Friday 2nd September, Lekeitio
BERASALUZE VIII – BEGINO beat MARTINEZ DE IRUJO – PASCUAL 22-13
The one abiding memory from the first Lekeitio semi-final is the scintillating play of Pablo Berasaluze. He was utterly superior to the great Juan Martinez de Irujo in all areas, and the game revolved around him, his irrepressible spirit, insatiable drive and stunning shot making. He manoeuvred Irujo around the fronton as if he was a puppet on a string, supported excellently by champion defender Aritz Begino, who was a pillar of strength from the back and rarely lapsed in his delivery.
Berasaluze gave the first point away with an almost-perfect gantxo which just skimmed the board, but the two winners which followed signalled his intent, as a looping ball to the corner forced Irujo low and a txoko into space induced a fist pump in its creator. Begino also got in on the act with a low skidder which foxed Irujo, and soon 0-1 was 6-1. Irujo and Pascual recovered to 9-6 with a run of three points, two of which were rare errors from their opponents and the other a cross court winner handed to Irujo on a plate by Begino. They again briefly threatened a comeback when they closed to 13-10, but Pascual let their momentum slip when his ball from the rear of the fronton hit Berasaluze in the back. From 14-10, the trailing pair managed to accumulate another three points in the game, and the one which took the score to 19-12 showed that Irujo had not completely lost his shot making abilities, as he whipped a gantxo towards the crowd.
However, it was one way traffic in the latter part of the game as Berasaluze, like a never-relaxing terrier, pounced on everything and turned the screw. Irujo was run ragged, with his opponent winning even points where he was forced to scrap, turning defence into searing attack. There was never any doubt about the result, and the Asegarce pair wasted no time in closing out the match as three winners turned 19-13 into 22-13 in the blink of an eye. Berasaluze and Begino embraced in genuine joy at a job stunningly done. They will find out today who they will meet in tomorrow’s final, as Titin III and Zubieta take on Olaizola II and Apraiz.
Scoring sequence: 0-1, 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, 9-3, 9-6, 12-6, 12-8, 13-8, 13-10, 16-10, 16-11, 19-11, 19-12, 19-13, 22-13.
Winners/errors: Berasaluze 15/3, Irujo5/2, Begino 3/4, Pascual 1/2
Balls hit: 329
Match time: 50:24 with 15:50 playing time
Pablo Berasaluze: irrepressible
Image from Deia, by Javier Bergás