Monthly Archives: May 2011

Pelota on ETB Sat, 27th-29th May

Friday 27th May

There are the usual two matches listed in the TV schedules, but I cannot deduce what they are. ETB does not say, and neither does the Aspe website. The broadcast starts at 22:10 (CEST)

Sunday 29th May, San Sebastian


Followed by OLAIZOLA II v BENGOETXEA VI Manomanista Semi Final

To watch, go to

Xala into Manomanista Final, Idoate into Labrit’s Heart

Sunday 22nd May, Pamplona

XALA beat IDOATE 22-19

Yves Salaberry won a tight match in Pamplona on Sunday, to become the first finalist of the 2011 Manomanista Championship. He was the overwhelming favourite, owing to his recent form and lasting class, but Mikel Idoate, who looks increasingly like the real deal, pushed him almost to the abyss. Idoate has had a stellar run in his first major championship, dispatching Beloki, Gonzalez and Olaizola I on his way to the semis, but Xala, although admitting fatigue, was a step too far.

Xala was always ahead, but Idoate won the adulation of the fans for refusing to lie down. Even when nine points behind at 11-19, he threw his whole being into the fight, and clawed his way back to within three points. He lost the game, but cemented his place in the affections of the masses, with his with his physicality, his thrilling volleying and his cast iron promise of great things to come; Idoate is just 21, and shows both flair and tactical wisdom beyond his years. Given his vast experience however, Xala was, as you might expect, the more polished of the two, and his quiet efficiency allowed him the upper hand. He served intelligently, using the left wall to hinder his opponent’s volley, and changing the direction of his deliveries to create the element of surprise. He was also adept at pushing Idoate wide, and testing his left left handed volley, which was from time to time found wanting. His twelve winners, double the number managed by Idoate, were varied and virtuosic, underlining the all round power of the left hander’s game.

Idoate will carry the confidence gained this year into his future battles at this level, and all the signs are that he will thrive. His time will come. For Xala however, the time is now, for he has struck a patch perhaps more purple than ever before. He will find out on Sunday the identity of his final opponent, when Olaizola II, his nemesis in the Pairs’ Final, takes on Bengoetxea VI, in what promises to be as intense a clash as they come. Whoever makes it through, this championship will swell to a fascinating crescendo.

Scoring sequence: 2-0, 2-3, 6-3, 6-5, 13-5, 13-9, 14-9, 14-10, 18-10, 18-11, 19-11, 19-16, 21-16, 21-19, 22-19

Winners: Xala 12, Idoate 6

Errors: Xala 8, Idoate 7

Service winners: Xala 3, Idoate 5

Service errors: Xala 0, Idoate 0

Match time: 55.22 minutes, with 15.02 minutes of playing time

Balls hit: 237

Xala eclipses the rising star

Xala eclipses the rising star

Source: Diario Vasco, Image from: Noticias de Gipuzkoa

On Friday, MERINO I beat JAUNARENA 22-19 in Tolosa, to reach the final of the second tier championship. He will face either Penagarikano or Olaetxea, who play each other at the same venue this coming Saturday.

Sixteen Minutes of Genius: Aimar Olaizola into Manomanista Semis

Saturday 14th May, Bilbao


This was pelota, but not as most play it. Aimar Olaizola and Juan Martinez de Irujo, a modern classic, played between two modern artists, always fuels the imagination and draws the crowds. Such was the confidence of the promoters that they charged 75 Euros for a top price ticket, almost double the cost of entry to Bengoetxea VI and Patxi Ruiz’s quarter final. Some quibbled at the asking price, in these troubled economic times, but those who coughed up were treated to a game in a million, between the defending champion and an Olaizola II at the height of his powers.

The infernal, rabid pace of the encounter drew gasps, as the two champions hurled themselves into the fray, desperate with desire for glory. Aimar made his chosen tactic apparent from the off, nullifying the Irujo serve by racing forward into the volley. In the midst of the rally too, he used the sotamano to seize the initiative, hitting 62 in all, 38% of the balls he struck in the match. This would seem outrageous to most pelotaris, professional or otherwise. When forced to, he defended the left wall with utter ferocity. Irujo returned fire, trying to beat Aimar at the volleying game, leading to some extraordinary rallies, full of near impossible shots and immense physicality. When he raced ahead 8-1 and 17-8, it seemed Aimar would bury Irujo quickly, but the man from Ibero is known for coming back from the death, and he scrapped back each time, to 8-10 and 18-19. In the end though, Aimar’s heat was the whiter, and there was nothing Irujo could do to halt his finishing kick.

The statistics speak of a close match, 13 winners to 10, 6 errors to 5, but it was Aimar who set the tempo, who dictated how the game should be played. It is to Irujo’s credit that he refused to lie down when the advantage of his opponent grew and grew again; his tenacity coupled with Aimar’s devastating mastery gave us a game for the ages, a recital in attack and defence, and a vision of platonic pelota. Goizueta’s finest will play Bengoetxea VI in the semi finals, and if he can maintain this irresistible force, it is hard to imagine him bowing out there.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-8, 7-8, 7-10, 8-10, 8-17, 14-17, 14-18, 16-18, 16-19, 18-19, 18-22.

