points. Xala, too, moved up a gear, tricking Bengoetxea superbly at 2-8, and firing merciless winners at 6-10 and 8-10. With the reds only one point in arrears, it was anybody’s game.

Bengoetxea and Barriola relieved some pressure, restoring their two point lead after the former ended a full scale war of a point with a crosscourt winner, but threw it away immediately with miscued sitter of a txoko. The pattern repeated itself as Bengoetxea volleyed cleverly into space, before the txoko winner in which Xala’s knee gave out. After the treatment break, Apraiz struck low before Benogetxea grabbed a three point lead with an easy winner into the corner, but Xala appeared immobile and dejected; he could not go on.

There is no way of knowing what could have happened in the remainder of this extraordinary match, so full of gargantuan points, stunning defence and virtuosic winners. A rout had seemed on the cards, but Xala and Apraiz showed an iron will to fight, and stormed back to within an inch of the lead. When the accident happened, Bengoetxea and Barriola appeared to be in the process of regaining their calm, and one has to concede that the best pair in the tournament took the spoils. Their semi final performance was a display for the ages, and in the early part of this game they showed that their level there was no fluke. Barriola took home the trophy for the player of the tournament, and save for his momentary slip in the transitional part of the final, he was near faultless. Bengoetxea too was in a higher league, full of venom, attack and guile. The fans can only hope that they will be afforded the chance to renew their partnership very soon.

Xala was diagnosed with a sprained right knee in the aftermath of the match, and will undergo further medical tests tomorrow to determine the extent of the injury.

Scoring sequence: 0-7,2-7,2-8,3-8,3-9,4-9,4-10,9-10,9-11,10-11,10-12,11-12,11-14

Winners/errors: Bengoetxea VI 9/3, Xala 4/3, Barriola 0/3, Apraiz 1/2

Total match time: 1:02.03

Playing time: 22.45

Balls played: 471

Oinatz and Abel, victors in San Sebastian

Oinatz and Abel, victors in San Sebastian

Image from Gara, by Jon Urbe

Pelota on ETB-Sat, 27th-29th August: San Sebastian Final

Friday 27th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


23:25 (CEST) XALA – APRAIZ v BENGOETXEA VI – BARRIOLA Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian Final

Sunday 29th August, Zarautz



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San Sebastian: Xala and Apraiz finalists at Atano III

Tuesday 24th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian Semi Final

The final of the San Sebastian tournament will be between two pairs whose players are drawn from opposing empresas. Yves Salaberry and Alexis Apraiz booked their place on Tuesday, beating the established pairing of Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino, to take their place in Friday’s showdown with the men from Leitza, Bengoetxea VI and Barriola. The game was won in the forward battle, where Xala stood head and shoulders above Pablo, who had a night to forget. Xala signalled his intent from the word go with two crosscourt winners which verged on the nonchalant, and he never looked back, committing one solitary error in nearly twenty minutes of playing time. In the final at Zarautz, Xala was very far from his usual self, but here we saw the play from him to which we have become accustomed this year. Never ruffled, he played with icy calm, hitting ten winners, and exuding utter control. He finished the match as he started it, with an easy winner, to further confirm his status as man of the match. In contrast, Berasaluze leaked errors, committing eight in total. He was potent at times, scoring eight winners too, but these were essentially wiped out by his inconsistency. He fought hard, as ever, but Xala was an obstacle too far for a man in less than his greatest form.

The backs were more evenly matched, both making four errors. Apraiz, for his part, grew in confidence as the match progressed, finding a nice rhythm and a cool head. The majority of his mistakes came early on in the game, and he offered high level support to his attacking game-winner. Begino was perhaps the more inventive of the two, managing three outright winners, and was strong from the rear of the court, but the crucial battle occurred in front of him and Begino; no amount of stoic support could have saved Pablo. On the evidence of their semi final, Bengoetxea and Barriola will be hard to beat on Friday. Bengoetxea has been in fine fettle of late, and looked totally at ease with his new partner. Apraiz will have to play out of his skin to upset Barriola, who is currently playing like a Rolls Royce, and Xala will need another game like Tuesday’s if he and Apraiz are to lift the silverware.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 2-3, 2-4, 4-4, 4-6, 6-6, 7-6, 7-7, 7-13, 8-13, 8-14, 11-14, 11-15, 12-15, 12-18, 14-18, 14-20, 16-20, 16-22.

Winners/Errors: Xala 10/1, Berasaluze VIII 8/8, Apraiz 0/4, Begino 3/4

Balls played: 393

Match time: 51.56

Playing time: 19.20

Apraiz offered good support

Apraiz offered good support

Image from Diario Vasco by Michelena

San Sebastian: Crushing Victory for Leitza’s Famous Sons

Monday 23rd August, San Sebastian


Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian Semi Final

This was an extraordinary match, in the main for the wrong reasons. It would be unfair to overlook the stunning play of Oinatz Bengoetxea and Abel Barriola, but inevitably the post mortem centres around Titin and Zubieta, both supposedly in excellent form, and their utter implosion. On the face of it, they should have been the better oiled partnership, having played together on many occasions. Bengoetxea and Barriola come from the same town, Leitza, in north western Navarre, and know each other well, but are unaccustomed to playing as colleagues. In the Manomanista final of 2008, which will go down in the civic annals and in local legend, Leitza ruled the sport, with Bengoetxea defeating Barriola to take the greatest prize of all, but the prospect of seeing the towns most famous sons in tandem was almost as enticing. Their collective virtuosity and their obvious empathy on Monday night makes one wish such a meeting could occur more regularly. They put Titin and Zubieta in the shade.

The game promised much, and the early exchanges did not disappoint. It was the eventual losers who drew first blood, when Barriola could not return a stunning long ball from Pairs Champion Zubieta. The second point was staggering in its variety, and was won by Barriola who came forward to whip the ball wide, having survived intense pressure. Titin took the lead again with an airez, before allowing his rivals to draw level once more at 2-2 with a low txoko attempt. All seemed set for an epic tussle. However, for Titin and Zubieta, the wheels fell off in spectacular fashion. They managed only three more points in the match, two of which came from the errors of their opponents, and the third from Titin’s second and last winner in the game.

The statistics tell the story of the gulf between the forwards. Bengoextea was on fire, striking nine winners to only one error. Five of his winners came from serves, a part of his game which clicked excellently well. He was striking in his speed and verve, never resting, always scrapping, and made space for his winning shots with ease and grace. In contrast, Titin looked leaden footed. He possessed none of the spark of his recent matches, and appeared stiff and immobile alongside Bengoetxea’s dexterity. He barely looked in a position to go for the kill, and when he attempted it he was found wanting. He provided no kind of platform for Zubieta, who also looked off colour. He showed his class in the course of many of the rallies, but missed the spot on four occasions, trying vainly to create some pressure on his opposite number, the irrepressible Abel Barriola. The great defender continues to go from strength to strength since returning from his enforced break. Here he was once again magisterial, striking cleanly and elegantly from all positions. Not content to simply field the long ball, he often came forward to mix it in the front half of the court, notably pulling off an astonishing dos paredes on 10-3 which sent Titin into a rage. It is telling that Titin’s opposing defender scored more winners, four, than he did.

Titin and Zubieta had a day to forget but will come back and prove their class soon enough. For them, it was a case of bad turning to worse, the one affected by the woes of the other. The game started well for them, and they appeared increasingly in shock that things could have taken such a dramatically bad swing, as did the gathered crowds. Bengoextea and Barriola in contrast look like an irresistible partnership, belying their inexperience as a couple. They will represent a tough obstacle in the final as they aim once more to make Leitza proud.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2, 2-6, 3-6, 3-7, 3-11, 4-11, 4-12, 4-17, 5-17, 5-22.

Winners/errors: Bengoetxea VI 9/1, Titin III 2/4, Barriola 5/2, Zubieta 0/4.

Balls played: 354

Total match time: 40.28

Playing time: 16.42

Oinatz and Abel united

Oinatz and Abel united

Image from Diario de Navarra by JA Goni

San Sebastian Semis on ETB-Sat

Monday 23rd August, Donostia-San Sebastian



Tuesday 24th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


23:35 (CEST) XALA – APRAIZ v BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO San Sebastian Semi Final

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San Sebastian: Pablito edges Irujo in close opener

Friday 20th August, Donostia-San Sebastian


Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian

Last night’s opening match at Atano III was all about experience versus experimentation. Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino know each other inside out; each plays with various partners throughout the year but they more often than not converge at the major tournaments, and have joined forces in the past two Pairs Championships. Conversely, it was something of a novelty for Martinez de Irujo to find himself paired with Oier Mendizabal. Not only do they hail from different empresas, but Mendizabal is more used to partnering Irujo’s erstwhile greatest rival, Aimar Olaizola, with whom he won the Pairs title in 2008. The game which ensued was a close one, with frequent situations of deadlock, but in the end perhaps the greater empathy of the regular pair showed, and granted them the required edge.

