Monthly Archives: December 2010

Christmas Pelota on ETB Sat

The main event over the Christmas weekend, in pelota terms at least, is the final of the Masters Kutxa between MARTINEZ DE IRUJO and BENOGETXEA VI, which takes place on Christmas Day at around 19:00 CET. Unfortunately it will not be shown on ETB Sat, but you can, as ever, follow live score updates on Pelota Live. Neither is there any action tonight in the usual Friday slot, but there is an intriguing line up on the 26th, the centrepiece of which is a mini pairs tournament organised by Aspe, who are testing combinations ahead of the Pairs Championship which starts in the new year. Tomorrow, TITIN III-BEROIZ play ARITZ LASA-BARRIOLA, the winner proceeding to take on MARTINEZ DE IRUJO-MERINO II on Boxing Day.

Sunday 26th December, Eibar



To watch, go to

Image from fotolog

Masters Kutxa: Bengoetxea VI and Irujo into the festive final

Both Masters semi-finals took place this weekend and we now know the identity of the two pelotaris who will battle for the prestigious prize on Christmas day at Labrit. OINATZ BENGOETXEA progressed thanks AITOR ZUBIETA’s serious knee injury, which occurred during their match in Pamplona on Saturday. The Asegarce forward was 9-4 to the good when the accident happened, and had dominated the early stages, despite some expert defensive efforts from Zubieta, who was in the process of working his way into the game when his effort was cut short.

Scoring sequence: 6-0, 6-2, 9-2, 9-4. Service winners: Bengoetxea 0, Zubieta 2. Service faults: Bengoetxea 0, Zubieta 1. Winners: Bengoetxea 4, Zubieta 2. Errors: Bengoetxea 0, Zubieta 4. Match time: 22:12, with 6:21 of actual play.

Newly crowned Cuatro y Medio champion JUAN MARTINEZ DE IRUJO beat PATXI RUIZ 22-15 in Eibar on Sunday. Ruiz made by far the better start, going ahead 5-0 before his rival had had a chance to breathe. However, Irujo was unfazed, and staged the sort of comeback to which we have become used, taking the next five points to draw level. From this juncture, he never allowed himself to be headed, outdoing Ruiz for speed and invention. It was an uninspiring encounter, but Irujo met his objective with ease, and advances to another final.

Scoring sequence: 0-5, 7-5, 7-6, 13-6, 13-10, 20-10, 20-15, 22-15. Service winners: Irujo 7, Patxi Ruiz 3. Service faults: Irujo 0, Patxi Ruiz 0. Winners: Irujo 10, Patxi Ruiz 7. Errors: Irujo 5, Patxi Ruiz 4. Match time: 35:18, with 7:00 of actual play.

Bengoetxea and Irujo meet on Christmas Day

Bengoetxea and Irujo meet on Christmas Day

Image from Noticias de Navarra

Zubieta out for six months with serious knee injury

Aitor Zubieta, reigning Pairs champion, has suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, and will be out of action for around six months. The accident occurred during his Masters semi-final against Oinatz Bengoetxea at Labrit on Saturday. It was hoped that the tear may be partial, but an MRI scan carried out today revealed a full rupture, meaning surgery and a lengthy layoff. He will miss both the Pairs and the Manomanista. Aspe report that the surgery will take place on 4th October at the Clínica Ubarmin in Elkano. Until then, he will undergo intensive physiotherapy and rehabilitative treatment. Dos Paredes wishes Aitor all the best for a full and speedy recovery.

Aitor Zubieta: ruptured ACL was confirmed today

Aitor Zubieta: ruptured ACL was confirmed today

Image from Deia

Live Pelota on ETB Sat this Weekend: Masters, and Goñi’s Farewell

This weekend sees the semi finals of the year ending Masters Kutxa manomanista tournament, which invoves four of the top players from the last twelve months, two from each empresa. Aspe held a play-off last week, in which Aitor Zubieta beat Sebastien Gonzalez, so the Pairs champion takes his place in tomorrow’s semi final at Labrit against Oinatz Bengoetxea. This first semi will not be shown on ETB Sat, but you can follow live updates here. On Sunday, newly crowned Cuatro y Medio king Juan Martinez de Irujo plays Patxi Ruiz, who along with his regular partner Bengoetxea, had a stellar run in the summer festivals. Sunday also sees multiple Pairs champion Fernando Goñi’s last match for Aspe.

Friday 17th December, Zarautz



Sunday 19th December, Eibar


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v PATXI RUIZ Masters Kutxa Semi Final

To watch, go to

Fernando Goñi plays his last match for Aspe

On Sunday, Fernando Goñi, winner of four Pairs Champioships in an illustrious twelve year career at the pinnacle of the sport, will play his last match for Aspe. The 37 year old from Zubiri made his professional debut in 1998, and took his first txapela in 2001, partnering Asier Olaizola to victory. Three further triumphs followed, in 2004 with Titin III, and in 2005 and 2009, both with Martinez de Irujo. He will be remembered as one of the greatest defenders of the decade. Aspe granted him a one year contract extension last year, and have declined to renew it. Offers from other empresas have not yet been forthcoming. Goñi has much to occupy him outside the world of pelota, running as he does the Hostal Quinto Real in Eugi, Navarre, but has hinted in an interview with Noticias de Gipuzkoa that he hopes to remain connected to the sport in some way. Whatever he goes on to do, Dos Paredes wishes Fernando all the best for the future.