Winners: Olaizola II 13, Irujo 10

Errors: Olaizola II 6, Irujo 5 

Service winners: Olaizola II 4, Irujo 2 

Service errors: Olaizola II 0, Irujo 0

Match time: 65:40 with 15:59 of actual play

Balls hit: 315

The world has been Aimars oyster this spring

The world has been Aimar's oyster this spring

Image from: Noticias de Alava, by Gorka Estrada. Source: Diario Vasco

In the other quarter final to take place this past weekend, BENGOETXEA VI beat PATXI RUIZ 22-6 in Pamplona. This game was a near walkover for the 2008 champion, who took just 32 minutes to despatch his regular pairs partner. It was tight early on, but from 5-6, Bengoetxea was unstoppable against a lacklustre Ruiz, surging to 5-18 and 6-22. Bengoetxea served strongly, putting Ruiz on the back foot repeatedly, and dominated with his left, which brought seven points. Four of Ruiz’s points came from Bengoetxea errors, underlining the fact that the defeated player could find very little in the way of venom. Bengoetxea now plays Olaizola II, an entirely different proposition.

In the Promocion Championship, there were quarter final wins for Penagarikano, 22-14 over Ibai Zabala, and Olaetxea, who beat Ongay 22-17. They play each other on 29th May for a place in the final.

Manomanista Quarter Finals: Xala and Idoate through

Sunday 8th May, Eibar

XALA beat RETEGI BI 22-12

Some thought Julen Retegi might cause problems for Yves Salaberry on Sunday night, after his excellent performance against Urrutikoetxea the week before. However, while Retegi started with a flourish and showed great mettle, Xala proved beyond all doubt that he was in a different class. The classy left hander showed all the easy class that he displayed in the Pairs Championship, brushing his younger rival aside with a nonchalant sweep of the hand, calm, controlled and quietly brutal.

Retegi started the better of the pair, winning the first two points with tactical nouse and superb finishing. In the third, Xala fell short after a salvo of long shots from Retegi. However, Xala, completely relaxed, began to chip away at the three point deficit. He gifted Retegi another point by going wide after an attritional point, but with four textbook plays, wrenched the initiative firmly away. This swing in fortune was related in large part to his serve, which began to fire on all cylinders, but he also reminded his opponent and his viewers of the power of his left arm, going crosscourt with devastating power. Retegi pinned him back to 6-8 with a marvellous effort, putting the ball over Xala’s head having raced and dived from the back to reach it at all, but throughout this mid period of the game, Xala won points in batches, while his opponent stole the occasional one here and there. The power of Xala’s serve was again key, and Retegi’s inability to halt it made him seethe visibly with frustration.

Uncharacteristically, Xala served a falta to gift his serve away at 7-12, and Retegi responded with two excellent deliveries of his own, but with an advantage of only three, he slid up a gear, moving from 12-9 to 17-9 with a barrage of drops and volleys. He miscued one close to the side wall at allow Retegi his tenth point, and Retegi thought he had him again in the next rally, until he pulled a stunning crosscourt swipe out of nowhere, while pinned unceremoniously against the wall. There was no doubting the future direction of the game, as Retegi appeared a broken man. He managed two further points thanks to another Xala falta, and a dos paredes gone wrong, but Xala took no time to finish him off, with a ball over his head and a skimming canon ball past his nose. Xala proceeds to the semi finals, where he will play Idoate.

Scoring sequence: 0-3, 1-3, 1-4, 2-4, 2-5, 8-5, 8-6, 12-6, 12-9, 17-9, 17-10, 20-10, 20-12, 22-12.

Winners: Xala 16, Retegi Bi 6

Errors: Xala 3, Retegi Bi 2

Service winners: Xala 4, Retegi Bi 1

Service errors: Xala 2, Retegi Bi 0

Balls hit: 230

Match time: 47.10 minutes, with 10.32 minutes of actual play

Xala: no sweat

Xala: no sweat

In the other quarter final to be played this weekend, IDOATE beat OLAIZOLA I 22-8 (Saturday, Pamplona). The young pretender completely outclassed Asier Olaizola, who was playing his first match after returning from a knee injury sustained during the Pairs Championship. Olaizola was expected to be lacking match fitness, but he never managed to gain a foothold in the game, and the young pretender trumped him in every aspect of the game. His reward is a semi final against Xala.

The remaining quarter finals will be played this coming weekend, with Martinez de Irujo playing Olaizola II (14th, Bilbao) and Bengoetxea VI taking on Patxi Ruiz (15th, Pamplona).

In the Promocion Championship quarter finals, Jaunarena beat Lemuno 22-20 and Merino I beat Argote 22-17. The two winners will play each other in the semi finals on the 22nd.  

