Monthly Archives: February 2011

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 25th-27th February

Friday 25th February, Azkaine

Again today, it is unclear from the schedules what time the broadcast will commence. I assume it will start around 21:30 (CET) as usual. The matches are as follows:

APEZETXEA – CECILIO v LEMUNO – OTEIZA Second Tier Pairs Championship

GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN v ARRETXE II* – IBAI ZABALA* Pairs Championship. Both Olaizola I and Beloki are out through injury and are replaced by Iker Arretxe and Ibai Zabala in a rare case of an entirely new pair representing an original one.

Sunday 27th February, Logrono

17:00 (CET) OLAETXEA  – ALBISU v GORKA – MERINO Second Tier Pairs Championship

Followed by TITIN III – PASCUAL v BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ Pairs Championship

To watch, go to

The weekend’s other Pairs Championship games are: BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ v XALA – BARRIOLA (Friday, Gernika) and MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO (Saturday, Pamplona)

Pairs Championship: easy prey for Xala-Barriola, and Irujo-Merino II stay in contention

Saturday 19th February, Pamplona


The Navarre-Rioja partnership of Juan Martinez de Irujo and David Merino kept alive their hopes of a semi final slot with a fine victory over Oinatz Bengoetxea and Ibai Zabala, the latter a substitute for the injured Patxi Ruiz. The victors took advantage of the presence of Zabala, who tried gamely to fill Patxi’s shoes, but proved the weak link under a relentless aerial bombardment. Irujo and Merino took an early lead at 12-7, but Bengoetxea took the game to the former and pulled his pair level at 14-14, momentarily making up for the disparity between Merino and Zabala to his rear. However, he could not hold the fort indefinitely, and the pressure of the red pair’s perfectly executed tactic became too much to withstand; they added eight points to only one in reply to take the match without breaking sweat. They now lie 6th, level on points with Bengoetxea and Ruiz, who sit 4th.

Friday 18th February, Anglet


Ekaitz Saralegi, replacing the injured Asier Olaizola, and Ruben Beloki presented no problems whatsoever for pre-tournament favourites Yves Salaberry and Abel Barriola. There was little Saralegi could do in the face of the pressure of Xala, who asserted pressure without any stress, physical or otherwise. The hapless forward, who committed six errors, blamed his lack of time in the tournament for his rustiness, but whatever the reason, there was no mistaking his inferiority here. Beloki was notably ineffectual, and rarely moved the ball with any invention. There was no comparison between him and Barriola, who rarely needed to extend himself and barely put a foot wrong. As befitted their play, these two pairs stand as polar opposites in the table; Xala and Barriola are level on wins with Olaizola II and Begino but now go top by virtue of points difference. Saralegi and Beloki are tailed off at the bottom, with little hope of rescue.

Xala and Barriola go top

Xala and Barriola go top

Image from: Sources: Diario de Navarra, Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship: improving Gonzalez-Laskurain cause an upset, and Titin-Pascual cement their position

Apologies once again this week for the lack of in depth reporting; I was in Manchester all weekend at the track cycling World Cup, so rather too busy with other things to watch any pelota! However, here is the first of two instalments in my round up of the Pairs action from this rotation.

Friday 18th February, Zestoa


We begin in Zestoa, which witnessed the shock of the week. Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino suffered their first lost of the competition the previous weekend, and here it became two in a row as they were taken apart by Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain. Their previous loss was a close one, but this was far more worrying for the former table toppers, who are now usurped by Xala and Barriola by virtue of points difference, both having played eight and won six. Gonzalez and Laskurain are very much on the up, having now won four matches in a row. They sit third in the table, at the head of the group of four pairs on four wins from eight. The Aspe partnership dominated the game, with Laskurain the pick of the bunch, improving his performance beyond recognition from past weeks. Neither Asegarce player had their best day to put it mildly, but Begino was especially ill at ease, conceding six errors. Gonzalez was at his potent best, chalking up three aces, and eight winners in open play, alongside only one error.

Scoring sequence: 0-4 / 1-4 / 1-6 / 2-6 / 3-6 / 3-10 / 4-10 / 5-10 / 5-16 / 6-16 / 7-16 / 7-18 / 8-18 / 8-19 / 9-19 / 10-19 / 10-22.

Match time was 48 minutes, with 19 minutes of playing time. 366 balls were hit.

Sunday 20th February, Logrono


Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz dealt their chances of qualification a severe blow down in Rioja on Sunday, by mailing to beat local hero Titin and his partner Inigo Pascual at Adarraga. Their loss means that they slip out of the mid table group of pairs who are tied on points for the third to sixth spots, and languish only one off the foot of the table. Titin and Pascual now sit fifth, and are very much in the hunt for qualification. The Aspe pair were by far the better in this tie, with the greatest disparity in quality coming at the back, where Apraiz could make no inroads into the dominance of Pascual. Pascual provided the perfect attacking platform for Titin, who was rarely troubled and largely kept Berasaluze locked out of the match. His twelve winners to Pablo’s five demonstrated the greater attacking potency of the winning pair,

Scoring sequence: 2-0 / 2-1 / 9-1 / 9-2 / 9-5 / 10-5 / 12-5 / 12-6 / 12-7 / 16-7 / 16-8 / 17-8 / 17-9 / 18-10 / 22-11

Match time was 49 minutes, with 17 minutes of playing time.


Gonzalez and Laskurain are on a roll

Gonzalez and Laskurain are on a roll

Image from: Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 18th-20th February

I regret that I am not sure of the exact times of the coverage this weekend as it is not on the TV schedules. Times given here may be those for ETB 1 rather than ETB Sat; ETB Sat sometimes starts fifteen minutes or so later. The matches are, however, definitely on!

Friday 18th February, Zestoa



Sunday 20th February, Logrono



To watch, go to


The weekend’s other Pairs Championship matches are as follows:

Friday 18th February, Angelu: SARALEGI* – BELOKI v XALA – BARRIOLA (Saralegi replaces Olaizola I, who is out of the competition with a knee injury)

Saturday 19th February, Pamplona: MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v BENGOETXEA VI – IBAI ZABALA* (Ibai Zabala replaces Patxi Ruiz, who has an injured hand)

Asier Olaizola out for two months, to be replaced by Saralegi

Asegarce have confirmed that Asier Olaizola does indeed have an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament, but an examination yesterday afternoon in Vitoria-Gasteiz brought some relief; the diagnosis is not as bad as originally feared. According to Doctor Mikel Sanchez, the tear is only partial, and Olaizola should be cleared to return to the fronton in around two months. The treatment will be conservative, as there is no need for surgery. His replacement in the Pairs championship will be Ekaitz Saralegi.

Image from Noticias de Alava

Pairs Championship Week 7 Round Up

Friday 11th February, Urduliz


Friday’s match in the Bizkaian town or Urduliz was expected to be a close one, and so it proved. Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain had one their previous two matches after an extremely slow start in the championship, and Pablo Berasaluze and Alexis Apraiz were coming off two wins, and a near upset against the table toppers. The crowds were treated to an exciting and tough exhibition, which lasted 76 minutes and 612 balls. Although it was always close, and there was little to choose between the pairs, Gonzalez and Laskurain ran out the deserving winners. The latter was the difference between the sides, coming out on top in a tit for tat fight with Apraiz, and ending as the best player of the night.

Saturday 12th February, Pamplona


Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz seized their fourth point of the championship with a tense and thrilling win over pre-tournament favourites Yves Salaberry and Abel Barriola. Both forwards and backs fought tooth and nail. Patxi Ruiz just shaded Barriola, but both pulled off impressive feats. Xala’s vehement attack was repelled time and again by Bengoetxea, whose defence was magnificent. He also took the attack to Xala with a wide range of shot play. Patxi Ruiz strained his calf with the score on 18-17, and when he returned from the locker room was restricted in the shots he could manage. Xala and Barriola went ahead 21-19, and looked as if the momentum would stay with them, but Bengoetxea and Ruiz fought back doggedly to take the win by the smallest possible margin.

Saturday 12th February, Tafalla

MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II beat OLAZOLA I – BELOKI 7-4 (Olaizola I retired injured)

The game in Tafalla was brought to an unfortunate and abrupt end when Asier Olaizola was forced to retire with a knee injury. With the score at 7-4, and with everything still to play for, the forward from Goizueta twisted awkwardly and had to be helped from the fronton. He underwent a scan in Vitoria-Gasteiz this morning, and we await word from Asegarce on the extent of his injury.

Sunday 13th February, Logrono


Table toppers Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino suffered their first loss of the competition, succumbing by one point to Titin and Pascual at Adarraga. In a match full of emotion and excitement from first until last, the Asegarce duo looked to have matters under control, going ahead 3-10, 6-13 and 13-17. However, Titin masterminded a comeback, playing with passion and intensity in front of his home fans. Supported excellently by Pascual at the back, he drew his pair level at 17-17, before they surged ahead 20-17. Aimar and Aritz fought their way back to 20-21, but two errors from Begino handed the game to Titin and Pascual, who have reversed their fortunes dramatically from their drubbing by Gonzalez and Laskurain last week. Olaizola and Begino, however, remain in isolation at the top of the standings. This result will have provided them with a shock, but they are as good as safe and will put it behind them.

The championship now moves into its second round robin phase, in which each pair plays the four from the opposing empresa across four weeks of games. The schedule for this section of the competition can be viewed at Asegarce. The table at this point in proceedings indicates the closeness in ability of many of the couples. Olaizola II-Begino and Xala-Barriola have served up the most quality, and looked virtually assured of places in the semi finals, but behind them things are very tight. Bengoetxea VI-Patxi Ruiz are next best, having won four of their seven matches, while four pairs are tied on three wins. Olaizola I-Beloki seem out of it, but for everyone else, it is all to play for. See here for the full table.

The Second Tier championship, which mirrors to pattern of the main competition, also moves into its next phase next weekend. There, it looks to be a six-pair fight for the semi final berths. Apezetxea-Cecilio top the table, while Jaunarena-Larrinaga and Urrutikoetxea-Iza appear down and out. For the full table, see Manista, and for remaining fixtures see Asegarce.

Titin and Pascual: giant killers

Titin and Pascual: giant killers

Image from Manista, by Carlos Zuluaga

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 11th-13th February

Friday 11th February, Urduliz

22:25 (CET) APEZETXEA – CECILIO v DIAZ – IZA 2nd Tier Pairs 7th rotation (Diaz replaces Urrutikoetxea, who has an injured hand)

Followed by BERASALUZE VIII – APRAIZ v GONZALEZ – LASKURAIN Pairs Championship 7th rotation

Sunday 13th February, Logrono

17:10 (CET) OLAZABAL – LADIS GALARZA v OLAETXEA – ALBISU 2ND Tier Pairs, 7th rotation

Followed by TITIN III – PASCUAL v OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO Pairs Championship 7th rotation


To watch, go to

The other Pairs Championship matches this weekend are both on Saturday, and are between XALA/BARRIOLA and BENGOETXEA VI/PATXI RUIZ (Pamplona), and MARTINEZ DE IRUJO/MERINO II and OLAIZOLA I/BELOKI (Tafalla)

Pairs Championship: 6th Rotation Round Up

Affairs are hotting up in the Pairs Championship; with six rotions gone, we have a good idea of who may fill the semi final berths. Two pairs have all but qualified, one is all but out, and the rest are fighting for their lives. For the full table visit, here. For remaining fixtures, see Asegarce, here.

(Apologies for the lack of in-depth reports; I was unable to see much of the play this weekend!)

Friday 4th February, Covaleda


Sebastien Gonzalez and Aritz Laskurain kept alive their hopes of reaching the last four, with what turned into a crushing defeat of Augusto Ibanez and Inigo Pascual in Covaleda. It was expected to be a tight game, and so it proved for the first twenty points, the pairs reaching stalemate at 10-10 after a tough fight, especially in the back division. However, at this juncture, Titin and Pascual inexplicably capitulated, as their opponents took the next 12 points to win 22-10. Gonzalez and Laskurain looked the cooler and the more efficient, as well as the more inventive, and Titin failed to fire, hitting only five winners to Gonzalez’ seven. The signs are good for the winners, but as a contest, the game all but fizzled out. These two pairs now sit level on points in 5th and 6th positions, with Gonzalez and Laskurain ahead on points difference.

Scoring sequence: 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 5-4, 6-4, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 10-22.

Saturday 5th February, Zalla


Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino kept their unbeaten record alive in Zalla on Saturday, but they were made to work for their victory against a pair very much in the ascendant. Olaizola and Begino were ahead throughout the contest, but never managed to shed their opponents from their coat tails. Berasaluze and Apraiz were seven points behind at 6-13 but scrapped their way back into contention, pushing the eventual winners all the way and making them sweat as they squandered their first two match points. The heart of the encounter lay in defence, where the two evenly matched protagonists fielded strings of improbable balls at will. Berasaluze took the fight to Olaizola in attack, reading the game expertly, and finishing with more winners than his rival. However, Olaizola and Begino produced the goods when it mattered, and remain atop the table, as the only partnership not to drop a game 

Scoring sequence: 0-1, 0-5, 1-5, 2-5, 2-6, 3-6, 3-7, 4-7, 4-8, 4-9, 5-9, 5-10, 5-11, 6-11, 6-12, 6-13, 7-13, 12-13, 12-14, 12-16, 13-16, 14-16, 14-17, 14-18, 15-18, 15-19, 16-19, 17-19, 19-20, 17-21, 18-21, 19-21, 19-22.

Saturday 5th February, Idiazabal 


The game in Idiazabal went entirely as predicted, with a resounding win for Oinatz Bengoetxea and Patxi Ruiz, who got their campaign back on track after some recent wobbles. The greatest disparity in quality lay in the forwards, where Bengoextea easily eclipsed Asier Olaizola, who has had a torrid time in the competition thus far. Olaizola and Beloki made it their aim to wear Patxi Ruiz down, but their strategy backfired, as the defender from Estella displayed some excellent form and refused to be bowed. There was no contingency plan for the reds, or if there was they proved unable to execute it, and they remain bottom, while Bengoetxea and Ruiz cling onto the last qualification spot in fourth.

Scoring sequence: 0-4, 1-4, 1-6, 2-6, 2-7, 4-7, 4-8, 5-8, 5-12, 6-12, 6-16, 7-16, 7-19, 9-19, 9-22

Sunday 6th February, Eibar


Sunday’s match at Astelena promised much excitement, if only because it is increasingly difficult to predict what Irujo and Merino will bring to the table. Aspe’s mixture of youth and experience has failed to gel, but alone, each of its parts is capable of incredible things. However, as the rational predicted, this was an easy victory for Xala and Barriola, the proven and tested class of the empresa. The eventual winners played with firmness of purpose and ruthless efficiency, testing Merino to his limits and exerting total control. As a partnership, they operate like clockwork. Irujo was unable to find any spark in attack until it was far too late. The reds, who were never within reach, face a near impossible fight to qualify for the semi finals, while Xala and Barriola, who sit second, are virtually assured of progression. 

Scoring sequence: 0-2, 1-2, 2-3, 2-7, 3-7, 3-10, 5-10, 5-12, 6-12, 6-13, 7-13, 8-17, 9-17, 10-17, 12-19, 14-19, 14-22.

(Sources: Aspe and Asegarce)

Begino (left) and Olaizola II stay top

Begino (left) and Olaizola II stay top

Image from Noticias de Navarra, by J. Sampedro

Pairs Championship on ETB Sat, 4th-6th February

Friday 4th February, Covaleda

22:25 (CET) APEZETXEA – CECILIO v OLAZABAL – LADIS GALARZA Second Tier Pairs Championship 6th rotation

Followed by TITIN III – PASCUAL v GONZALEZ  – LASKURAIN Pairs Championship 6th rotation

Sunday 6th February, Eibar


Followed by MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – MERINO II v XALA – BARRIOLA Pairs Championship 6th rotation

To watch, go to

The other Pairs Championship matches taking place this weekend are: OLAIZOLA I  – BELOKI v BENGOETXEA VI – PATXI RUIZ (Idiazabal, Saturday) and BERASALUZE VII – APRAIZ v OLAIZOLA II – BEGINO (Zalla, Saturday)

Zubieta ‘scared and happy at the same time’ as the speed of his recovery amazes doctors

Diario Vasco reports today that Aitor Zubieta is making an excellent recovery. The defender from Etxarri-Aranatz tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while contesting his Masters semi final in December. He can now bend the knee completely, and is in optimistic mood. He reports that the knee shows no signs of inflammation and that he was able to dispense with both crutches only two weeks after surgery, which took place a month ago. His doctors are ‘astonished’ by the speed of his progress, and much of his rehabilitation is now done at home, rather than the clinic. Zubieta stated that he can ‘lead a normal life’, with the exception of playing pelota, but is rightly cautious about the potential speed of his return to the fronton, stating that ‘it is important not to get tendinitis and to improve everything we can. And the doctors will tell me when I am ready to go’. According to the previous estimate, he will likely resume competition in June or July.

Source: story in Diario Vasco, by Joseba Lezeta, 3/2/11

Image from Deia