His farewell game, which he will play in Eibar with Retegi Bi against Apezetxea and Beroiz, will be shown live on ETB Sat on Sunday from 17:00 CET.

I interviewed Fernando Goñi earlier in the year; if you missed it, you can read it here. You can also follow him on Twitter.

Image from El Correo, by Iosu Onandia

Second Tier Cuatro y Medio Final: Impressive Idoate at a Canter

Saturday 11th December, Pamplona


Second Tier Cuatro y Medio Final

The second tier championships, which mirror their elite counterparts, aim to provide a stage for the brightest up and coming players, and this year’s Cuatro y Medio final achieved just that, pitting against each other two young men in their first year of professionalism. Both have turned heads since making their debuts, but here, 21 year old Mikel Idoate proved himself the pick of the crop with a thumping win. Law student Idoate juggles his time on the fronton with his studies, and has been in the top flight of pelota for a mere eight months.

20 year old Riojan David Merino found himself on the receiving end of Idoate’s dominance, and never found his stride, appearing as a duck out of water.  He started the match erratically and by the end was broken by his inability to make any inroads into the Idoate game, which was bolstered by an excellent serve and a potent volley, especially off the left. Merino, in probable desperation, entered into two arguments with the judges as well as a disagreement with his opponent, on his way to nine errors. His talent is undeniable and he will see better days, but on Saturday, Labrit was in the palm of Idoate’s hand.

Scoring sequence: 7-0, 7-2, 9-2, 9-3, 13-3, 13-4, 14-4, 14-6, 18-6, 18-7, 22-7.

Mikel Idoate: bursting with potential

Mikel Idoate: bursting with potential

Image from Diario de Navarra

Cuatro y Medio Final: Barriola the bridesmaid succumbs to the irresistible force of Irujo

Sunday 12th December, Donostia-San Sebastian


Cuatro y Medio Final

On Sunday, 29 year old Juan Martinez de Irujo from Ibero became, officially, the second most successful pelotari of all time. In adding the 2010 Cuatro y Medio crown he took his tally of txapelas to nine, and only the incomparable Retegi II, with twenty, stands above him in the pantheon of pelota playing gods. It was Irujo’s second win in this championship, the first coming in 2006, and confirms him as the runaway player of the year, holding as he does both individual crowns. Few would bet against him adding the Masters title to his palmares in the next fortnight, for Atano III witnessed vintage Irujo, in a display which showed emphatically why he is at the very pinnacle of his art.

At first, the game was all about Barriola. It cannot be overlooked that for the man from Leitza, simply making this final was a triumph of some magnitude, for many doubted he would ever reach his former heights in the wake of his appalling knee injury of last year. His play in the first seven points appeared as a celebration of his resurrection, and with sheer exuberance he put Irujo to the sword. He stormed to 3-0 with three unreturnable serves, low, skidding and guileful. A clearly rattled Irujo hit low in the next point, and Barriola marched on, with yet another service winner. He then proved his quality in open play, maneuvering his rival expertly in the following two points to take a 7-0 advantage. Could he dare to dream?

For any mere mortal, such a drastic start would likely prove impossible to overcome, but Irujo is on a plane above the ordinary. Time and again he has proved his ability to turn deficits into positions of strength, and by sheer force of will, and white hot determination, he came roaring back, all bared teeth and pumping fists. The tide turned when he managed to dig out a point he had no right to win, scrapping like a dog before sending Barriola haring back to no avail. With his tail up, he played Barriola at his own game, winning the next four points with three service winners and a searing gantxo. He piled on the winners, passed his opponent’s tally, and kept going. Barriola hit wide attempting an ambitious winner on 7-9, and this acted as a barometer for the state of the match; the underdog now knew that to beat Irujo he had to take risks, and with this realization on the part of his rival, the eventual winner scored a crucial sucker punch.

Barriola’s risks did on occasion pay off. He stemmed Irujo’s flow with a skimming crosscourt winner to peg his deficit at 8-10, but he now seemed anxious, losing the next two points with a rushed gantxo attempt and a high ball with which he tried in vain to pin Irujo back. Irujo slipped into another gear with the point for 13-8, driving Barriola all over the fronton before crushing him with a gantxo. Barriola refused to be bowed however, and chipped away at the scoreboard with flashes of dogged brilliance. He drew level again at 14-14, thanks to his strong serve, several ingenious winners and two uncharacteristically slapdash errors from Irujo, and it was game on once again. However, in three swift points, the whole complexion of the game swung once again to Irujo, this time for good. Agonisingly, Barriola struck the 4 ½ line in an attempt to push Irujo long, and railed against himself, hands on head. With the lead back, Irujo pounced with venom, producing a gantxo which reasserted his dominion over the fronton. He then worked Barriola over mercilessly, sending him wide and then long, before his valiant salvage attempt fell short. Irujo was now tearing, blinkered, towards the prize, swinging freely and oozing confidence from every pore. He treated Atano III to his full armory of attack. Barriola served at 19-16, still within striking distance, but in sad contrast to his earlier brilliance in this department, his ball failed to travel far enough. This was the final nail in the coffin, and Irujo wasted little time in condemning Barriola to his seventh straight defeat in a major final.