Image from Noticias de Gipuzkoa by Zigor Alkorta

Pelota on ETB Sat, 6th-8th May

Friday 6th May, Orduna


Followed by LEMUNO v JAUNARENA 2nd Tier Manomanista Quarter Final

Sunday 8th May, Eibar


Followed by XALA v RETEGI BI Manomanista Quarter Final

To watch, go to

Manomanista Second Round Results

Friday 29th April, Ascain


The Manomanista Championship moved to the home town of Sebastien Gonzalez for this second round match, and the local fans expected nothing less than a win for their man, playing under the glowering presence of a gigantic picture of himself. The match was a great spectacle, with strings of marathon rallies, each player aiming to fight the other into the ground. Gonzelez played excellently, but thanks to the skill of the classy and ever improving young Mikel Idoate, the victory eluded him.

The older player, much to the delight of his supporters, started the better of the two. The first point was long and involved, a taste of what was to come, but Gonzalez delivered a statement of intent, seizing it with a brutal gantxo. He proceeded to 3-1 and 4-2 thanks to some solid serving and an error from Idoate, but errors of his own, plus and service winner and a txoko gave his opponent the lead at 4-5. Idoate almost moved two ahead with a near inspired shot into the corner, which he seemed amazed had missed, and perhaps rejoicing in his let off, Gonzalez forged ahead once again, to 9-5. At this point, Gonzalez looked fully in charge. He showed his ability to get past his rival almost any way he pleased, whether to the left, to the right, or over his head.

However, Idoate, sensing the game might be slipping from his grasp, showed his mettle with some stunning play, winning eight points in a row to turn the match on its head. In the point on 9-5, Gonzalez appeared to have him where he wanted him, pinned back and open to the drop. Idoate though, replied with a staggering dos paredes to grab the point for himself. The next point, which he won with an inspired drive to the corner from deep, was no less virtuosic. He proceeded with a service winner and a drop, before running rings round Gonzalez with a txoko followed by a long ball when he was still sprawling by the frontis. When Gonzalez hit low, it was 9-13 and he was visibly demoralised.

Again, however, the momentum swung, as Gonzalez kick started his recovery with an airez, breaking Idoate’s sustained and impressive defence. Thanks in the most part to the strength of his serve and the resulting easy winners, he pegged the scoreboard back to 13-13. The protagonists could not be separated and found themselves tied again at 14 and 15 apiece. Once again, Gonzalez appeared to have broken the resolve of his young opponent, going ahead with a winner from a txoko he barely managed to scrape off the floor. He opened up a three point gap after a long scrap at 18-15, but Idoate would not be bowed. Showing incredible determination and no fear of Gonzalez’s greater experience he stormed back, winning six of the next seven points, and demonstrating the full gamut of winners in the process, to take the tie 22-19. He now plays Asier Olaizola, who is returning from a knee injury, on Saturday, and on this showing, may have the measure of him.

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

Match time: 55 minutes, with 13 minutes of actual play.

Balls hit: 307

Winners: Idoate 15, Gonzalez 11

Service winners: Idoate 4, Gonzalez 1

Errors: Idoate 3, Gonzalez 7

Talented and determined: Mikel Idoate

Talented and determined: Mikel Idoate

The other Manomanista second round results, in brief, were as follows:

OLAIZOLA II beat MERINO II 22-5 (Saturday 30th April, Labrit) This was a demolition job by Aimar Olaizola, the rampant pairs champion, and David Merino looked resigned from an early stage. There was nothing Merino could do about the dominance of the Olaizola serve, and when he did manage to enter into a rally, he was more often than not sunk by the best gantxo in the game. Olaizola now plays Irujo, in a match up many would perhaps rather see in the final.

RETEGI BI beat URRUTIKOETXEA 22-15 (Saturday 30th April, Amorebieta) Asegarce’s young charge Urrutikoetxea is known for his fighting qualities, and he took the game to the more fancied Retegi Bi in some well contested rallies. However, the Aspe player showed the greater imagination, and proved the better able to deal with the pressure, moving relatively easily into the quarter finals, where he meets Xala.

BENGOETXEA VI beat ARITZ LASA 22-10 (Sunday 1st May, Eibar)This match was a harder fight than the scoreline might indicate. The first part of the encounter saw Lasa holding on gamely to Bengoetxea’s onslaught, but the latter showed himself to be in a different class thereafter, moving unimpeded from 9-8 to 17-8. There was no way back for the underdog, but he gave his many fans, who had made the trip from his home town of Urretxu, much to cheer about with his refusal to throw in the towel.

The quarter final line up now looks like this: OLAIZOLA I v IDOATE (Saturday 7th May, Pamplona), XALA v RETEGI BI (Sunday 8th May, Eibar), PATXI RUIZ v BENGOETXEA VI (Sunday 15th May, TBC), MARTINEZ DE IRUJO v OLAIZOLA II (Sunday 15th May, TBC).

In the Promocion Championship, JAUNARENA beat LADIS GALARZA 22-18, and OLAETXEA beat LEIZA 22-2. ARGOTE  proceeds by default following an injury to OLAZABAL. PENAGARIKANO and RICO IV play today in Legazpi.

Image from Noticias de Navarra