Friday 6th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz
TITIN III – ZUBIETA beat BENGOETXEA VI – BEGINO 22-18
Torneo Virgen Blanca
Titin and Aitor Zubieta last night became the first pair to book their place in the final of the Virgen Blanca doubles tournament in Vitoria-Gasteiz. The near capacity audience at Ogueta was treated to a high octane display of pelota from all four protagonists, who employed practically every tactic in the book in an effort to wear their opponents down. In a game where the lightening fast exchanges of the two forwards often dominated, it was the defenders who made the difference, with Zubieta a tower of strength behind the irrepressible Titin.
In the first passage of play, it was the eventual victors who held the upper hand, albeit by a tiny margin. Their lead never stretched beyond three, but they succeeded in keeping Bengoetxea and Begino in their rear view mirror. There was, however, little to choose between the sides. Titin and Bengoetxea took the hammer and tongs approach to forward play, showing incredible speed, fire and willpower. The defenders started less positively than their partners, with two high balls from Zubieta, who pushed the ball to the limits in an attempt to pressurize Begino, and several more mistakes from Begino himself, who while at times excellent, showed a lack of consistency.
Finding themselves behind 4-7, Bengoetxea and Begino upped the anti, surging back to tie 10-10 and then 11-11. Oinatz it was who controlled the fronton here, varying his shot play and his placement to seize upon every opening afforded him. Upon drawing level, the momentum was firmly with the Asegarce pair and they marched on, Bengoetxea now looking to have the upper hand over Titin. A run of six points was interrupted only by an error from Begino, and at 13-17, Titin looked both disgruntled and resigned. However, the motivational talk handed to him by Zubieta must have struck a chord, as four astonishing winners in a row, three txokos and a gantxo, from the 41 year old catapulted the Aspe duo back into the match with a vengeance. It was clear from every gesture, every yelp of delight, that they wanted the spoils very badly. When Titin struck a crosscourt just wide on 19-17, Zubieta buried his head in his shirt in anguish, but there was no need for panic as a Titin gantxo and a Begino error forced by the excellence of his opposite number gave them match point, and the game was sealed when Bengoetxea fell low.
In the final analysis it was hard to separate the two forwards for quality. Each played with incredible mastery and imagination. Bengoetxea committed four errors to Titin’s five, but the winner-count for each was nine. The real different lay in the defenders, where Zubieta had much the better day, making only two errors to Begino’s eight. Not only did he field the long ball with aplomb, but he showed himself willing to cover for Titin by coming forwards to great effect. In a close, tense and thrilling game, this edge was to prove telling. Titin and Zubieta therefore proceed to the final on Monday, where they will face either Xala-Barriola or Martinez de Irujo-Beloki, whichever pair wins tonight.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 1-1, 1-2, 2-2, 4-2, 4-4, 7-4, 7-6, 8-6, 8-7, 10-7, 10-10, 11-10, 11-11, 11-14, 12-14, 12-16, 13-16, 13-17, 19-17, 19-18, 22-18.
Winners: Titin 9, Bengoetxea VI 9, Zubieta 1, Begino 1
Errors: Titin 5, Bengoetxea VI 4, Zubieta 2, Begino 8
Also last night, Merino II reached the final of the Torneo Manomanista Promoción La Blanca, defeating Ladis Galarza 22-16.
Image from Diario Vasco, by Jose Mari Lopez