Tuesday 17th August, Zarautz
BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ beat XALA – BEROIZ 22-12
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
Image from Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga