Monthly Archives: January 2011

Pairs Championship: wins for Berasaluze VIII-Apraiz, Gonzalez-Laskurain, and Titin III-Pascual in week 5

Friday 28th January, Estella-Lizarra


After their resurgence last week, when they beat Gonzalez and Laskurain comfortably, many assumed that Irujo and Merino II were now back on track, after their disastrous start in the championship. They were the clear favourites for this fifth week match, but the gremlins reappeared for the Aspe duo, as they met a pairing still riding the crest of a wave after their own fourth week win. Berasaluze and Apraiz outgunned their rivals with ease, Pablo dominating even more than he had done against Bengoetxea VI the week before against an Irujo who was a shadow of his usual self, managing only two winners to his opposite number’s twelve. Merino, while promising and at times brilliant, is still developing, and this was not his finest hour. Is it over and out for the experimental pairing.

Saturday 29th January, Pamplona


After their outstanding 2010 as a pairing, much was expected of Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz in this year’s contest, but alter two successive defeats, it seems the wheels are coming off. Last week they lost in a closer tussle with Berasaluze and Apraiz, but this time round it was a disaster for the Asegarce hopes. They started well, but as Gonzalez and Laskurain, who were yet to win a match in the competition, swung into action, their opponents had no answer and were outplayed in every department. Neither pair is well placed in the overall standings, but their trajectories Could barely be more different.

Sunday 30th January, Logrono


After two one sided onslaughts came a far closer match down in Rioja. Titin and Pascual squeezed past Asier Olaizola and Beloki to keep their hopes of reaching the last four alive, and they showed great resilience in coming from behind to take the point. For the most part, the sides were evenly matched; Beloki began well but Pascual, playing better than in recent weeks, was able to match him, and likewise at the front, Olaizola and Titin both winner and errors in turn. The Asegarce pair was ahead for much of the match, and although they were never more than four points in arrears, they appeared as if they would keep their noses in front. However, with the score at 17-19, Titin and Pascual pounced, taking five points without reply. Olaizola and Beloki managed to scrape one back, but the momentum had shifted, terminally.

Pablo Berasaluze: in form

Pablo Berasaluze: in form

Image from Gara

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 28th-30th January

Friday 28th January, Estella

22:25 (CET) URRUTIKOETXEA – IZA v GORKA – MERINO I 2nd Tier Pairs Championship, 5th rotation

Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ Pairs Championship, 5th rotation

Sunday 30th January, Eibar


Followed by OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO v XALA – BARRIOLA Pairs Championship, 5th rotation

To watch, go to

The other championship matches this weekend are between GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN and BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ (Pamplona, Saturday) and TITIN III – PASCUAL and OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI (Logrono, Sunday).

Pairs Championship: routine victory for unbeaten Aimar and Aritz

Monday 24th January, Tolosa


There was nothing unexpected about this match. The younger Olaizola brother and his partner, Aritz Begino, were the overwhelming favourites, and completely outclassed their rivals. Aimar was never troubled, and had no need to sweat in subduing his older brother, who looked ineffectual in comparison. Begino was solid as a rock at the back, in contrast to Beloki who was unable to make any of his returns tell. the underdogs came within three points at 9-12, but as soon as Aimar and Aritz pushed the level a notch higher, they had nothing more to give. Asegarce’s star pairing have now won four from four, and sit atop the table, level with Xala and Barriola, whom they play on Sunday. A far sterner challenge awaits.

Begino and Olaizola II: barely challenged

Begino and Olaizola II: barely challenged

Image from Deia

Pairs Championship: dominant wins for Xala-Barriola and Irujo-Merino II

On Friday, Irun saw a masterclass from tournament favourites Xala and Barriola, who trounced Titin III and Pascual 22-10. But for a late rally orchestrated by Titin, always venemous when behind, it could have been even worse for the losers, who were down 15-5 and 20-6. Titin and Pascual had nothing to throw at their opponents, who controlled every facet of the game. Barriola, as solid as the walls themselves in defence, served up opportunities to Xala on a plate, and Lekuine’s finest did not disappoint, hitting winner after winner past the nose of the Riojan veteran, who could only look on aghast. Pascual was under pressure from Barriola throughout the game, and rarely broke free from his grip. Despite a late flourish, there was no hope for the eventual losers, and their body language said it all. Xala and Barriola march ever onwards.

Martinez de Irujo and Merino II condemned Gonzalez and Laskurain to their fourth straight defeat, winning 22-10 in Pamplona. Irujo, recovered from his hand problems, scored nine winners and three aces, and was in a different league from Gonzalez who appeared largely powerless. Laskurain leaked points while his young opponent, David Merino, returned with aplomb and read the game beautifully. The Riojan talent is growing in confidence all the time in this his first top level tournament. The scoreline was overwhelming: 2-0, 9-1, 11-4, 16-4, 18-9, 20-10 and 22-10. In only 39 minutes and 311 balls, the win was sealed, and Irujo and Merino are very much back in the semi final fight.

David Merino is a stunning prospect

David Merino is a stunning prospect

Image from: Noticias de Navarra

Pairs Championship: Berasaluze and Apraiz vanquish lacklustre Bengoetxea and Ruiz

Sunday 23rd January, Eibar


The crowd at Astelena this afternoon seemed strangely subdued, perhaps not helped by the one sided opening match (Apezetxea and Arruti dismantled Idoate and Cecilio in their Promocion Championship game), and in similar fashion, the main event never really took off. The game between the two Asegarce pairs was a close one, but lacked sparkle, despite the best efforts of Pablo Berasaluze, who was on fire, and Alexis Apraiz who exerted sterling pressure. Bengoetxea and Ruiz were the favourites on paper, having won two of their three matches thus far, and holding an excellent prior track record as a combination, but they were uncharacteristically lacklustre, and surprisingly disorganised. Their defeat leaves the middle of the table wide open, and promises some tense encounters ahead.

Momentum traded hands several times over in the opening half of the game, and as the 12-12 scoreline suggested, the combinations were extremely evenly matched. Berasaluze and Apraiz were in the ascendency early, and proceeded to a 7-2 lead. Three of these points came from Berasaluze winners, and the forward from Berriz had his eye very much in from the off, but the reds were aided by four errors from a blue pair who seemed lacking in shape and direction. The game shifted for the first time when Apraiz hit carelessly high to allow Oinatz and Patxi the serve, and the next point, miraculously won by a gantxo from a covering Ruiz meant their tails were firmly up. Berasaluze pulled one back with a beautifully controlled point, but then three errors from the reds, and an easy crosscourt winner from Bengoetxea brought the game level at 8-8. In the period of play thereafter, neither team could break free, as Berasaluze and Apraiz went one up only to go two down thanks to two moments of Bengoetxea brilliance. Bengoetxea’s attempted third winner in a row went wide however, and Patxi miscued to make it 12-12. It was anybody’s game.

Most would have put money on Bengoetxea and Ruiz to slip up a gear at this juncture, being, in theory at least, the classier pairing, but the opposite happened, and the favourites began to look more and more out of sorts. Berasaluze went on the attack like a terrier in the next three points, forcing desperate defence from his opponents. Ruiz was heroic in his covering efforts in the first of them, but could do nothing to prevent the winning airez. Berasaluze’s gantxo in the next was pinpoint perfect, and the second of two beautifully timed drops in the third proved too much for Bengoetxea, who fell awkwardly and retired for treatment. On his return, Bengoetxea pulled his pair back to 13-15 with a dipping ball into the wall which he appeared to enjoy greatly, but the resurgence was not to be. In the next two rallies, the blue pair got themselves in what can only be described as mess. Several times previously, Bengoetxea had found himself out of position, making Patxi cover for him, and here they were forced round the wrong way twice in a row. Each made a valiant effort to carry out the other’s job but they were sitting ducks for both Apraiz, who pressured the unwilling defender, and Berasaluze who finished the job. A service winner and an unreturnable volley from Berasaluze ensued, and in quick time it was 19-13. The blues pulled two points back, before another mishap made it 20-15; this time Bengoetxea left a ball for Patxi, which Patxi could not reach. There was a miniature late rally from the pre match favourites, but it was too little too late, as the star of the show, Pablo Berasaluze, finished things off with a gantxo and a serve.

In the final analysis, both Berasaluze and Apraiz were a cut above their opponents. Despite collecting all the plaudits with a haul of twelve winners, Berasaluze must owe much of his success to the excellent delivery from the back of Apraiz. Apraiz also placed considerable pressure on Ruiz, who was unable to return many balls with the necessary air to evade the cutting arm of Berasaluze. Bengoetxea, though he was below his best, did produce seven winners, but he had little to work with, and often failed to do enough with his chances. There is no need for the losers to panic; despite a below par display, they still occupy third place in the table, level on points with their vanquishers who are in fourth. At this early stage, Xala-Barriola and Olaizola II-Begino appear to be the class of the tournament, but below them there is much to play for.

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 4-1, 4-2, 7-2, 7-4, 8-4, 8-8, 9-8, 9-9, 10-9, 10-10, 10-11, 10-12, 12-12, 15-12, 15-13, 16-13, 19-13, 19-15, 20-15, 20-17, 22-17.

Pablito on song

Pablito on song

Image from Noticias de Alava

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 21st-23rd January

Friday 21st January, Irun


Followed by: TITIN III – PASUCAL v XALA – BARRIOLA Pairs Championship, 4th rotation

Sunday 23rd January, Eibar


Followed by: BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ v BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ Pairs Championship 4th rotation

To watch, go to

The other Pairs matches taking place this week are OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI v OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO (Monday, Tolosa) and MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN (Saturday, Pamplona).

Pairs Championship: No sweat for Xala and Barriola in Mungia

Tuesday 18th January, Mungia


Xala and Barriola maintained their unbeaten record with an easy victory over Berasaluze VIII and Apraiz last night. The closeness of the first half of the game belied the eventual disparity in the scoreline however, as the Asegarce pair, chiefly through the vigorous shot play of Berasaluze, held onto the coat tails of the favourites. From 9-9, Xala and Barriola let loose, sliding into a gear which their opponents did not possess. Barriola ran affairs from the back, giving Berasaluze nothing on a length from which he could attack. The forward from Berriz capitulated, committing seven errors to accompany his earlier seven winners. Xala used the dominance of his defensive partner as a platform and in turn punished Apraiz all the more. They ruled the match without any need to resort to risk, and remain atop the standings, level on points with Olaizola II and Begino. Irujo, who will return to the fray at the weekend, today described these two frontrunners as the Barcelona and Real Madrid of the tournament, but there is still ample time for the emergence of a challenger from the pack.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-2, 2-2, 2-3, 3-3, 3-5, 6-5, 6-6, 8-6, 8-9, 9-9, 20-9, 20-12, 22-12

Winners/Errors: Berasaluze VIII 8/7, Apraiz 0/2, Xala 11/1, Barriola 3/1

Match time: 71 minutes

Balls hit: 637

Barriola on top

Barriola on top

Source: Diario de Navarra, Image: El Correo, by Eduardo Argote

Pairs Championship: Faultless Aimar repels the challenge of Lasa and Merino

Sunday 16th January, Eibar


At the start of the week, this match was anticipated as the first meeting, not only in the 2011 championship but for a long while, of the two great rival forwards, Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo. When it was announced that Irujo had not recovered in time from his hand problem, many doubtless emitted sighs of disappointment. However, nobody who saw the display at Astelena on Sunday can have left feeling short changed, for the game was scintillating from first until last. Although the unbeaten pairing of Olaizola and Begino in the end had a gear in reserve, nobody expected replacement Lasa, and thrilling young talent David Merino to exert the pressure they did.

In their first two matches, Aritz Begino had been the match winner for the Asegarce partnership, wearing their opponents down with sheer accuracy and dominance from the back of the fronton. However, on Sunday the match winner was Aimar, who finished the game with not one single error to his name. Aritz Lasa, determined to show that he is more than a second choice forward, threw everything at Goizueta’s finest but Aimar was in domineering mood and heaped pressure upon pressure. Lasa pulled off some startling winners, none more strident than the whipped airez which gave him the opening point, but Aimar forced him to take risks, and errors accompanied the flashes of brilliance. Time and again, he sent the blue pair into freefall. On occasion, such as on 5-8, and again at 9-12, they escaped drowning with all or nothing defence, and many of the mid-match rallies were extremely evenly matched, to the extent that they seemed as if they would last for eternity. The points on 12-9 and 12-10, for example, were titanic in scale, the latter in particular, but from 14-16, at which point they were very much still in the game, the constant barrage heaped upon Lasa and Merino began to tell. Lasa blew an easy chance for a txoko winner, and all defiance crumbled, as Aimar called the shots. The point on 19-14, in which Lasa and Merino found themselves the wrong way round just as Begino found the rebote, was symptomatic of their inability to match the increased tempo of the reds. Lasa held a candle to Aimar in patches, but the latter was too intelligent, too astute, and too relentlessly accurate to emulate.

Despite the loss, plaudits rained on David Merino, who at 20 is drawing comparisons with the greatest left-handers of the age. He kept pace with the far more experienced Begino, drawing gasps with his ability to return the ball from the furthest and unlikeliest of places. The errors came as the pressure grew, but at the outset at least, it was the young Riojan who looked the most assured of the defenders. In the end, the two were fairly evenly matched, but Merino it is who is making the headlines, for his promise, his elegance and his fearlessness. He has come of age since the debacle of his opening match with Irujo, and it will be fascinating to see if he can continue in this spirit when his original partner returns.

Olaizola and Begino remain unbeaten, and alongside Xala and Barriola must have moved into favouritism for the championship win. They combine experience, consistency, brilliance, intelligence and coolness in equal measure, and will be hard to stop. Lasa and Merino demonstrated here that in individual points at least, they can be tested, but they were also unable to respond when the heat was turned up. The championship is but young and fortunes can change like the tide, but a clear marker has been laid by the aces of the Asegarce pack.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-4, 2-4, 2-5, 8-5, 8-6, 9-6, 9-8, 12-8, 12-10, 14-10, 14-11, 16-11, 16-14, 20-14, 20-15, 22-15.

Winners: Olaizola II 7, Begino 3, Aritz Lasa 8, Merino II 3

Errors: Olaizola II 0, Begino 4, Aritz Lasa 6, Merino II 5

Match time: 75.03 minutes, with 33.46 minutes of actual playing time

Balls played: 681

Aimar Olaizola: astute and relentless

Aimar Olaizola: astute and relentless

Image from Diario Vasco, by Jose Carlos Cordovilla

Pairs Championship: wins for Olaizola I-Beloki and Bengoetxea VI-Patxi Ruiz

It was a good two days for Asegarce on Friday and Saturday as both their competing couples brought home the spoils in their third rotation Pairs matches.

For Asier Olaizola and Ruben Beloki, it was the first point of the championship, as they had lost their first two games, and they took it well, beating the fancied Gonzalez and Laskurain 22-16 in Getaria. Olaizola, so often overshadowed by the renown of his younger brother, here let fly, taking the game to Gonzalez who never broke free from the shackles placed on him. The strength of his right arm was especially apparent, and he found space out wide with the left, playing the tight angles with aplomb on his way to ten winners. He was partnered ably by Beloki, who was a safer pair of hands than Laskurain, who blew hot and cold. In the end, the win was more comfortable than most had predicted, and will give the Asegarce partnership some much needed confidence in their tough fight to make the top four.

In Pamplona, Oinatz Benogetxea and Patxi Ruiz took a titanic scrap against Titin III and Inigo Pascual, 22-20. The fans at Labrit were treated to a sensational game in which all four protagonists showed extraordinary skill and verve, playing at breakneck speed and with startling inspiration. It was the forwards who took most of the plaudits from the crowd, who chanted their names with fervour. The 42 year old Titin, who celebrated his birthday this past week, defended like a terrier against the all out attack of the far younger Bengoetxea, and the two traded myriad gantxos and txokos, as if determined not to be outdone. In defence, the fight was just as intense, with Pascual and Ruiz displaying their long range hitting skills to gasps from the assembled crowds. Ruiz last week extended his contract with Asegarce until 2014, and on this showing the management should be rubbing their hands in glee. In the end, Bengoetxea and Ruiz had a fraction more to give, and held their nerve for a memorable win. It is their second of the championship and they are clearly contenders.

Patxi Ruiz is experiencing a purple patch

Patxi Ruiz is experiencing a purple patch

Image from Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 14th-16th January

Friday 14th January, Getaria


23:30 (CET) OLAIZOLA I – BELOKI v GONZALEZ  – LASKURAIN Pairs Championship third rotation

Sunday 16th January, Eibar


Followed by ARITZ LASA* – MERINO II v OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO Pairs Championship third rotation. Aritz Lasa replaces Martinez de Irujo who has an injured hand.

To watch, go to

This week’s other Pairs Championship matches are between BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ and XALA – BARRIOLA (Tuesday, Mungia), and TITIN III – PASCUAL and BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ (Saturday, Pamplona)