Pablo and Aritz began the brighter of the couples. Mendizabal went high after a long, steady opening point, and Pablo confirmed the initial advantage with a txoko, wrong footing Irujo expertly. Irujo showed that he was not to be outcome by copying Pablo’s trick in the next point, but another Mendizabal error restored the two-point advantage. Irujo pulled out a ganxto, but then committed three errors in a row, going low, wide, and fluffing another gantxo entirely, to give the blue pair a decided spring in their step. An error born out of a moment of slight confusion by Begino and a stunning rebote from Irujo closed the reds’ deficit to two at 4-6, but the blues surged ahead again. Oier squandered a point in which his pair did everything right, going wide as he searched for space to clinch it, and in the next play he went low from the back of the court. The local boy looked classy at times under the high ball, and retrieved some stunning long shots excellently, but the errors began to blot his copybook. Pablo sealed a 9-4 lead with a stinging cross court airez, and it looked to all the world as if he and Begino were in absolute control.

However, Irujo and Mendizabal, gelling better than they had, slowly worked themselves back into the match, taking the next four points. Pablo followed his superb winner in the previous play with a miscued txoko in the next, and a service winner from Irujo followed by an error from Begino brought them to within a point. Pablo and Aritz pulled two back to steady the ship, but their opponents came again, Irujo now asserting his class to draw his pair level for the first time at 11-11. In the next passage of play, the couples could not be split, finding themselves tied at 12, 13 and 14 apiece, Irujo and Mendizabal taking the lead for the first and only time at 14-13.

Somebody needed to break the stalemate, and it was Pablo who took the helm. Both he and Irujo produced play from the top drawer at various points throughout the game, but it was Pablo’s greater potency, and perhaps his unbreakable will in this latter passage of play which proved the game breaker. His pair, finding themselves behind, reacted by taking seven of the next eight points, six of them winners for the irrepressible Berasaluze. Two virtuosic forward scraps went the way of the man from Berriz, before an unreturnable serve, a gantxo and two beautiful airez winners put him and Begino on the verge of victory at 20-15. Irujo found himself outmanoeuvred and out hit, attacking an empty chair in fury. There was a hint of a comeback from Irujo and Mendizabal, helped by two Begino errors and a flash of tactical brilliance from the Aspe forward, but Pablo fought tooth and nail to match point before sealing it with a serve.

The pairs were for the most part extremely evenly matched but in the final analysis the right side won. Begino and Mendizabal were much of a muchness in their defensive roles, at times classy but prone to error. The difference came in the forward battle, where Berasaluze got the better of the Manomanista champion, turning in twelve winners to Irujo’s nine. He also made half the number of mistakes of his illustrious rival. The winning pair was also, unsurprisingly, the better oiled partnership, more a single unit than a duo of talented individuals. They will now proceed to play Xala and Apraiz on Tuesday, for a place in the final.

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 1-3, 2-3, 2-6, 4-6, 4-9, 8-9, 8-11, 11-11, 11-12, 12-12, 12-13, 13-13, 14-13, 14-14, 14-17, 15-17, 15-20, 18-20, 18-22.

Winners: Berasaluze VIII 12, Irujo 9, Begino 0, Mendizabal II 2

Errors: Berasaluze VIII 2, Irujo, 4, Begino 5, Mendizabal II 6

Balls played: 438

Total match time: 1:01.49

Playing time: 20.44

Begino (left) and Berasaluze are well acquainted

Begino (left) and Berasaluze are well acquainted

Image from:

Pelota on ETB-Sat, 20th/22nd August: San Sebastian and Oteiza

The Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian begins tonight in the famous Gipuzkoan city, with an interesting encounter, featuring Juan Martinez de Irujo of Aspe playing with Oier Mendizabal of Asegarce. Mendizabal, Pairs Champion in 2008, is more used to playing alongside Irujo’s great rival Aimar Olaizola, currently injured, and it will be fascinating to see him work with the Manomanista Champion, who pipped him and Aimar to the Pairs title in 2009. Their opponents, who are well used to each other, are regular partners Pablo Berasaluze and Aritz Begino. This is effectively a quarter final match, used to decide the semi final opponents of Xala and Apraiz on Tuesday. The other semi, which takes place on Monday, pits Zubieta and Titin against Bengoetxea VI and Barriola.

