Daily Archives: 29 March, 2011

Pairs Championship: Aimar and Aritz keep the dream alive

Saturday 26th March, Pamplona


Aimar Olaizola and Aritz Begino can breathe a sigh of relief, after remaining in the competition by the skin of their teeth. Defeat here would have meant almost certain elimination, and while they would have liked a greater points difference to aid their way to the final, they will take what they got have grateful hearts, for Gonzalez and Laskurain should have won this match. Olaizola and Begino knew the gravity of this encounter, and perhaps as a result of this, were inconsistent and tight in their play, even Olaizola, known for being cold and calculating of nature on the fronton. The Goizuetarra made an uncharacteristic number of errors, five in all, but his ten winners saved his skin in the end. Laskurain did not have to work hard to put Begino under pressure, making him look decidedly uncomfortable as time and again he was forced to extricate the ball from the left hand wall.

Gonzalez and Laskurain maintained an advantage for the majority of the match, and although their gap over their rivals was never large, it seemed increasingly unbridgeable. Initially they went down 0-4, and all appeared rosy in the Asegarce garden, but as the tension crept in, they stormed ahead, 9-5 and 12-8. Their rivals doggedly closed the gap to a point at 14-15 however, and from there on, finally found their game. Aimar’s pace began to make Gonzalez suffer, and Begino rediscovered the strong, metronomic striking style to which we have become accustomed. 14-16 became 19-16. Controversy was to follow, which threatened to derail the Asegarce revival, when Aimar disputed a call from a judge. When his claim was rejected, Gonzalez and Laskurain were back in it, at 18-19. However, with their eyes on the prize, Olaizola and Begino would not be denied, and they held on to win by two points.

Victory for the pre-match favourites was justified, just about. They wobbled in the early exchanges, but like all great players, pulled through when the going got tough. There are still gargantuan challenges ahead though, as they must beat Xala and Barriola next weekend, or hope that Gonzalez and Laskruain beat Irujo and Merino II, in which case it would come down to points difference.

Scoring sequence: 4-0, 4-5, 5-5, 5-9, 8-9, 8-12, 9-12, 9-13, 11-3, 11-14, 12-14, 12-15, 14-15, 14-16, 19-16, 19-18, 21-18, 21-19, 22-19.

Service winners: Olaizola 2, Gonzalez 2

Service faults: Olaizola 0, Gonzalez 1

Winners: Olaizola 10, Begino 3, Gonzalez 4, Laskurain 2

Errors: Olaizola 5, Begino 4, Gonzalez 4, Laskurain 2

Match time: 69:47 with 29:32 actual playing time.

Olaizola II came good when the heat was on

Olaizola II came good when the heat was on

Image from El Correo, source Diario Vasco

Pairs Championship: Xala and Barriola move to the verge of the final

Sunday 27th March, Eibar


Xala and Barriola, the outstanding combination of the tournament thus far, are inches from a place in the final after their battling defeat of the ever improving Martinez de Irujo and Merino II, in front of a large crowd at Astelena. As long as they score fifteen points against Olaizola II and Begino next week, they will proceed to the showdown on 17th April. After their loss here, Irujo and Merino will have to beat Gonzalez and Laskurain.

The favourites should have waltzed away with this game from their early ten point lead, maintained from 13-3 to 15-5. Xala was able to dominate Irujo crosscourt in this spell, as the Manomanista champion perhaps too often went for the txoko, leaving himself open to attack when it did not come off. Barriola, again reminding one of a metronome, played his virtuoso supporting role to perfection. However, with the game half an hour old, Irujo sizzled into life. Key to his transformation was the newfound power of his serve, which at times baffled Xala and Barriola, sending them into uncharacteristic confusion. Merino , too, got in on the act, rushing in with both hands to pull off some of the best shots of the day. Having drawn level at 15-15 with their flurry of dominance, it seemed as if, with the momentum on their side, there was no stopping Irujo and his young partner. However, they were able to add only two more points, as Xala and Barriola restored the status quo. Xala volleyed and hooked with stunning intensity, adding a further five winners as his gallant opponents were extinguished

It is clearly possible to beat Xala and Barriola, but they have the stoicism and tenacity to come back time and again from deficits which might finish others off. This is the mark of champions in waiting, although they cannot afford to be complacent for a second, as anything can happen in a final. Key to their consistency is the bombproof defence of Barriola; his worth was proved here time and again as he contained Merino, who failed to reach the stellar heights of his performance in Bilbao last week. Still, the game is not up for Irujo and Merino; nobody is out and nobody is through. These semi finals will go down to the wire.

Abel Barriola: consistent and unflappable

Abel Barriola: consistent and unflappable

Image from Astore, source Diario Vasco