Daily Archives: 8 August, 2011

Virgen Blanca Semi Final: Nightmare for Xala and Albisu

Sunday 7th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz


This was an unmitigated sporting disaster for Xala and Albisu. They were perhaps an unlikely pair, coming from different empresas, and never having played together, but formed an intriguing mix of proven championship class and future potential. Bengoetxea and Begino played excellently, but in a sense did not have to, for the vast majority of points came from the errors of their opponents, especially Albisu, who started badly and if anything, got worse. Even Xala was unable to impose himself on the game, though he did have the excuse of a cut on his hand, procured while adjusting his protections, which required treatment. The result, with its staggeringly one sided score line, puts Bengoetxea and Begino, winners of two matches in a row with consummate ease, into the final against Olaizola II and Beroiz.

The first seven points were a microcosm of the match as a whole. Bengoetxea began with a winning drive to the corner, and hit two service winners, showing himself as the class of the match. In addition, there were three errors from Albisu, and one from Xala. After conceding a point Bengoetxea marched on, always supported with metronomic ease by Begino from the back, whipping out a dos paredes, and a ruthless cross court shot from a position almost on top of the frontis. But the errors kept coming from both reds. The most disastrous period was that between 2-11 and 2-16, where Albisu lost his direction completely. He hit unnecessarily wide three times in a row, becoming more frustrated with each infelicity. There was little he could do about a strong Bengoetxea serve in the next play, but he then hit wide yet again, to the disbelief of the crowd.

To his credit, Albisu did then play an excellent point, getting the ball over Begino after a more even forward tussle, and a rare error from Begino gave his pair two points in a row. Xala showed signs of finding some form, setting up the next play beautifully, but then miscued what would have been an overarm winner. The reds’ one further point was handed to them by Begino’s second lapse, but from there on, things got worse again, with Albisu, clearly and understandably rattled, hitting high three times in a row, before Bengoetxea finished things off with two winners of brutal efficiency. The job was done, much more easily than he can possibly have anticipated.

Scoring sequence: 0-7, 1-7, 1-11, 2-11, 2-16, 4-16, 4-17, 5-17, 5-22

Service winners/faults: Bengoetxea 3/0, Xala 0/0

Winners/errors: Bengoetxea 4/1, Begino 2/3, Xala 0/3, Albisu 1/10

Match time: 43:36, with 16:18 of actual play

Balls hit: 305

Nothing went right for Jon Ander Albisu

Nothing went right for Jon Ander Albisu

Image from: Noticias de Alava

Virgen Blanca Semi Final: Olaizola II and Beroiz too hot for Aspe pair

Saturday 6th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz


Aimar Olaizola and Mikel Beroiz, are inexperienced as a pair, given the latter’s only recent transfer to Asegarce, but they hit the ground running in the first Virgen Blanca semi final. They were always ahead on the scoreboard, and gave their rivals, Juan Martinez de Irujo and David Merino little look in. The gloss was taken off the match as a contest by the problems experienced by Merino with his right calf, which prevented him from playing to the best of his ability, but this is not to devalue the class of the winners’ performance. Olaizola put Irujo to the sword, hitting with brutality and ruthless precision on his way to thirteen winners in the match. Irujo, whose attacks were almost always rebutted, managed to pass his rivals only five times. Merino sought to keep the game from the forwards in order to protect his colleague from the onslaught, but it was to no avail, as the Asegarce pair sailed into the final. Merino for his part is expected to play again this week, as his injury, while impeding, proved to be a relatively minor strain.

Scoring sequence: 1-0, 1-1, 5-1, 5-4, 9-4, 9-5, 11-5, 11-6, 12-6, 12-9, 14-9, 14-10, 17-10, 17-11, 19-11, 19-13, 22-13

Winners/errors: Olaizola 13/4, Irujo 5/4, Beroiz 1/4, Merino 0/1

Duration: 81 minutes

Balls hit: 638

Virgen Blanca Quarter Final: Oinatz in the Ascendency

Friday 5th August, Vitoria-Gasteiz


The opening match of the Virgen Blanca tournament in Vitoria-Gasteiz looked on paper to be a tough one to call. The Aspe pair combined Titin, still as dogged as ever with Aitor Zubieta, well on the way to recovering his considerable best after injury, while Asegarce fielded the oft thrilling Oinatz Bengoetxea, who stormed his way through the summer tournaments last year, with metronomic champion defender Aritz Begino. However, there was in reality little contest, as Bengoetxea dominated the evening, bringing his A game, while everyone else left theirs at home.

The tone of the game was set from the off, as Bengoetxea and Begino seized six points without answer against opponents who seemed immediately off colour. Bengoetxea signalled his intent in the first point, which he won with a beautiful txoko, from a superb angle, which barely bounced. Zubieta put it wide twice, and Titin low once, and those errors, combined with Bengoetxea’s serve and long game, placed the Aspe pair so firmly on the back foot that a time-out had never been more necessary. When Titin and Zubieta re-entered the fray, they secured their first point, by the grace of a falta from Bengoetxea, and their second due to a mishit from Begino, but then business continued as usual. Titin showed, not for the only time in the game, a lack of judgement, taking on the half volley a ball he probably should have waited for, before Zubieta miscued after some involved forward play from both parties. The normally unflappable defender let cry a tirade against himself and the world. 3-8 became 3-11, thanks in most part to the extraordinary pace of Bengoetxea’s play, which made Titin look leaden footed at best.

From 3-11 to 7-11, the Aspe pair put together their best run of the match, offering hope of a comeback. This sequence began with an embarrassed Bengoetxea going in for the kill and blowing it from close, but the next three points were all Titin, who wrong footed his forward rival by going to the corner, before two serves in a row induced bewilderment from Begino. However, he let the opportunity slip in the very next point by rushing into an ill advised volley, which fell short. The serve was recovered with a cross court stinger, but then Bengoetxea re-imposed his brilliance with a txoko, and an attritional point seized with a pitch perfect swipe from left to right. Titin offered another glimmer, replying with a tremendous airez, but his momentum was broken, and the Asegarce pair surged again. The two forwards went at each other hell for leather, but even with his partially recovered confidence, Titin simply could not answer the infernal pace of the man from Leitza. At 9-18, the die was well and truly cast; three errors from the dominant pair kept a trickle of points going for their struggling opponents, but the game was up when an improbable reply from Bengoetxea to a Titin dos paredes provided the meat in the sandwich of two further errors from Zubieta, now resigned and dejected.

There was only ever going to be one winning pair in this match, and within that pair, there was only one man who truly hit the heights. Begino was not at his best, although he outdid Zubieta in the consistency stakes. Bengoetxea showed flashes of serious class, and his mark on the match could have been even greater if he had not on occasion given way to complacency, hurrying to hit winners rather than building points block by block. There was little Titin could do to rescue the initiative, as Bengoetxea made him appear in a class below. If he can hold onto this purple patch, every other forward in the tournament must come up with a plan to subdue him and his boundless spirit.

Scoring sequence: 0-6, 1-6, 2-6, 2-8, 3-8, 3-11, 4-11, 7-11, 7-12, 8-12, 8-14, 9-14, 9-18, 10-18, 12-18, 12-22.

Oinatz Bengoetxea: class

Oinatz Bengoetxea: class

Image from: Noticias de Navarra