Barriola, the perennial bridesmaid, may find this loss hard to swallow, but the man from Leitza has confounded the critics. It was sometime after his comeback before he regained the fluidity and accuracy for which he is known, but with his performance in the Cuatro y Medio and the tournaments which led up to it, he has regained his status at the very top of the game. For Irujo, who suffered a painful and unexpected loss to Gonzalez in last year’s final, the sky is the limit. How many more titles might he add before he writes the final chapter of his already illustrious career? Might Retegi II be toppled?

Scoring sequence: 0-7; 10-7; 10-8; 13-8; 13-10; 13-12; 14-13; 14-14; 15-14; 16-14;19-14 19-16; 20-16; 20-17; 22-17.

Match time: 43 mins, with 9 mins actual playing time

Balls hit: 206


Sheer delight for Juan Martinez de Irujo

Sheer delight for Juan Martinez de Irujo

Image from Noticias de Gipuzkoa, by Ruben Plaza



Live Pelota on ETB-Sat, 10th and 12th December

Friday 10th December, Zarautz


Followed by GONZALEZ v ZUBIETA at c. 23:30

Sunday 12th December, San Sebastian


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v BARRIOLA Cuatro y Medio Final at c. 18:00

To watch, go to

The Second Tier Cuatro y Medio Final takes place on Saturday at about 18.45 (CET). It will not be shown on ETB-Sat, but you can follow updates at Pelota Live.

Cuatro y Medio Finals: the Preview

Juan Martinez de Irujo v Abel Barriola, Sunday 12th December, San Sebastian

This time last year, Abel Barriola was sitting at home in Leitza watching the Cuatro y Medio Championship on television, laid low by the twin mental and physical agonies of a torn cruciate ligament. However, as reported by Noticias de Navarra this morning, he received a message which now appears prophetic. The defender reveals that “two friends sent me a message telling me that next year I would be in the final of the Cuatro y Medio”, and in the final he is, something of which he could only dream in the dark months throughout which he doubted his ability ever to return to his previous exalted level. Owing to his non-participation last year, Barriola has had to fight through the rounds in this year’s championship, but he has rarely been troubled, putting Saralegi, Bengoetxea VI, Retegi Bi, Gonzalez and Titin III to the sword on the way to the final showdown. His only defeat came at the hands of his opponent on Sunday. He is under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge ahead if he is to don his third professional txapela, stating that “if I play badly, I’m not sure I’m going to win”, but he knows he has chances. He has exuded class in the past two months and he will be ready to pounce on Irujo’s every lapse, however minor.

Juan Martinez de Irujo, the whirlwind from Ibero, is the clear favourite with the bookmakers. He was not required to graft his way through the tournament in the manner of Barriola, entering at the quarter final stage thanks to his runner-up position in 2009, and has shown little if any sign of weakness, sweeping aside Patxi Ruiz and Gonzalez, and coming through against Barriola and Titin, despite the doggedness of their efforts. Irujo has eight txapelas to his name, but only one in this discipline, that coming in 2006 when he defeated Barriola in the final by the narrowest possible margin. That scoreline alone should warn him that he will have to fight for his ninth, but the greatest player of the 21st century seems in no way troubled, stating that he cares little about the odds, and that the prize could just as easily go to either player, while emphasising his burning desire to win. It would take bravery to bet against him achieving his aim, but last year’s outcome shows that nothing is certain. If Gonzalez could upset the apple cart then, so too can Barriola now.

Balls were chosen by both finalists yesterday at Atano III, in front of 200 fans. Both used every second of their allotted fifteen minutes and made their final choices as follows:

Irujo: 106.8 and 106.4 grams

Barriola: 106.1 and 106.6 grams


Irujo and Barriola: let battle commence

Irujo and Barriola: let battle commence

Second Tier Final: Mikel Idoate v David Merino, Saturday 11th December, Pamplona

The second tier Cuatro y Medio crown will also be decided this weekend; Idoate plays Merino II on Saturday at Labrit, in the showdown of the up and coming stars. 21 year old Idoate will start as the slight favourite. He has won all his matches thus far, beating Ongay, Argote, Rico IV and Cabrerizo II, as well as his opponent on Saturday. Merino has lost twice, once to Idoate and once to Cabrerizo, but victories against Gorka, Mendizabal (by a thumping 22 points to 3), and Rico, were enough to see him through on points difference.

Mikel Idoate is the likely favourite at Labrit

Mikel Idoate is the likely favourite at Labrit

Images from:, Diario de Navarra (JC Cordovilla)


Live Pelota on ETB Sat, 3rd and 5th December

Friday 3rd December, Sopelana





Sunday 5th December, Eibar





To watch, go to

Images from: Beachwizard and Deba Barrena Turismo