Friday 20th August, Donostia-San Sebastian



Sunday 22nd August, Oteiza



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Zarautz Final: Oinatz and Patxi at a Canter

Tuesday 17th August, Zarautz


Torneo de Villa de Zarautz Final

The healthy crowd which forwent the various other pleasures of Zarautz in summer must have left Aritzbatalde with more than a twinge of disappointment last night. The performances of the two pairs in their respective semi finals hinted at a close match, with San Fermin winners Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz pitted against the continuing phenomenon that is Xala in 2010. However, the reality turned out to be somewhat different, with Xala and Beroiz barely extending their opponents due a great deal of streaky and haphazard play, especially from the former. Bengoetxea and Ruiz left as deserved winners, putting barely a foot wrong, but in reality we had hoped for so much more.

The tone for the performance of the pair in red was set from the very outset, with three errors in the first three points from Beroiz, who looked on edge and ill at ease. Xala restored some semblance of calm with a txoko in the fourth point, but the rot continued as miscommunication between him and Beroiz handed Oinatz a winner he perhaps did not deserve, before the forward missed the front wall on the rebound of a high ball. At 5-1 to the blue pair, the die was already cast.

Xala and Beroiz picked up points in ones and twos as the match went on, only stringing together a sequence of four late in the game when there was no hope of reprieve. Xala, for all his faults, scored seven winners, offering several reminders of his dizzying reputation, notably a fizzing gantxo at 11-19, but eight errors is beyond the pail for a forward of his calibre. Beroiz steadied somewhat after his opening debacle and defended solidly, showing nerve under the high ball and an astute sense of positioning, but he could not rescue the sinking ship. The second key passage of play came with the score at 8-4 to Oinatz and Patxi. At this juncture the gap was bridgeable; the red pair had settled a little and had exerted some good pressure on Patxi Ruiz, but five errors in a row put the nail in the coffin of any proposed comeback. Bengoetxea kick started this particular rot with a dos paredes at full stretch, which Xala prodded wide. Beroiz then his carelessly high, before three misdirected shots in a row from Xala, the first of which was unforgivably tame. At 4-13, they needed a miracle. They rallied a little, closing to 8-14, with Xala showing signs of life, but there was no way back.

While Xala and Beroiz increased their score in small steps, Oinatz and Patxi kept the scoreboard ticking relentlessly. In truth, Oinatz was never put to much of a test but he handled the job in hand with superb ease, registering seven winners and no errors. He mixed his shots well, displaying his sharp cross court game as well his defter touch, and as is his wont, he defended like a terrier, frequently turning apparently hopeless positions into ones of strength. Patxi was as solid as one could hope from a first class defender, and he was also pleasingly inventive, pulling off three winners which showed excellent spatial awareness. He also acted as the perfect cover for his partner when Xala managed to manoeuvre Oinatz out wide. 

Oinatz and Patxi, both of whom have struggled for form at various times this year, deserved this victory, their second in the round of summer festivals, and they looked justly delighted. Xala, who has conversely been excellent for most of the year, will put this behind him as a bad day and march on, ever the dangerous opponent. San Sebastian will offer new challenges for both he and Oinatz, both of whom play with partners from the opposite empresa. This is an enticing prospect, and we live in hope that the play will match the promise.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-5, 2-5, 2-6, 3-6, 3-8, 4-8, 4-13, 6-13, 6-14, 8-14, 8-19, 12-19, 12-22.

Winners/errors: Bengoetxea VI 7/0, Xala 7/8, Patxi Ruiz 3/3, Beroiz 2/4

No sweat for Patxi Ruiz

No sweat for Patxi Ruiz

Image from Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga

Torneo Ciudad de San Sebastian: Line up announced

From one beautiful seaside setting to another, the summer round of festivals moves from Zarautz to San Sebastian later this week. Five pairs will compete for the title, and three of them will feature an Asegarce player paired with an Aspe one. The line up will be as follows:

Martinez de Irujo (Aspe) – Mendizabal II (Asegarce), Berasaluze VIII – Begino (both Asegarce), Titin III – Zubieta (both Aspe), Bengoetxea VI (Asegarce) – Barriola (Aspe), Xala (Aspe) – Apraiz (Asegarce)

Berasaluze VIII and Begino are the defending champions, having beaten Bengoetxea VI and Mendizabal II 22-11 in the 2009 final. This year’s matches will take place on 20th, 23rd, 24th and 27th August at Atano III.

(Image is mine)

Zarautz: The Final on ETB-Sat, 17th August 2010

Tuesday 17th August, Zarautz


Followed by: XALA – BEROIZ v BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ Torneo de Villa de Zarautz Final

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Please note that the final actually takes place earlier in the evening, at around 18:00 (CEST) so if you do not wish to know the result before you watch, stay away from all news sources!